Janesville33.3°

Volunteers needed for January homeless count

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ANN MARIE AMES
December 26, 2010
— Nothing drives home the seriousness of homelessness like walking around during a cold January night searching for people living outdoors.

The Rock County Homeless Intervention Task force is preparing for the winter version of its twice-per-year snapshot count of homeless people. An overnight count takes place each year in January and July.


The January 2010 count revealed 403 individuals living without homes in Rock County. About 115 volunteers helped with that event, which was a record number of volunteers, said Marc Perry, director of planning and development for Community Action of Rock and Walworth Counties.


During each count, workers make phone calls and tally the number of people living in local shelters or staying at hotels with emergency-housing vouchers.


Volunteers also work outdoors and sweep the county searching for families and individuals living outdoors or in cars.


The task force organizes volunteers into groups of at least four and sends them to as many areas of Rock County as possible. Several groups search in Janesville. Others search in Beloit, along highway corridors and in smaller communities such as Clinton and Milton.


Volunteers physically look for people living outdoors and talk to checkout clerks, gas station attendants and bartenders who might see people who linger with nowhere to go. Volunteers also leave bags of supplies and emergency contact information.


The count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The results help determine the needs of the local homeless population, Perry said.


The numbers are used for grant writing and applications for state or federal money for programming. The event also serves as a tool to raise awareness of the number of homeless people in the county.


IF YOU GO
What: Rock County Homeless Intervention Task Force Homeless Count
When: Volunteers will meet at 11 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26. After an orientation period, the count will take place until about 5 a.m.
Where: Volunteers will meet at ECHO, 65 S. High St., Janesville. The count will take place across Rock County. The more volunteers that participate, the more parts of the county will be canvassed.
To sign up: Call Marc Perry at (608) 289-8554 or e-mail mperry@community-action.org.
To donate: The task force accepts cash or useful items that can be included in care packages for the homeless. These items include blankets, personal hygiene items, flashlights, vitamins, nutrition bars, bottled water, hearty soup and trail mix.

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