Task force plans homeless count

Providers of assistance for the homeless hope to get a clear idea next week how many Augustans regularly spend the night on the streets or in a shelter.

On Tuesday, experts on the homeless and volunteers from Medical College of Georgia will head into the community as the sun goes down to search for homeless people on the riverfront, in alleys and under bridges and overpasses.

The count is done once a year to satisfy federal housing requirements and keep city homeless assistance agencies eligible for about $500,000 in grant money, said Lynda Suarez, the resource development director for the CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority Inc.

In January 2006, homeless counters tallied 569 people without a permanent place to live, said Ms. Suarez, who organized the count. Thirty-seven of those were without any shelter.

Four teams of four will canvass the area shortly after 7 p.m., when shelters are closing or have filled to capacity for the night, said Pat Lynch-Hayes, a nurse practitioner at St. Vincent dePaul Health Clinic and coordinator of the count.

"If you wait too late, they hunker down for the night, and they go invisible," she said.

The search area includes roughly all of downtown Augusta and parts of Harrisburg.

Counters also will track the number of homeless people staying at shelters the same night by sending a survey to all shelters in the Augusta area, Ms. Suarez said.

Reach Justin Boron at (706) 823-3215 or justin.boron@augustachronicle.com.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Homeless counters are looking for the public's help to find out where the homeless might be staying. If you've seen someone who appears homeless downtown or in Harrisburg, you can call Pat Lynch-Hayes at (706) 828-3322.