A head count of Augusta’s homeless population this week will take volunteers to the city streets and overnight shelters – and for the first time to the jail, hospitals and health clinics.
The annual “point-in-time” count of the area’s homeless population was expanded this year to better account for all individuals defined as homeless by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Volunteers will comb the streets and shelters Monday night to collect names and information from the homeless. Throughout the week, social service agencies, soup kitchens and health providers will ask their clients to fill out surveys indicating where they slept on Monday night, said Kimberly Blanchard, the coordinator of the census organized by the local Continuum of Care.
Collecting data throughout the week will help account for anyone missed on Monday night. Someone who sleeps in a hotel room or temporarily with a family member could be classified as homeless, Blanchard said.
“We know Augusta has a homeless problem,” she said. “How do we accurately document what’s going on in each city?”
HUD designates the last 10 days of January for local officials to conduct the count. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs selected Monday night as the single night for Georgia counties to participate in the count.
Data from the Georgia counties will be sorted by Kennesaw State University to eliminate any duplicates that were counted Monday night and also visited an agency or health provider during the week, Blanchard said.
Volunteers will also search streets in south Augusta for the first time during the point-in-time count, Blanchard said. Social service agencies had indicated that the homeless population was spreading out through several zip codes.
HUD uses the data to track homelessness and distribute funding, Blanchard said. About 1,900 surveys were distributed to local volunteers and agencies.