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Homeless to be counted on Jan. 27

By Sonny Long
Dec. 16, 2010 at 6:16 a.m.
Updated Dec. 17, 2010 at 6:17 a.m.

Ginny Stafford

COALITION OFFICERSOn Thursday, the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition elected a slate of officers beginning in 2011.

President: Keith Rucker, Gulf Bend Center

Vice President: Eric Leonard, Texas Veterans Commission

Treasurer: Geneva Bortel, 211 and Area Agency on Aging

Secretary: Janet Whitehead Jones, Perpetual Help Home

The homeless in the Victoria area will be counted on Jan. 27.

Ginny Stafford, of the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition, made the announcement during a regular meeting of the coalition Thursday.

"There are three areas of emphasis this year," Stafford said. "The first is kids, the second is veterans and third is chronically homeless families."

Chronically homeless is defined as a year or more on the street or four episodes of at least one night of homelessness over a three-year period.

Stafford said one of the new strategies for the 2011 count will be working more closely with the school districts.

Ramona Hollan of the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, also a member of the coalition, has established contacts through the Food Bank's backpack program. These contacts will be used to assist in the 2011 homeless county.

"I work with KIDZ Connections in the Victoria ISD, and have parent liaison contacts in the school districts in all the seven counties we serve," said Hollan. "I have let them know I will be contacting them at the beginning of January to get their homeless counts."

School districts can count children as homeless if they "double up" or live with friends or relatives or if they live in motels.

"They want us to capture those numbers, but not add them to the homeless count," Stafford said. "It's important to know."

The 2011 homeless count will include surveys at Labor Ready, Christ's Kitchen, the Victoria Public Library, motels and a street count.

The street count will be conducted during daylight hours.

"We just have not found that many at night," Stafford said. "A day count will be not nearly as threatening for them."

Jim Welvaert, coalition president, said an accurate homeless count is essential.

"One of the reasons we want to get a lot more information this year is because we want to bring it to our city fathers - what the problems really are, not just the homeless count, but these homeless children who are doubled up or tripled up," Welvaert said. "I don't believe in many cases the upper echelon people, as you go up the ladder, know what's going on in the real world."

The homeless count is used, in part, for area agencies who apply for grant funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In 2010, 223 homeless people were identified in Victoria including 44 living on the street.

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