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2015 Homeless Count - Connecting Resources with the Unsheltered

Theresa Bettmann

Each winter many area organizations band together to conduct a county-wide tally of the homeless and unsheltered. The annual “Every One Counts” Point in Time Homeless Count helps identify how many people are needing aid, and connects individuals to services like medical, housing, veterans and other basic survival needs.

Janet Reed was one of many to arrive at Springfield’s Fusion Center on Thursday morning seek out these options.

“I think it’s fantastic.  Not only for me but everybody that you know gets in this situation—when you’re homeless.  This is my second time.  This here just shows you a little bit of everything that is provided for us,” Reed said.

“Without One Door, the VA and different organizations we’d be lost.  We’d be like some of the men out in the streets with nowhere to sleep, nowhere to, nowhere to stay.  It’s very important to have somewhere to stay,” Ross added.

That’s Teresa Ross, who along with Reed, checked in and were directed to tables with agencies appropriate to their needs. They were each then treated to a warm breakfast on a day where wind chills were just above freezing.  

Ben Clutter is director of continuum of care for Community Partnership of the Ozarks.  He said the Fusion Center was one of many stations throughout the county participating in Thursday’s count.  Clutter explains these annual counts are required by the federal government to be eligible for appropriate grants that reflect what is needed to better service the homeless population.

“Last year we had approximately 250 unsheltered homeless, which is really a standard across the past.  One of the things we really learn from this event is how to better serve the homeless—what venders to invite, what do they really need at this point in time,” Clutter says.

Randy McCoy, director of housing at the Kitchen Inc, explains this count is vital for outreach and assessment as the Kitchen moves forward with transitioning families from emergency shelters at the Missouri Hotel into more permanent housing.

“It’s important to us because it helps us get a gauge how homelessness in the community—the scope of homelessness - are our numbers going up, or are they going down?  Are we seeing more veterans than we have in previous years or are we seeing more chronic homeless?” McCoy says.

McCoy explains that as the tentative goal of February 27th for closing the Missouri Hotel draws near, officials continue to identify housing options for clients and anticipate grants to assist with finishing the process. 

Clutter says he is grateful for all of the community support received to make this event possible. Many volunteers, services, food and donations are needed each year to make this outreach event a reality.

Will Carter with Community Partnership says he observed fewer people arriving this morning than in years past. He says, however, it can be hard to predict a turn out because many variables can affect people's attendance, and are not always indicative of actual need.  While this was the first year services for the annual count were held at the Fusion Center, Carter notes it was heavily marketed to the homeless population and does not feel it played a factor in attendance.

UPDATE: 3 p.m. 1-29-15:

As of 3 p.m. Thursday, the Homeless Count had resulted in 377 completed interviews, with 212 identified as unsheltered.

The unsheltered figure will be reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which provides an average of $1 million in funding per year to agencies in this region working with the homeless population.  Carter says that without these numbers, many agencies would not qualify for grant funding from HUD.

After the final numbers are received they will be analyzed and broken down into demographics for a better snapshot of our current homeless population.  Officials say this is expected to take several weeks.

Theresa received her undergraduate degree in sociology at Missouri State University, as well as her Master's degree in Social Work at MSU. Theresa enjoys writing, drawing, reading, music, working with animals, and most of all spending time with her family. She wishes to continue to use her experiences, combined with her pursuit of education, to foster a sense of empowerment and social awareness in the community. Theresa loves working with KSMU and attributes her passion for NPR, and love of learning, to her father.