Volunteers Bundle Up for Utah's Homeless Count

Jan 25, 2013

Volunteers will fan out across Utah and the nation to learn more about the circumstances of people without homes, in the Point in Time Homeless Count. Courtesy of COHHIO.
Volunteers will fan out across Utah and the nation to learn more about the circumstances of people without homes, in the Point in Time Homeless Count. Courtesy of COHHIO.

From park benches to friends' couches, thousands of Utahns spend their days looking for a place to sleep for the night. 

And next week, volunteers will bundle up and fan out across the state on Thursday morning to find those without homes for the annual Point in Time Homeless Count. 

In Utah, last year's volunteers counted more than 16,000 people. Tamera Kohler, director of the state Community Services Office, says there's no official prediction this year.

"You sometimes think you have a pretty good knowledge," she says. "But it's not something we ever project in advance, because we really work hard to make sure that these are unduplicated. We double-check our information. We want to get the best effort to go out and count exactly what it looks like this year."

The count takes place mostly on the morning of January 31, asking people where they stayed the night before, and the next couple of days are spent making sure no one was missed. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the homeless counts every other year, but many states including Utah choose to do them annually.

Kohler says the count breaks down the numbers by homeless families, individuals, young people and children, as well as veterans, those with disabilities or who are chronically homeless. She adds this year, in Salt Lake City and county, there's an additional survey of people living on the street that takes place over a full week. It's called Registry Week.

"This extra piece that we're looking at, asking a little bit more in-depth questions to get a better understanding of our unsheltered individuals," she explains. "And it's just to help us be more strategic, understand their needs better and to be able to house them more effectively, and quicker if we possibly can."

Most of this year's Point in Time Count volunteers are already trained and ready, but Kohler says more are needed for Registry Week. (Prospective Registry Week volunteers can contact Allison Ainscough, 801-815-9138.) Other information about homelessness in Utah is online at housing.utah.gov.

Eric is from Las Vegas, Nevada and studies broadcast journalism at Utah State. In joining the Utah Public Radio family, he has now delved into each of the "Big Three" of journalism: print, television and radio. His dream is to someday live and report the news in Chicago, Illinois (or wherever his career takes him.) In addition to reporting for UPR, Eric is the copy editor at the Utah Statesman and contributes to Aggie TV News.