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Good Neighbor recruits volunteers for Homeless Count

Heading up Bartow’s Homeless Count since its inception, Brad Cowart is looking forward to reaching out to those in need of shelter during this year’s effort.

“There is a large population of unsheltered people in Bartow that need services, and by us doing the count, hopefully we can get help to those,” said Cowart, a Cartersville resident and previous board member for Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter. “It’s an amazing experience to be able to take a hot meal and essentials to these people. It’s great to see our community come out to support this group and step out of their comfort zone.

“The homeless are not as bad as most of us would think. Most are just a pay check away from being there. Some are there by bad choices, but some are there because of their circumstances. We hope that we can let them all know of ... services that are available to them. This is our once-a-year chance to let them know.”

In preparation for Jan. 22’s Homeless Count, Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter’s staff is encouraging area residents to serve as volunteers in this effort.

“The Point in Time Homeless Count is administered nationwide by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and at the state level through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA),” said Jessica Mitcham, executive director for Good Neighbor. “Its purpose is to seek to identify an accurate picture of how many individuals are living unsheltered in communities across the state. Good Neighbor served as the local host agency in 2013, 2015 and 2017. HUD has recently requested states move toward annual rather than [biennial] counts, so we will serve as the host agency again in 2018.

“... In 2017, we identified a total of 42 homeless individuals in our county — 26 in shelters and 16 living totally unsheltered. This number is low enough that our county could potentially end homelessness in Bartow County. We will see what this year holds and what the numbers show in just a few weeks.”

To volunteer in the 2017 Homeless Count, participants will need to receive training at the Good Neighbor — 110 Porter St. in Cartersville — Jan. 16 at 3 p.m. or Jan. 17 at noon.

“The Good Neighbor looks to recruit volunteers who will help to complete surveys with unsheltered individuals and also help distribute supplies and information about available resources,” Mitcham said. “We are hoping to recruit 50 [to] 75 volunteers who will be organized into teams of four [to] five individuals and sent to assigned locations where we believe people are living unsheltered in tents, abandoned buildings, under bridges, etc.

“Over the years, participation in the Homeless Count has been an entry point for many new volunteers who then begun to be actively involved in our organization and in the care of those living unsheltered in our community. Last year, in early 2017, was the first time a team found children living unsheltered, living in a tent with extended family members. It was heartbreaking. We also found a woman who’d been living with an untreated broken arm for nearly two months. The team who met her were able to help with transportation and secured medical care for her arm.”

Information generated from the statewide surveys will be compiled at Kennesaw State University — partnering with DCA — and released in late spring, Mitcham said.

According to the “2017 Report on Homelessness: Balance of State Continuum of Care Point in Time Homeless Count Report” posted on www.dca.state.ga.us, “The number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness on a single day, including both sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations, has been steadily declining in the Georgia Balance of State CoC over the past several years. The Georgia Balance of State CoC observed 3,716 people experiencing homelessness during the PIT, which is a 36 percent decrease from the Homeless Count in January of 2015.”

To sign up for one of the Homeless Count’s volunteer training sessions, call 770-607-0610.

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