January 15, 2013FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Recent economic difficulties, loss of jobs and home foreclosures have highlighted the homeless situation for many people throughout the country.
Through the United Way of Forsyth County, nonprofits and volunteer organizations will begin a formal count of the homeless population later this month. The purpose of the count is to ensure everyone who is homeless is counted. The formal count will take place from Jan. 29 through Feb. 4.
This will make sure that Forsyth County gets its fair share of the resources available at the state and federal level.
United Way became involved after holding a number of "Community Conversations" on homelessness in Forsyth County, which brought local nonprofits, the school system, the faith-based community, food pantries and law enforcement to discuss homelessness.
The meetings asked these organizations what they were seeing on the ground and how to better address the issues and to bring community awareness to the issue of homelessness, said Melissa Corliss, director of community impact for the United Way of Forsyth County.
When plans began for the 2013 Georgia Homeless Count, this group felt it was important that the count be done in Forsyth County.
Also, the school system is using McKinney Vento for their definition of homelessness as it relates to students.
These volunteers will visit places where homeless gather as well as places that provide accommodations for short periods of time. They will also visit shelters like under bridges and tents.
Homelessness can be caused by various things; an illness occurs, car breaks down, divorce, single parenting, family turmoil and medical issues, said Gene DeBerardinis, a volunteer who will be helping tally the number of homeless people in the county.
A lot of times, a person is faced with diminished or total loss of income, DeBerardinis said. Sometimes, there's an eviction from an apartment or home because of unpaid rent or mortgage payments.
Local churches and charity organizations continue to provide the bulk of the assistance to the homeless population in Forsyth County.
Volunteers will collect information on the kinds of services the person needs, how many homeless people make up the family, how long each has been homeless and what's needed to resolve the situation.
The Georgia Department of Human Affairs has conducted Homeless Counts in the past. The last one was done in 2011; however, Forsyth County has never participated in the count.
"We have been assigned a number based on a calculation in the past, but a physical has not been done here in Forsyth County," said Corliss.
The information will be used in understanding the scope of the homeless problem locally and statewide and assist in determine the need for programs to serve the homeless population.
To volunteer for this project, call 770-781-4110 or 678-316-3223. For more information on the United Way of Forsyth County, visit www.unitedwayforsyth.com.
The definition being used for homelessness is three-tiered:
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Sheltered homeless persons – People who reside in an emergency shelter or in transitional, supportive housing for homeless persons.
Unsheltered homeless persons – People who reside in a place not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings, encampments.
Imminently homeless persons – People who expect to leave their current residence within two weeks, have not identified where they are staying next and do not have the means to obtain permanent housing.
If you are homeless, call 770-887-1121 to take part in the count.