PATH conducts the Smith County Point in Time Homeless survey & c - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

PATH conducts the Smith County Point in Time Homeless survey & count

Released by PATH Of Tyler:

People Attempting To Help, a human services non-profit and the Texas Homeless Network will be conducting a Homeless Survey Thursday, January 26, 2012, in a continuing effort to address the homelessness issues facing community members in Smith County and throughout the state.

"We will be carrying out this survey and count on the same day as other agencies all over Texas," said Christina Fulsom, PATH Executive Director. "The survey will result in a comprehensive report on the number of homeless persons – sheltered and unsheltered – in our community; demographics, reasons for becoming and remaining homeless, educational attainment, employment status, health care needs, and other factors will be collected. We have to truly understand the scope of the problem in order to improve our ability to plan and implement effective housing and service programs. The same survey was conducted in January of 2011 - 243 homeless individuals, 51 of them children, were identified in Tyler, there were many others we did not find that night."

When trying to determine who is homeless in Texas, a wide variety of barriers exist. Often there isn't an easy way to establish who is homeless because definitions of homelessness vary. In addition, strategies for obtaining the information are complex, diverse, and variable. Many experiencing homelessness do not wish to be found or represented as "homeless." Therefore, organizations face unique challenges when working to curb the rising numbers of individuals and families suffering from poverty around the state, not to mention the many difficulties encountered when providing needed services and care.

Recognizing homelessness as an often temporary circumstance rather than a permanent condition is essential in gathering information about the homeless population in Texas. Furthermore, regardless of which definition is being used, simply finding those who fit the definition of homeless to participate in the survey, or in another way to be counted, is challenging.

The research we do is conducted at locations known to be frequented by people who are homeless. Institutional locations include places such as shelters, soup kitchens, and service centers. Non-institutional locations include streets, parks, or abandoned buildings; these locations can become particularly dangerous in Texas, with days of staggering heat in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter. More difficult to identify are those staying temporarily with family or friends, those doubling up in overcrowded conditions, those staying in hotels or living in cars, and those congregating in places not known to or accessible to researchers. Many remain transient at all times. For these reasons, data on homelessness are usually considered to be underestimates.

It is very important that people experiencing homelessness know we are coming out to visit them that night. Those individuals facing circumstances described above are encouraged to come to the following Soup Kitchens: Good Samaritan, Loaves and Fishes, and The Salvation Army. Those staying in shelters will be surveyed in the shelter. Shelters participating include: The Salvation Army and the East Texas Crisis Center."

The Homeless Survey is being conducted in an effort to assist Smith County agencies in the development of comprehensive, long-term solutions to addressing homelessness. In addition, a Continuum of Care plan will be established that will provide the needed information to participate in the Balance of State Project of the Texas Homeless Network. The Balance of State Project will allow local agencies to apply for funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Continuum of Care funds.

"This homeless survey is a vital step in the Continuum of Care development process and will provide a more accurate picture of the epidemic of homelessness to those who work for shelters and service agencies as well as the community-at-large," said Ken Martin, executive director of the Texas Homeless Network.

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