About 30 volunteers fanned out across Augusta on Monday night to conduct the annual “point-in-time” count of the area’s homeless population.
The effort was part of a broader annual census of the homeless, conducted each year by Continuum of Care, a group of area agencies that provide health care, shelter and nutrition to those without a permanent home, said Kimberly Blanchard, this year’s census coordinator.
Blanchard, the executive director of Coordinated Health Services, said the census provides a physical count of all those defined as homeless by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which translates into funding for services.
It also allows volunteers to make contact with homeless people, which helps them learn what their problems are and what services are needed.
“We find that it is good to get out and communicate on their level,” Blanchard said. “They want to tell their stories to the right person. It’s a trust issue.”
She said homelessness usually results from a number of factors.
Surveys will be conducted at social service agencies, soup kitchens and health providers this week to find out where their clients slept Monday night.
Blanchard said teams would hit locations where the homeless are known to congregate, such as under bridges and on the former Georgia Golf Hall of Fame property on Reynolds Street.
Surveyors also hit areas in south Augusta, where homeless encampments have been spotted, including a small “tent city” behind the Wal-Mart on Deans Bridge Road, said Lavond Reynolds, the director of Head of the Giant Ministry in Hephzibah.
Reynolds said they counted about six people in the tents and intended to go back later to see whether more returned for the night.
“We came bearing gifts,” he said, referring to hats, bags and personal hygiene items that volunteers pass out to encourage people to participate in the census.
“We did offer one man the opportunity to stay in our shelter,” Reynolds said, and the man agreed to be picked up Tuesday.
Volunteer Bundy Amos said it was his first time helping with the census, but not his first encounter with the homeless. He said he ran into a woman two weeks ago with “quite the setup” underneath the St. Sebastian Way bridge over the Augusta Canal.
“I met her while I was fishing,” he said. “She said God told her to move there.”