Killeen community development officials and volunteers gathered Thursday morning to conduct the city’s annual point-in-time homeless count.
The survey is a tool used by cities across the nation to identify people who are experiencing homelessness. It’s mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing for municipalities to conduct the survey in order to apply for federal grants that fund services to alleviate the presence of homelessness across America.
Leslie Hinkle, the city’s community development director, said volunteers are divided into teams and sent to locations in the city where the indigent are known to frequent. She said some of the areas surveyed are the bus station, the downtown
library, under bridges and the Mission Soup Kitchen.
Volunteers go to the designations with a 21-question survey including the person’s date of birth, gender, race, how long they have been homeless, if they have a disability and what assistance they need met — basic needs like food and clothing, job training, food stamps, transportation assistance, case management or veterans benefits. The survey is anonymous.
“A lot of folks are very forthcoming and then some aren’t,” Hinkle said. “I always tell the volunteers, ‘People are people; these people just don’t have a home.’”
Volunteers also hand out “goodie bags,” Hinkle said, with hygiene kits, socks, underwear and a few food items.
“The biggest challenge with doing this is knowing that there are people on the streets and we can’t meet all of their needs,” she said.
Pete Stenonik said this is the first time he’s volunteered his time to helping conduct the survey.
“I’m very fortunate, and I think that we should try to help those who have been less fortunate than we are,” he said.
Once the surveys are completed, the data collected is sent to the Texas Homeless Network, where it is compiled into a report and sent back to the city.
Hinkle said last year more than 400 people were counted as being homeless in the Killeen area.
“The count is fairly accurate, and it gives us a better understanding of those faces that we may not always see,” she said. “It helps us understand who these people are and what the actual picture looks like. A lot of people think we don’t have that big of a homeless problem because you don’t see people laying around by the street, and the stereotypical things homelessness is generally associated with. There are a lot of people in our community who are well hidden, and this brings that out. They’re here, we just may not see them.”
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