Friday, February 19, 2016

Likely short counts of homeless counts cost rural areas federal funds, say advocates for homeless

Homeless advocates say inaccurate counts of the number of rural homeless is costing local services federal funding, Miles Bryan reports for NPR. While about 7 percent of homeless Americans live in rural areas, those official numbers come from homeless counts of people living on the street and in shelters, not those staying with friends or in cheap hotels on cold nights in January, the month when yearly counts take place. (Bryan photo: Homeless line up for lunch and hot drinks at Cheyenne's Depot Plaza in Wyoming)

Jennifer Cruz, who volunteered for the homeless count in Cheyenne, Wyo., told Bryan, "They're not out in the open like they are in a larger city, because they find places. I just met a gentleman who's been sleeping on his brother's couch, but he is homeless." Cheyenne, which only has one 90-bed shelter that is typically filled to capacity, tried to get more accurate counts this year "by putting up flyers around town advertising a free meal and hot drinks in Cheyenne's main plaza, where the homeless answer federal homelessness surveys. Even so, volunteers here are still going to miss some people who don't have a home."

"The count is a standard used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development," Bryan writes. "It is performed in January based on the logic that the cold weather will drive people into emergency shelters, where they are easier to find. It is important: The count will in part determine how much federal money state homeless services get. Advocates say when even a few homeless people aren't counted it can make a big difference in the funding." (Read more)

No comments: