Archive for Sunday, January 25, 2009

Volunteers to try to gauge homeless more thoroughly

January 25, 2009


Volunteers who will hit the streets Wednesday to try to get an accurate picture of the county’s homeless population will be looking in a few more places than in the past.

Instead of only counting people who primarily use shelter services and caseworkers in the city, dozens of volunteers will aim to count people across Douglas County. So that means checking under bridges and possible campgrounds during the state’s Point-in-Time Homeless Count survey, required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Environment every other year.

“It’s going to give us some good comparative data across the state, and we’ve never had that before,” said Erika Dvorske, president and CEO of United Way of Douglas County.

Dvorske and Margene Swarts, the city’s community development manager, will be leading the effort from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday. It’s part of a statewide effort administered by the United Way of the Plains and sponsored by the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation and the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

Dvorske said it was necessary to get a more thorough count than just those who primarily use shelters. The count is necessary to get grant federal HUD funding.

“Are we doing what we need to be doing to meet their needs?” Dvorske said.

The attention to campgrounds and bridges in the county comes after the city cleared wooded structures from a homeless camp in October east of downtown. One week earlier, two men died in the area of reported drug overdoses. A few days later, police found the body of a 53-year-old homeless man, who died of natural causes, under the Kansas River Bridge.

But Dvorske said those incidents were not the catalyst for the more extensive search during this year’s count.

“The goal is not to identify those places. The goal is to make sure that we know the extent of homelessness in the county,” Dvorske said. “We’re not targeting or anything like that. We’re really trying to make sure that everybody does count. We can’t get federal funding to provide the services.”

Loring Henderson, director of Lawrence Community Shelter, 214 W. 10th St., said he expected results to be similar to the 373 people identified in the 2007 count because volunteers that year did a good job of checking under bridges and camp sites.

But volunteers will be trying to get extensive information from homeless people, which can help deal with a complex problem, he said.

“It will show the general public where the people are from, what caused it, and what kinds of issues there are,” Henderson said.


trinity 9 years, 3 months ago

ok let me get this straight...this is to count and assess, while in the lead story the local churches are actually doing something to help the homeless families in the area. hmm, which seems to be the more humane, practical solution...

Moderateguy 9 years, 3 months ago

I would propose that a "humane, practical solution" would be to figure out a way to hold people accountable for their actions. If we could separate the people looking for a handout vs. those that really want a hand up, limited resources could be directed where they could do the most good. As it stands, it is a come one, come all deal I'm all for helping those people who are truly just down on their luck and want to make their lives better. The most "humane" solution to our bum problem may just be a swift kick in the behind. The system needs to be overhauled before it get's my support. Close the wet shelter for starters.

MIke Mallory 9 years, 3 months ago

check your count in the summer and it will be 10 times the population.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 3 months ago

Hey guys, don't forget me. I am one more tax payment away from homeless.

merritr 9 years, 3 months ago

Trinity - the people doing the counting and assessing would love to take each person and put them in safe shelters. I participated in the last 2 "homeless counts" in Phoenix, Arizona, and the reason why they don't actually help them on this day is simple. Local governments can apply for funds from other organizations, including the federal government. The information they collect during this count will allow funders to see how much money Douglas County will need in the upcoming year to combat homelessness and attempt to care for these people.But it was very hard to simply count these people, and then move on to the next person, without lending a hand in any way (we were allowed to give them blankets and water, that's it).

mae 9 years, 3 months ago

Thankfully I'm not homeless, but honestly, can we just leave them alone? Why do they not have the right to use the river trails when the people with $2000 bikes do? They have a choice and I would hate to be bothered all the time by reporters. It's a slap in the face to be interrogated for being poor when you sleep in newspaper faced with hollywood. give the people somewhere to panhandle with music or art at least.

Emily Hampton 9 years, 3 months ago

So, the reporter is told that the incident of two men overdosing has nothing to do with it, yet they are still included. Why? Those men wouldn't even have been counted in this "homeless count" because they lived in HOUSES! Pretty sure we've made that clear, but thank you LJWorld for continuing to include our lost loved ones in every story about homelessness. There's NO connection! So stop making one!!

mom2boy 9 years, 3 months ago

i would like to see the apartments in lawrence helping a little bit more by not making it so diffucult to get into an apartment if you are not a student. my credit is not that good but i have a job i did go through some hard times and now my family can't find adnybody to rent to us in lawrence and i have paid 1000 in credit reports we are living in a hotel so they need to check hotels too because you are still homeless

Loretta James 9 years, 3 months ago

Moderateguy has the right ideahelp those who are trying to help theirselves, and let the drunks and druggies sleep out side if they have to. You cant make some of them responsible for anything.

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