Columbus volunteers meet local homeless on the streets; assess their needs

Updated: Jan. 23, 2018 at 1:04 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Volunteers with Home for Good and United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley started their run across Muscogee and Russell Counties at 6 a.m.

Their mission - to find out how many homeless people there are in our community.

This was all part of Day Two of the annual Point-In-Time Count, and the latest effort in a week-long focus on issues affecting the local homeless population.

About two dozen volunteers headed out from the United Way office on 5th Avenue, heading out in teams, ready to meet these men and women, and offer them boxes with food and other goods.

We followed one team of volunteers, starting out across the river in Phenix City, looking for men and women they've previously encountered under several bridges and overpasses. In some locations across both counties,  people have constructed makeshift shelters and encampments.

Tuesday morning, it was a challenge for United Way staff members like Denise Guthrie to find the people they've visited in past years. Guthrie said it was likely they left their possessions to get out of the cold.

Others had nowhere to go, and Guthrie and her team sat down to talk to them, to see if they wanted to answer the survey to get a sense of what resources they need.

The survey is required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in order to learn if the homeless population has increased, decreased, or if the demographics have changed over the years. This also allows HUD to better assign resources to local agencies, which include connections to housing, jobs, education, and healthcare.

Guthrie said she's heard many stories over the years she's helped conduct the Point In Time count, and they often follow a pattern.

"We hear that a lot... financial reasons, medical reasons," she said.  "Most people live paycheck to paycheck, and if they miss a paycheck, they could end up on the street."

On Wednesday, community partners with Home for Good and United Way have invited local homeless to attend a job fair at the Chuck Roberts Activity Center in Phenix City.

Then Friday, as part of Project Homeless Connect 2018, those same men and women are invited to come to the Open Door Community House on 2nd Avenue to find out more about educational and healthcare resources they can use.

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