When a team of volunteers fanned out into the cold this week looking for homeless people around downtown Akron, they found two dozen people who had nowhere to go.
Sue Pierson, the chairwoman of the Continuum of Care for the Homeless in Summit County, said the team of about 20 volunteers found homeless people in building indentations, on heating grates, under government office buildings, at fast food restaurants and in public buildings.
In all, it is estimated that on Tuesday night there were about 150 people who ultimately slept on the streets, under bridges or in tents in the city.
Pierson said another 700 to 800 people were living in various homeless shelter beds.
This week’s count, dubbed The Point in Time Count of the Homeless, was part of an annual nationwide effort to better gauge the depth of the homeless problem and help agencies better serve those in need. The count also helps determine where federal dollars are directed.
In Summit County, about $4 million a year is divided among 28 or so agencies that provide assistance to the homeless.
In the future, the ability to count the homeless locally may be easier because of a new system that is expected to begin this spring.
Pierson said InfoLine, where she works as vice president of services, will be launching a central coordinated intake process for the homeless in the spring.
A person in need of shelter for the night would call a phone number and seek a bed, Pierson said. The caller would then be asked to provide their personal information to the operator who then could help find the person an appropriate facility.
“It will speed up the process of getting folks housed,” she said. “The agencies will decide who they can take based on their situation.”
Armed with this information, Pierson said, the agency will be better able to assist the client thanks to access to their information ranging from where they have stayed before to what assistance they are receiving and other factors such as what has worked in the past and what has not.
The federal government’s push on homelessness is now called Housing First, Pierson said, with a goal for social workers to find shelter for the homeless and work through the issues that have led them to be without a home.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.