Annual homeless count plays important role in federal funding for services

A homeless man. (KSN File Photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – In order for cities to apply for federal grants to fund their homeless services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to count how many people homeless people live in the area.

That count is called the Everybody Counts Point-in-Time Count.

In Wichita, the event is led by United Way of the Plains, which takes one day in January each year to survey different shelters, transitional housing units and people on the streets for 24 hours.

Surveyors ask people about who they are and what their living situation is, but the conversations remain confidential as the statistics are shared as a group.

Part of the effort includes an event held today at Century II from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for individuals facing homelessness.

The count will continue at the event but there will also be services for people who attend, such as haircuts, flu shots, hygiene items and information about housing and benefits.

“It’s also important because that’s how we really get a better understanding of the size and the scope of homelessness in our community,” said Luella Sanders, with United Way of the Plains. “We use that to inform year-round planning and also as a way that we can kind of monitor and just check on our progress.”

For Sidney Brown, the Point-in-Time Count has an added value.

Brown lived on the streets for 13 years where he said he was in such bad shape he could hardly walk on some days, he told KSN.

“Thirteen years is a long time for anybody living on the streets. I wouldn’t want that on anybody’s shoulders,” Brown said.

Now, Brown is doing great, he said.

He has lived in transitional housing for about a year thanks to Miracles Inc., one of many homeless and rehab centers in Wichita.

A number of Wichita’s homeless services couldn’t operate without the federal funding that comes as a result of the Point-in-Time Count.

Some organizations like Miracles Inc., the Salvation Army and United Methodist Open Door will be at Century II today to connect with people experiencing homelessness.

“That’s why it’s really going to be very powerful for individuals who attend that service event, the Point-in-Time service event on Thursday, because they see that there’s a broad range of persons, not just that core group but the broader community that really cares,” Sanders said.

The number of homeless people in Wichita is evolving, Sanders said.

For example, last year’s homeless count exposed a minor 1.8 percent increase in homelessness overall, but a 22 percent decrease in the number of homeless veterans.

Determining an accurate number of people experiencing homelessness in Wichita helps the city plan and most importantly, prevent it.

“It affects businesses, it affects from loss of employment when a person might be a very productive worker and if they had some more support, resources and stable housing, they would be able to contribute and hold that job,” Sanders said.

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