Surveying the homeless

WINSTON COUNTY - You see them in big cities on the sidewalks, down side streets, sleeping in cardboard boxes. This is their home. This is the homeless. Homelessness does not discriminate on the basis of age, sex, gender, race, creed, religion or disability. It can affect anyone. The fact remains: the homeless is not just in those big cities. They are right here in Winston County.
One organization in Alabama is trying to make a difference. Branched out from the Housing and Urban Development program, the Homeless Care Council of Northwest Alabama will be doing a “point in time” survey of all homeless people on Thursday, Jan. 31. Surveys will be conducted in Lauderdale, Colbert, Franklin, Lawrence, Marion and Winston counties.
The mission of the HCC is “to equip and empower the community to end homelessness through advocacy, education and coordination of services.”
Executive Director of the HCC Christa Martin is looking for volunteers to help with the survey.
“We are looking for any volunteers that we can get that will help out,” Martin said.
Volunteers will go out into the community where the homeless are present: libraries, fast food restaurants, gas stations and similar places, according to Martin.
“Volunteers will do a survey and approach them and ask them a few questions,” she said.
The survey will provide demographic statistics to the HCC, which will in turn see the areas where money is needed the most.
“Using that information and those demographics, we can get an idea of what our population is for the whole year,” Martin mentioned.
“This is the first time in a few years that we’ve actually extended the count to Winston County,” Martin said. “Even though Winston County is in our service area, we have not had the volunteers, employees and resources to be able to do a total and complete count.”
Some years, only sheltered homeless are counted, which means the numbers are gotten from the shelters in the area. This year will be a sheltered and unsheltered count.
“We can give that to our service providers and increase the service. In our area, we can determine who we’re looking at and who we’re dealing with. For instance, the numbers we’ve seen in the past, we know we have a lot of older males.” This gives the HCC the impression many of these could be veterans. Therefore, more veteran services are needed in those specific areas.
“If we see more children, or families with children, we know that we need to start working with the schools more,” Martin added.
Two different types of surveys are possible for volunteers: observance or interview. If a person refuses to do an interview, the volunteer would then choose the observance survey.
For the actual interview survey, questions  such as the following will be asked:
• Where are you sleeping tonight?
• How many, including yourself, will be sleeping in the same location?
• Age, race, gender and
• Have you ever served in the armed forces?
Some questions will delve deeper, however, like:
• Do you drink alcoholic beverages?
• Do you use drugs?
• Do you have a physical disability?
The information gleaned from the surveys is sent to HUD to determine how much funding each area needs. The HCC will then apply for funding.
To volunteer or for more information, Martin may be e-mailed at You may also call 256-349-2370.

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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