The key to getting help with the homeless problem in Rockford might be numbers. In fact, activists for the homeless population are literally counting on it. They're doing their annual point-in-time, or PIT, tally to get an idea of just how many homeless are in the area. The way they're doing it this year is different.
Agencies like Rockford's Crusader Clinic, Rockford Rescue Mission and Carpenter's Place, plus the city of Rockford and Winnebago County need these numbers to get accurate federal funding. They're working with the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness for the PIT count.
Starting at 3 p.m. Wednesday until Thursday at the same time, anyone walking into Crusader's Homeless Medical Assistance area or into any of the other agencies will be asked to take a survey. If they're struggling with homelessness, they'll fill it out and then agency representatives will total up the number of survey-takers. But it's not just tallying those who walk in to organization's buildings. Agency leaders hit the streets Wednesday night, tracking down people they might have missed. From 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. Thursday, four teams of four went to homeless camps, bringing more than just pieces of paper.
"We are going to be taking donated sweaters, sweatshirts, scarves, blankets and then 150 meals to take out. These will be sort of incentives for the people who participate in the street count." -says Mayor's Homelessness Task Force Chairman Shelton Kay.
Some homeless individuals slept outside in tents Wednesday night, others, like Richard Williams, tried to stay warm in the Winnebago County Justice Center. Williams has been homeless for about 7 months. He does regularly go to Carpenter's Place, but he didn't Wednesday. Williams appreciated volunteers' efforts and much-needed supplies.
"I was very excited and I'm very happy. It's a miracle for me, it's a really, really good miracle." -he says.
Kay says accuracy is important, so volunteers take steps to avoid mistakes like over-counting during the PIT tally.
"The first question that is asked is 'Have you done this survey already?' that is the very first question because the chances are someone will go to the different agencies throughout the day, they might encounter us any place so we don't want to keep counting the same people."
Kay guesses that 1500 homeless individuals will be tallied over the two-day counting period.
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