Monday, February 29, 2016

Rural weekly newspaper localizes problems with homeless counts in rural communities

Earlier this month NPR reported that inaccurate counting of the number of rural homeless is costing local services federal funding. Josh Little of the thrice-weekly Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville, Ky., localized the effects of the annual count on the newspaper's coverage area in far Eastern Kentucky.

This year's "K-count" found 134 homeless people in Floyd, Martin, Magoffin, Johnson and Pike counties, which make up the Big Sandy Area Development District. Anna Coleman of the Pikeville WestCare Emergency Shelter "said the shelter served more than 500 people without homes in 2015. She said on the day of the K-Count, the shelter was housing 22 people," Little writes. Coleman said, “You cannot count a whole county in a day. Imagine how many hollows are in Pike County. You can’t cover that in one day, plus ask the four pages of questions that they want you to ask. It takes a while for them to trust you, even when they come to the shelter, because society has made them promises and not kept them.” Only people living on the street or in shelters on the day of the count, not people who escape the cold by staying with friends, family or finding money for a hotel, are considered homeless.

Brenda Mullins, who has worked for three years as a direct care worker at the West Care Emergency Shelter, "attributes a lack of jobs in the area to the increasing number of people without homes," Little writes. "She said as of Feb. 23 there were 26 people housed in the shelter, which has a capacity of 30." She told Little, “There’s no jobs. The coal miners who were making pretty good wages are now working for minimum wage. They have house payments and car payments." The News-Express, which is behind a paywall, can be accessed by clicking here.

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