Jasper and Newton County Homeless Coalition conducts “Point in Time Census”

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A group of volunteers spend one of the coldest days so far this winter outside for an important cause.

The coldest temperatures of the year weren’t enough to stop members of the Jasper and Newton County Homeless Coalition from hitting the streets. The process is called the “Point in Time Census” and they’re trying to figure out how many people are homeless on any given day in the Joplin area.

Because of Tuesday night’s bitter cold Homeless Coalition members weren’t sure if they’d find anyone outside Wednesday morning, but they did, in the very first place they started looking. Just a few yards away from West 7th Street, Tammy Walker and several other volunteers encountered a man who survived the bitter cold.

“Be a lot of people out there, yep I’ll be there all day, ok?” says Tammy Walker, Economic Security Corp., Community Development Director.

The man wished not to have his name or face on camera but he did answer some questions — namely, why people like him become homeless.

“I don’t know what deep rooted mental or whatever issues, they have but they just want to be left alone a lot of them, just get out here and get away and be by themselves,” he says.

And Mother Nature isn’t the only foe — some of the chronically homeless people living outdoors have abused alcohol, drugs and have served time in jail. So what was his reason for being out here? He thinks it all started with a serious car accident that left him with a traumatic head injury.

“I have done good for years at a time and just something will happen, I don’t know,” he says.

Walker explains why this homeless census is taken this time, each year.

“We can use that data to leverage private, state, local and federal funding, but for us locally it’s a good way to connect with people who are not housed to offer services, try and engage them in services, as well as to just shine a light on homelessness as a social issue in our community,” says Walker.

Last year’s count turned up a total of 55 individuals living outdoors, one of which is still a minor living in a car with his family. Coalition members also invited everyone they encountered to the “Project Homeless Connect” event taking place Thursday at Memorial Hall at 212 West 8th Street from 10am to 3pm. The event is way to start the process of finding them permanent housing.

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