Coalition set for homeless count

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Kim Pickens, president of the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition, is passionate about helping.

"No one grows up thinking they want to be homeless," Pickens said. "We have youth living on our streets who feel like they have no one to trust.

"There are veterans who proudly served our country who need access to services to get them off the streets and out of shelters.

"Our community needs to be aware that most people who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness will not tell their stories. They could be your co-worker, church member or the person next to you in line at the grocery store."

Thursday is the annual Point in Time Homeless Count and Day of Care.

Pickens shared what the day will hold in a question-and-answer session.

Tell me about the importance of the Point In Time count.

The Point in Time count is the official count for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine the needs of a community based on the number of homeless individuals, families and unaccompanied youth they have been able to count. This information is used for funding under specific governmental programs that aid in caring for a community's homeless population. It also tracks the progress on solving the issues of homelessness.

I saw on the volunteer sign-up sheet some of the places people will be conducting surveys. Share those with me and any others maybe not on the list.

Volunteers will survey folks at Labor Ready, Victoria Christian Assistance Ministry, the library, Christ's Kitchen, Salvation Army and First United Methodist (Day of Care). The day will begin at 5:30 a.m. and run until about 7 p.m.

I know in the past, some attempts had been made to visit camps. Is that in the works this time, too?

We will discuss which camps and areas that have been identified as having a homeless population, so we can put together teams to check those areas.

Other than surveys, don't y'all give out "goodie" bags with personal items, etc.? Are you doing that again?

VAHC has collected items such as socks, personal hygiene items and individually wrapped snacks to hand out to those who take the surveys. These items are basic things that many of us take for granted, but they are easy to travel with for those who are street homeless or couch surfing.

Tell me what times, where and what will be happening at the Day of Care.

The Day of Care portion is essentially a health fair for those persons who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness. It is taking place during the Point in Time count from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at First United Methodist Church's gymnasium. There will be a number of agencies with information and intake capabilities for services from health care sign-up to food benefits. VAHC did this last year two weeks after the Point in Time count and found that we had a separate population of folks in need. Having the Day of Care on the same day is an effort to help make everyone count. It is also an opportunity for people who are unable to get regular health care due to homelessness to get basic first aid and have blood pressure and glucose checks. Last year, we recommended four people go to the hospital because their blood sugar was at a dangerous level. It was great to be able to make a positive difference in people's lives.

Anything else you think is important?

The main thing for Victorians and the Crossroads community to remember is that homelessness is something that we can work together to change. With our economic boom due to oil and gas in the area, we are experiencing an issue around affordable housing that needs to be addressed. There needs to be a family shelter that keeps families together when situations have become extreme. We need to stop shaming those experiencing homelessness and ask, "What can we do better as a community?"



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