January is the time to make a difference
According to the Kansas Statewide Homeless Coalition, January is the month where communities do there annual count of homeless people. This information is put into a nationwide database and used to help fight the homeless problem throughout the state.
The Point-in-Time Count is intended to provide a snapshot of a community’s homeless population. It is one way to collectively understand the scope and breadth of homelessness in individual communities.
The count is an important effort that ensures the voices of people experiencing homelessness throughout communities are heard and efforts are made to provide appropriate services. It also helps communities develop more effective plans and measure progress toward ending homelessness.
The annual count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for communities across the country to receive funding. During the last 10 days of January, thousands of volunteers canvass communities, as well as count and survey individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Service providers nationwide choose one day during the 10-day period to count people in their communities who are living on the street and in emergency shelters, transitional housing or domestic violence shelters.
Barton County will hold its annual count near the end of January. For more information or to help volunteer with the count, Becker can be reached at 620-282-4014.
Homelessness is on the rise in Kansas and right here in our own town this issue can be seen by taking a drive by the river just outside of Great Bend in the warmer months, visiting the soup kitchen that feeds nearly 70 people on any given day or just taking a drive down 10th Street.
“Homelessness is a great concern for Great Bend,” Dream Center Director Kimberly Becker said. “I think we have a misconception of what homelessness looks like. When you think of people being homeless, you think of people sleeping on park benches or sleeping right on the street. Here in Great Bend it takes a different look.
“It can be the couple walking their children to school, it can be the person walking down 10th Street with all their belongings in a backpack. It can be the person walking to work but can’t afford a place of their own to live so they are forced to live in their vehicle. This is our homeless in Great Bend.”
According to Becker, there are approximately 50 homeless people in Great Bend. This includes men, women, single mothers and couples with children. Barton County ranks in the top five per capita for children without homes for the entire state.
“Most of the homeless families sleep in their vehicles because there is no shelter for families in Great Bend right now,” Becker said. “They can go to other towns that do, but they don’t want to remove their children from school so they just do what they can to survive and keep their families warm.”
According to the Kansas Statewide Homeless Coalition, the leading factors to homelessness in Barton County include: no affordable housing, alcohol/drug abuse, jobless, eviction, changing jobs or housing, domestic violence, illness and incarceration.
“What we need in our community is more collaboration to combat these different factors that lead to homelessness and to work together to help these people in anyway we can,” Becker said. “It is very hard going from homeless to having a place of your own, but with a little help it can be done.”