Forsyth County’s first homeless count will start this week.
The effort will be conducted Tuesday to Feb. 4 as part of a statewide project to get a more accurate idea of how many people are homeless. It also will help the county with state and federal funding for various service programs.
Melissa Corliss, director of community impact with United Way of Forsyth County, said nonprofit leaders decided to participate for the first time after “community conversations” about the issue.
“We have sort of a core group of concerned volunteers and members of nonprofits who have been working and discussing the issues of homelessness for quite a while now,” she said.
“We’re moving forward.”
Corliss said organizers will use information from nonprofits that serve those in need to obtain much of the count information.
“We feel like most of our numbers are going to come from those folks who provide services to those in need — the food pantries, The Place (of Forsyth County), those kinds of organizations — as well as the school system,” she said.
For those who may not be receiving any assistance, the count will also use help from volunteers who will function similarly to U.S. Census workers, going into areas where homeless people may be found to help them fill out a survey.
“We are going to have some volunteers who’ll go in places like (extended stay motels) and (some business areas) to try and obtain surveys from those that are homeless as well,” Corliss said.
“We are having some difficulty getting into places like 24-hour restaurants and that kind of thing. I think the perception is we don’t have an issue, (that) there aren’t homeless folks who are here.
“But we think sometimes those folks come into those types of areas to get out of the elements.”
Corliss said count workers are using three definitions of “homeless.”
The first, sheltered homeless, involves those staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing, such as with friends or relatives. Unsheltered homeless are those residing “in places not meant for human inhabitation.”
“That would be like cars, abandoned buildings, encampments,” Corliss said. “That’s where our volunteers are going to come into play.”
The final category is the imminently homeless, which includes people who are facing dispossession or foreclosure in the near future.
“They don’t know what they’re going to be doing within the next two weeks,” Corliss said. “They don’t have means or anywhere to stay.
“Those are the three categories and we know there are certainly folks in Forsyth County that fall into those.”
Corliss said anyone who is homeless or knows of someone without a home, should call the homeless count hotline at 770-887-1121.
“We can take information from them and also assist them with some referrals from that number,” she said.
Corliss hopes the count is successful.
“This is our first year so there has been a little trial and error, but we do feel like this is going to be important information as we move forward and it will help us understand the scope of the problem here,” she said.