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Examiner
  • Volunteers counting, registering homeless today

  • The point-in-time count will take place at the Community Services League Central Headquarters, 404 N. Noland Road, while volunteers also visit homeless camps and libraries to survey the community’s homeless.

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  • Six months ago, the extremely hot weather proved helpful in a one-day count of the number of homeless people in Independence.
    But today, it’s likely the cold weather, which includes a light layer of snow on the ground and strong wind gusts, will hinder instead of help the point-in-time homeless count.
    Independence resident Doug Friend, who is leading the volunteer effort for Eastern Jackson County in today’s count, said he imagines fewer will be out and about to where volunteers can identify them as homeless and ask them to fill out the survey.
    “That’s what I’m envisioning, anyway,” said Friend, who also is CEO of Heroes Coming Home, an organization that helps homeless veterans and their families find permanent homes.
    This time, the point-in-time count will take place at the Community Services League Central Headquarters, 404 N. Noland Road, while volunteers also visit homeless camps and libraries to survey the community’s homeless.
    Volunteers also will ride IndeBus to find homeless people. Around Christmastime last month, while distributing care packages, Friend saw a man sleeping on a hill near the bus station at Noland and Truman roads.
    “It was quite the eye-opener,” Friend said. “I’ve seen the camps and things like that, but this guy was just like a cocoon, lying on the ground to keep warm. It was sad – very sad.”
    The volunteer-administered surveys are kept confidential and are used toward grant applications for federal programs that assist the homeless population. Respondents are asked to provide the first three letters of their last name and first letter of their first name.
    The series of questions asked include where the person or family spent the night on Wednesday and whether it was unsheltered or sheltered. Individuals also respond how long they’ve been homeless, whether they served in the military, what factors they believe contributed toward their homelessness and what services they need to receive that they haven’t already. The collected data are then turned over to the Homeless Services Coalition of Greater Kansas City.
    The Kansas City 100,000 Homes Campaign also is participating in today’s registry event. Kansas City is among more than 170 U.S. communities participating in the 100,000 Homes Campaign to find permanent homes for 100,000 “vulnerable and chronically homeless” individuals and families by July 2014.
    The Salvation Army on Truman Road, which houses the only homeless shelter in Eastern Jackson County, counts and reports those numbers separately, Friend said. Efforts like today’s are meant for recording those who attend programs like Lunch Partners and the meals held Wednesday evenings at Stone Church.
    Last fall, Friend and an Independence Police Department officer visited several homeless encampments across Independence, which Friend said are fairly well-hidden.
    “From seeing the encampments,” he said, “I know that there are anywhere from 150 to 200 people just living out in the woods right now in the Independence area. That’s not even including the ones who are staying on the couch of a family member or a friend.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Friend, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said he continues to volunteer with the point-in-time counts because he wants to make a difference and was homeless himself in the late 1990s.
    “I’m trying to give back and help out in any way I can,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be out there like that.”
     
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