Volunteers are counting the homeless throughout Jackson County

Community volunteers are visiting certain places throughout Jackson County to count how many people are on the streets for the annual homeless count

“What the point-in-time count is all about is trying to identify as many homeless people that we can to see what those numbers are,” said George Jarvis, the chairperson of the JACO Homeless Task Force.

Counting the homeless is something that is done nationwide.

In Jackson County, it requires volunteers, like ACCESS member Kevin Stine, to go out into the community on a specific night every January.

“What ACCESS is doing and other nonprofits and other volunteers are doing is going out to all the different cities, trying to find camps and get an accurate amount of homeless people in the area,” Stine said.

The hope of the count is to help the Housing and Urban Development Administration know how much money to give when granting funds for local programs to help the homeless.

“The amount of need we have correlates with the amount of help we can get from state and federal entities,” Stine said.

However, getting an accurate number of homeless isn’t always easy.

So ACCESS has been giving out ‘swag bags’ filled with items like hand warmers, blankets and toiletries.

“You generally don’t want to go up to someone that’s been on the street – sometimes for years – and just start asking them questions and so what the backpacks do is it’s essentially an ice breaker,” Stine said.

Stine says some people don’t want to answer questions, but the count and any additional data can make it easier to understand the needs of the homeless across the nation.

Volunteers will continue counting throughout the week to make sure everyone is accounted for.

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