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Volunteers conduct homeless count in Fox Valley

Volunteers count people without shelter during a bi-annual Point in Time homeless count
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 6:19 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2022 at 6:05 PM CST
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FOX VALLEY (WBAY) - Volunteers were out overnight taking part in a count of homeless people in the Fox Valley. It’s called the Point-in-Time count and estimates the number of people who are homeless in the community.

These Point in Time events provide a snapshot of homelessness across the country. The Fox Cities Housing Coalition coordinates the effort with housing agencies here.

“It could be anyone. It could be your neighbor, your brother, sister, your grandparents even and it’s very important that we treat these people with just as much respect and dignity as you would want your brother, sister, grandparents or neighbors treated,” says Emily Peterson, street outreach coordinator for Pillars.

Volunteers spread out in different communities to identify people living on the street. Those volunteers connect the homeless with resources for a permanent place to stay.

“It’s volunteers, it’s housing providers. It’s elected officials, kind of all getting into teams of two to four spreading out throughout the Fox Cities,” said Peterson.

Braving the cold to look for unsheltered community members.

“It’s truly a community effort, and it shows that the community is invested in this issue and they want to see a change and they’re willing to literally bare the elements to be here.”

The bi-annual census helps officials get a clearer picture of what homeless looks like in their towns.

“We want to know the true numbers, right? We know a good idea of who’s in shelter, but we feel there is a lot that are unrepresented in that shelter count.”

All so they can make changes to help more people. Over the past several years, the Fox Cities has seen an increase in people seeking homeless services.

“You can often be just one paycheck away from homelessness,” Peterson said. “Things like the eviction moratorium, housing prices, rent increase, just the demand for apartments in the area has really led to this boom of homelessness.”

”So this is that opportunity to truly. What that looks like and drive, you know, new programming and new funding and, and fill the gaps in services in the Fox Cities.”

This year’s preliminary count found 15 people without shelter. That’s down from the 23 they found last year, which is one of the highest numbers on record for the Fox Valley winter count, but community advocates say any number of people living without shelter is too many.

Organizers understand the cold temperatures can affect their count at night. That’s why they’re extending the reporting period through the end of next week. Through next week, people who show up at shelters or connect with the coalition and let them know they were outside last night are added to the tally.

“A couple more will probably trickle in throughout the week into next week,” Peterson said.

The Point in Time count looks for people living without shelter overnight

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