Counting the homeless population

Advocates head out early to complete the Point in Time count

Davenport, Iowa - Work is going on in the Quad Cities to get a sense of the number of people who don't have a place to call home.

Housing and homeless service providers in Iowa are collecting information Thursday as part of a required census. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the collection of the data.

It's to show not just how many people are homeless but who are affected.

This is a twice a year process called a Point in Time Count, with the data sent to both state and federal agencies.

Bethany for Children and Families Associate Director of Community Services Ben Cleaveland said, "We're really trying to focus on getting them into some safe, affordable housing."

It's the goal Ben Cleaveland and local organizations for housing and homelessness are working to achieve by hitting the streets.

"We try to find unsheltered people, and so we will drive around the Quad Cities," Cleaveland said Thursday morning before heading out for the count.

After completing the count last week in Illinois, Cleaveland is among 20 people up early to make their way through the Iowa side of the river, going to areas where homeless people frequent.
It's to get a one-day sample of how many people are staying in shelters and sleeping outside.

It's not just about getting a number but also a way to increase awareness.

Scott County Housing Council Executive Director Leslie Kilgannon said, "People who are experiencing homelessness oftentimes are ignored in our society."

Kilgannon recently took over the position at the Scott County Housing Council.

It's conducted across the nation, each winter and summer. 

Locally, it's organized by the Scott County Housing Council and Q-C Shelter and Transitional Housing Council with other advocates and organization.
They're collecting numbers they say are key to making sure resources are available.

Kilgannon said, "Really, we hope that it helps us get more funding and support for the services that are needed to address people's housing needs."

These numbers can help show the need for private and government investments in overcoming one of the biggest roadblocks to ending homelessness.

Cleaveland said, "The affordable housing market in the Quad Cities is very limited, and so we're trying to see if we can get more affordable housing in the Quad Cities so that these people don't have to feel like they have to live out unsheltered." 

So, well before daybreak, Cleaveland says he wants to make sure no one is forgotten.

"Trying to identify homeless individuals that might need our help," Cleaveland said.

While conducting the county, the advocates use this as an opportunity to talk about area resources for those looking to get help.

They also provide food and other necessities.

The tally for the census is expected to be finalized next week.

The July 2017 count in Scott County showed the homeless population total of 343 people.

It's a decrease from what they collected in January 2017 of 386 people. 

For the state of Iowa, the January 2017 count found 2,756 homeless persons, while in Illinois the tally was 10,798 persons.


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