Midlands homeless advocates have renewed a public call to help the homeless in the coming winter months.
It came Monday, as the United Way of the Midlands and the Midlands Area Consortium for the Homeless presented results of the 2009 Homeless Count.
While this year's count was down slightly from the previous one in 2007 - 1,368 this year in the 14-county service area, compared with 1,498 two years ago - Anita Floyd, United Way vice president for community impact, noted results were based on a one-day "snapshot" taken the last two weeks of January.
She said the actual number of people experiencing homelessness in a year is estimated at three to six times that number.
"It's a big myth that (homeless) people are coming from all over the world to South Carolina," Floyd said, adding that 88 percent of survey respondents said they were living in the state when they became homeless.
The Rev. Mary Anderson, pastor of Incarnation Lutheran Church, said it's a population that shouldn't be neglected.
"The homeless people in our community are not our problems. They are our neighbors," Anderson said during an interfaith prayer service for the homeless at Trinity Cathedral, after the count was announced.
The study is federally mandated every two years for communities that receive federal homeless funding.
The 2009 count results could help the area qualify for up to $1.8 million in federal funding for assistance to the homeless.
That money would be targeted specifically to housing programs, Floyd said.
Past funding has gone to permanent supportive housing programs, including the Columbia Housing Authority, Sistercare and the Mental Illness Recovery Center Inc.
The 2009 count identified people as homeless if they were in any of the following conditions Jan. 29:
- Currently living on the street
- Staying in emergency or transitional shelter
- Living in substandard housing or housing not fit for human habitation such as housing without running water or electricity
- Temporarily living in a hotel or motel room paid for by someone else (voucher)
- Temporarily in a hospital or psychiatric hospital and will have nowhere to live upon release
The count was compiled from volunteers' interviews of the homeless, agency surveys and data on homeless clients through the Homeless Management Information System.
The Midlands Area Consortium for the Homeless was established in 1994 to serve as a planning coalition to improve services and housing for people who are homeless. The service area is one of five in the state.
Counties in the local survey are Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Chester, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, Richland and York.
The 2009 count was the third statewide count conducted in South Carolina.