Agency to count the Genesee County homeless

GENESEE COUNTY — Metro Community Development wants to know how many homeless people there are in the county on Jan. 26.

On that day local volunteers will take to the streets for the annual “Homeless Point in Time Count” for Flint and Genesee County.

Jerry Leslie, spokesman for Genesee County Metro Community Development, said volunteers and workers for the agency will be out in every community in Genesee County that day collecting information on how many people are homeless.

Leslie said homelessness is not just a problem in the city of Flint, but it’s all over the county — sometimes just not as visible as it is in the city.

“We see homelessness all over the county, it’s most visible in city, but we see it in the out-county as well,” he said. “Last year we encountered it in most of the suburban areas outside Greater Flint.”

The count is necessary for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to decide how money will be divided up between communities to help pay for programs that feed and house homeless people. At stake, said Leslie, is more than $2 million.

The survey is something HUD requires every other year, but Leslie said Resource Genesee is doing one every year for its own data.

The approach this year will be a little different than in past years. The agency usually sends a team to every community to get out on the streets and find homeless people.

“It wasn’t yielding specific result, so we’re trying to target where (the homeless) receive services,” said Leslie.

Homelessness, he said, is defined as staying in a place unfit for human habitation, including: cars; tents; in a house without heat, electricity or water; trailers not designed for long-term use.

It also counts people staying in shelters. Shelter staff will count those staying at emergency shelters in the area. That same evening, volunteers will be available from 6-9 p.m. at 32 locations throughout the county to count the area homeless.

In 2009, Leslie said Metro Community Development had about 3,000 clients in Genesee County. Early numbers suggest in 2011 there will be an increase.

While the county will take place primarily on Jan. 26, Leslie said they will be conducting counts Jan. 27-28, asking questions of people like, for example, if they were homeless the night of Jan. 26.

This year’s count is especially interested in the plight of homeless veterans, a top priority for HUD and the Veteran’s Administration for 2011, said Leslie.

For more information, to volunteer for the count or to provide information on a homeless person you know of, call 810- 767-0500.

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