Efforts to reduce homelessness and help those affected by it are at the heart of a statewide street count scheduled for the end of this month.
Richland and Lexington counties are among 14 that will be surveyed by the Midlands Area Consortium for the Homeless Jan. 24 during the federally mandated Point-In-Time Count.
“We only do it every two years, but it gives us a good handle on what the (homeless) situation is,” said Nancy Stoudenmire of the Columbia Housing Authority and MACH member.
Stoudenmire said numbers from the count help determine an area’s level of federal funding for homeless services. MACH currently receives about $2 million in federal funding along with other local and regional funding and grants.
The 2011 Point in Time study identified 1,180 homeless people in Richland and Lexington counties.
“We use the numbers so that we can make decisions (about services) here on a local level as well,” Stoudenmire said.
The one-night survey seeks to determine how many men, women and children are living in shelters, on the streets and other places. And while offering a better gauge of the numbers, the count also helps communities evaluate such things as the level of public services available for the homeless.
“The better understanding of it helps us do the planning,” said Anita Floyd of United Way of the Midlands, which has worked closely with MACH. “This allows us to get a real perspective on what the experience (of the homeless) is.”
The count also will include:
• People living in a supervised, publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations, including welfare hotels, congregate shelters and transitional housing for the mentally ill.
• Institutions that provide temporary residence for people who are institutionalized up to 30 consecutive days.
• A public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation.
MACH volunteers will distribute hygiene kits to those identified in the count.
“This is a great, time-limited but very helpful project for local congregations, civic groups or other leadership groups to tackle,” Stoudenmire said. “And while it may seem like a small thing, meeting these very basic needs of people who are still on the street is important.”
Reach Rantin at (803) 771-8306.