GIRARD -- SEK-CAP and the Southeast Kansas Regional Homeless Providers Network is gearing up to conduct a comprehensive count of all people in the region who are experiencing homelessness.
This effort is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-mandated national Point in time Count, an attempt to identify exactly how many Americans are without housing, and will take place Jan. 23-30.
Results of the 2011 count indicated that there were a total of 82 homeless people in Southeast Kansas, 25 percent of whom were children.
Homeless providers in the regional network believe this number is low and have committed themselves to gathering more accurate data this year. In fact, the 2011 numbers only included data from Crawford, Labette, Montgomery and Neosho counties; during 2013, the count will include data from Allen, Bourbon and Cherokee counties as well. They will collect this data by asking people questions from a survey that was developed and approved by the Kansas Statewide Homeless Coalition.
"In rural Kansas, it can be difficult to identify who is actually experiencing homelessness," said Jami Crowder, manager of the CHOICES Emergency Shelter for homeless families with children, located in Pittsburg. "Often, people will 'double-up' in housing with others, rather than stay in places that are more stereotypically associated with homelessness -- under the bridge or in a car, for example," said Crowder.
People who are "doubled-up" can be considered precariously housed and the Regional Homeless Providers Network believes it is important to understand the number of people experiencing this circumstance. Therefore, they have agreed to track data about this sub-population even though they are not experiencing homelessness by HUD's definition.
To alleviate the difficulties inherent in this data collection effort, the Regional Homeless Provider Network is working with other services providers throughout the region at locations where people without housing might seek services, such as health centers, public housing authorities and food banks. These service providers have agreed to ask each customer they encounter at their facility questions from the survey. This approach should help capture data on those experiencing homelessness who are not staying in shelters or places not meant for human habitation. In addition, teams of volunteers will actually seek out unsheltered people on the night of Jan. 23 to complete the survey.
Data from the Point in Time count will be submitted to HUD. Locally, the Regional Homeless Providers Network, comprised of shelters, public housing authorities, faith-based entities and mental health providers, will use the information to help figure out how to address homelessness throughout the region.
Volunteer opportunities include outreach, survey collection, data entry, and data analysis. For more information on homelessness in the region, contact Becky Gray, SEK-CAP's director of research, planning and grants development. For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact Gray at (620) 724-8204, ext. 1026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.