Volunteers are needed later this month to help count the homeless in parts of Champaign and Vermilion counties.
The Urbana-Champaign and Vermilion County Continuum of Care committees will conduct a "point in time" survey of homeless people in their areas. While committee members will tally the number of sheltered individuals and families, they need volunteers to help conduct street sweeps in Urbana, Champaign and Danville to look for and, if possible, gather data on the unsheltered — those living in vehicles, abandoned buildings, parks and wooded areas and under bridges.
The Urbana-Champaign sweep will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 24, and Danville's will begin at 7 p.m. Jan. 29.
A kind of census for the homeless, the survey is mandated every two years by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and conducted nationwide during the last part of January to avoid double-counting those who may drift from town to town.
Homeless providers use the data that's collected — including the length of and reasons for homelessness and other background information — to make long-range plans for delivering housing and other services that people need to become self-sufficient and to document the need for federal grant funding.
"It's part of the effort to eradicate homelessness in all forms," said Thom Pollock, executive director of Crosspoint Human Services in Danville.
In Champaign County, officials will conduct a shelter count using the Homeless Management Information System, a database that's compiled and used by area homeless providers, said Darlene Kloeppel, the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission's community services director. At 6 p.m., volunteers will gather for brief training at the Champaign Police Department, then teams will head out for the street count.
"We'll look at some parks, hotels where we know we have guests staying, the Illinois Terminal building and in downtown Urbana and Champaign," said Kerri Spear, Champaign's neighborhood programs manager. She said about 25 volunteers are needed.
Spear said at least one team will follow the Canteen Run truck, sponsored by the Salvation Army of Champaign County and area churches, which delivers blankets, warm clothing, hot drinks and toiletries to homeless people on the street.
The last survey in 2011, counted 549 individuals in 389 households in Urbana-Champaign, up from 429 individuals in 2009. Of the 549, 163 were children, Kloeppel said.
"Only 79 were chronic homeless, people who have been homeless for more than a year or four times within the past three years and have a disabling condition. Those are the people that most people think of as being homeless — men who might have alcohol issues or mental health issues who have been living out on the street," Kloeppel said.
She said families and other individuals may have been evicted for financial reasons, lost their home through divorce or domestic violence, or had substance abuse or mental health issues. "It could be kids running away from home. There are all kinds of reasons," she said.
In Danville, volunteers will meet at Crosspoint at the Y (Your Family Resource Connection), 201 N. Hazel St., and divide into teams. Each team, armed with maps and flashlights, will scour one zone in the city.
John Dreher, Danville's community development manager, divided the city into 13 zones, and will check with police and code enforcement officers to get an idea of where homeless people have been seen.
Volunteers found seven people during last year's sweep, said Linda McGlaughlin, coordinator of Your Family Resource Connection's permanent housing program.
"The majority were disabled veterans. Two or three were individuals who had fallen on hard times," McGlaughlin said, adding that doesn't count the sheltered number.
In addition to blankets, nutritional food packets and toiletries, the unsheltered will be given cards with information on where they can get food, clothing and other resources. Veterans also will get a rubber wristband with the National Homeless Veterans hotline number, which will link them up with a point of contact for homeless services, said Jennifer Gerrib, coordinator of the Veterans Affairs Illiana Healthcare System's healthcare for homeless veterans program.
Pollock said volunteers, with the help of police, will try to get willing people who are found to a warm location or to the hospital if they need medical condition.
The Urbana-Champaign and Vermilion County Continuum of Care committees are seeking volunteers to help count the homeless during evening street sweeps.
The street sweep in Urbana-Champaign is from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 24, Volunteers must pre-register by contactacting Kerri Spear at the city of Champaign at 217-403-7082 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
The street sweep in Danville begins at 7 p.m. Jan. 29. Volunteers can call Linda McGlaughlin at Your Family Resource Connection at 217-446-1217.