Hinesville and Liberty County are taking part in a statewide “homeless count” facilitated by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, according to Daisy Jones, program coordinator for Hinesville’s Homeless Prevention Program.
“The (homeless) count is done every two years in Georgia,” Jones said. “The numbers from every city and county are fed into the state’s overall count.”
Jones said Hinesville and Liberty County have conducted homeless counts before, but this is the first time they’re participating in the Georgia DCA count. She said agencies, service providers and civic and religious organizations are asked to participate in the count by providing survey information from individuals seeking assistance.
She said that in the past, the city and county submitted locally generated surveys to the above agencies and organizations, asking about the type of services provided and number of people helped. This year, they will be using the state’s standardized survey form that asks more specific information, including where the homeless person is living, physical and mental health issues and if he or she is receiving any government benefits.
“It’s important to get volunteers to help us,” Jones said. “We want to use this as an outreach tool for people we haven’t met before. It should provide us with more realistic numbers of the homeless in our area.”
Jones said she is conducting the first meeting for volunteers at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, in the city council chambers. Volunteers for the homeless count need to be 18 or older, have reliable transportation and have to attend all training sessions, she said.
The Rev. Hermon Scott, pastor of Baconton Missionary Baptist Church and chairman of the Liberty County Homeless Coalition, said he is looking forward to the count so he can make county officials aware of the homeless situation. He said most Liberty County residents are unaware of it.
“This count will tell us what our homeless population really looks like,” Scott said. “From our perspective, we’re continuing to see an increase in homelessness in our county. This is a way of talking to people who are out there without a home.”
Jones said it is important to know the number of homeless in the community because state and federal funds to help the homeless are tied to the number of homeless in the community.
“Our agencies, organizations and churches are doing a lot here to help the homeless year-round,” she said, noting the city’s Homeless Prevention Program is federally funded. “If we see or hear of homeless people, we want to be able to help.”
Following Saturday’s meeting of count volunteers, Jones said a volunteer- and agency-training workshop will take place Jan. 21. The survey will be conducted Jan. 29-Feb. 4, she said. The completed surveys will be collected and submitted to Kennesaw State University.