This year the annual Homeless Survey conducted nationwide on Thursday will have the added benefit of using computers and iPads, said Christina Fulsom, representative for the East Texas Human Needs Network, which will be conducting the survey in Smith County.
The survey gives nonprofit and government officials a better look at what issues need to be addressed in the homeless population.
Often there isn’t an easy way to establish who is homeless because definitions of homelessness vary, and strategies for obtaining the information are complex, diverse, and variable, she said. Many experiencing homelessness do not wish to be found or represented as “homeless.”
Regardless of which definition is being used, simply finding those who fit the definition of homeless to participate in the survey, or in another way to be counted, is challenging.
The surveys are conducted at locations known to be frequented by people who are homeless. Institutional locations include places such as shelters, soup kitchens, and service centers. Non-institutional locations include streets, parks, or abandoned buildings; these locations can become particularly dangerous in Texas, with days of staggering heat in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter.
More difficult to identify are those staying temporarily with family or friends, those doubling up in overcrowded conditions, those staying in hotels or living in cars, and those congregating in places not known to or accessible to researchers. Many remain transient at all times. For these reasons, data on homelessness are usually considered to be underestimates.
“It is very important that people experiencing homelessness know we are coming out to visit them that night,” Mrs. Fulsom said in the release. “Those individuals facing circumstances described above are encouraged to come to the following Soup Kitchens: Good Samaritan, Loaves and Fishes, and The Salvation Army or go to Gateway to Hope, a day resource center.”
The Homeless Survey is being conducted in an effort to assist Smith County agencies in the development of comprehensive, long-term solutions to addressing homelessness.
A Continuum of Care plan will be established that will provide the needed information to participate in the Balance of State Project of the Texas Homeless Network. The Balance of State Project will allow local agencies to apply for funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Continuum of Care funds.
“This homeless survey is a vital step in the Continuum of Care development process and will provide a more accurate picture of the epidemic of homelessness to those who work for shelters and service agencies as well as the community-at-large,” said Ken Martin, CEO of Texas Homeless Network (www.thn.org), in the written release.
Those wishing to volunteer may register online at www.ethnn.org.