Homeless Count to take place in Bell Co.

Published 2:14 pm Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Community Care Outreach Ministry is preparing a count of families and individuals experiencing homelessness in Bell County. The count will take place on Wednesday.

“For a 24-hour period, people and agencies who come into contact with these people will go out and collect date in the places where we know actual homeless people are,” Lisa Evans explained. “We will use various agencies, hopefully police officers also, to engage these people and talk to them and get an accurate count.”

The count is part of the 2019 K-Count that is coordinated in partnership with Kentucky House Corporation. It is a “point-in-time” snapshot of people who are experiencing homelessness across Kentucky. It will include persons temporarily residing in emergency shelters and transitional housing programs as well as those who are also unsheltered.

Evans has participated with the local feeding programs and explains that a number of resources and numerous avenues have been offered to help beyond the meals. The help includes getting people to rehabilitation; connecting people to the housing authority to try to get housing, helping them get identifications cards if they are needed to get a job, and other paperwork that may be needed.

“I would say 95 percent of the people that we are offering meals to are not actually homeless people. They are not actually people who live on the street,” she said. “So, we ask them what has got them in the situation they are in and how can we help? Probably 5 percent are actually homeless people and of those people, the consistent answer of why they have come here is family. Family is what has brought them here, not the feeding programs. We have started gathering those facts.”

Evans explains that during those meals, they have been working on gathering information and interacting with the people as much as possible.

“It’s impossible to get a full picture, and we are going to do that in numerous ways,” she continued. “We are going to offer a feeding here in Middlesboro on that day. We are going to have volunteers have one in Pineville, and we will be able to speak to people there and collect information that way.”

Volunteers are needed specifically to locate and survey people living outside or in other locations not meant for regular human habitation. A training session for volunteers will take place on Monday at Middlesboro City Hall at 6 p.m. They are requesting pre-registration but any volunteers are welcome.

“During this 24-hour period, the people who have knowledge of where these people hang out, we will go to these places and engage these people and talk to them and fill out a simple form,” Evans said. “We don’t ask their name but we will ask why they are here, where do you sleep at night, what brought you here and we will have factual information to share with you.”

The information that is gathered will then go to the Federal HUD Organization, and the numbers will be used to allocate housing money and financial assistance for housing.

“We will also be able to share that information with Mr. Nelson and anyone else who desires the information to give everyone an idea of where we stand,” she said.

Understanding the scope of homelessness in our local area will allow planners to more effectively target resources. This will help minimize the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness and, in turn, reduce the inefficient and costly use of other valuable resources in the community.

They are asking for donations of hats, scarves, gloves, and food vouchers or gift cards is also needed so that when homeless families are found and counted, they can be provided a meal or other resource.

“If you sleep outside, maybe even in your car, if you move from emergency shelter to a friend’s couch, and then back to the shelter, be counted,” Evans urged. “Make your voice heard as part of the annual K-Count. With your help, Kentucky will better understand the need for more affordable housing and support services. Share your story.

For more information please call Lisa Evans at 606-499-6969 or Nina Shoemaker at 606-499-1987.