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Friday, January 25, 2008

Volunteers sought for count of homeless

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN — If someone with a clipboard were to approach you Wednesday and ask where you spent the night, don’t be offended: It’s just one of the volunteers conducting the city’s second annual Point-In-Time Count of the Homeless. The homeless count will take place statewide from 7 to 11 p.m. Wednesday. "New Haven is desperately in need of volunteers for the street count. We do (the count) all at the same time to avoid duplication of individuals," said James G. Farrales, vice president of mental health services at Continuum of Care, Inc., a New Haven-based nonprofit agency. Past homeless counts may have counted individuals twice if they were at a shelter and a soup kitchen. The state count also had duplications because a homeless person could be in New Haven for one count and in Bridgeport for another, Farrales said. The city needs at least 100 volunteers for 35 teams of two to three individuals, he said. The teams, which go out together as a safety measure, will travel throughout the city with housing surveys that will gather hard demographic data on who the homeless are, how they lost their housing and what barriers they face to securing housing. The surveys will be confidential. The data will be aggregated and used by the city to apply for grants and create programs that combat homelessness. The state count last year tallied 3,325 homeless families. The majority of homeless single adults were white, and over 55 percent of homeless adults had completed high school. They most often attributed losing their homes to difficulty paying rent. Many reported that mobility or health problems contributed to their difficulties. New Haven recently received $5.2 million in $5,187,485homeless assistance from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, an amount higher than expected, which Farrales attributed to the data provided by last year’s homeless count. The Jan. 24, 2006, count in New Haven yielded 1,177 homeless individuals; two-thirds had gathered in shelters or transient housing, one-third stayed outdoors on a bitterly cold night. Last year’s count had too few volunteers and too little time, Farrales said. This year, volunteers will have a four-hour period to canvass locations on their lists, compared with two hours last year. Those who finish early can still leave early, Farrales said. Teams will spread across areas considered likely to attract homeless people, such as the Green, as well as 30 percent of locations considered unlikely, such as Lighthouse Point. Volunteers will approach all people found at the location with a housing survey. The first question, "Where did you spend last night?", should help identify the homeless, who will get additional demographic questions. A"This Point-in-Time Count helps determine trends about how they became homeless and what services they need to help them," Farrales said.nyone who wishes to volunteer for the New Haven homeless count should contact Khelen Rhodes, volunteer coordinator, at 497-2302 or khCQ allelen.rhodes@libertycs.org. For more information on the Statewide Count, contact Gretchen Upholt, Project Assistant, CT Counts 2008, at (860) 721-7876 or gupholt@cceh.org

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