JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A one-day survey of homelessness in Region 8 revealed staggering numbers.
The Northeast Arkansas Coalition of Care recently conducted a survey of homeless people in Craighead, Greene and Poinsett counties.
"We went out on January 26 and we spent over 12 hours collecting data from homeless individuals," Jeremy Biggs told Region 8 News.
Biggs said they traveled to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, day centers, food pantries, the Goodwill Center, and public libraries to do one-on-one interviews with the homeless.
"Anywhere the homeless might be at, we tried our best effort to find them and interview them to collect data on what they need," Biggs said.
In that 12-hour span, Biggs said they identified and interviewed 140 homeless people.
"It might not sound like a lot, but in that tiny time frame, 140 is a 25% increase of last year's numbers of 106 individuals," Biggs said. "To address this problem, we've got to be hands on. We've got to realize that it is right here in our backyard."
According to their numbers, 11 people were homeless veterans and 46 were victims of domestic violence.
"We also found out from the data that 38 suffered from a mental illness. 31 people suffered from drug or alcohol addiction," Biggs said. "Those are leading causes of homelessness across America and right here in Northeast Arkansas as well."
However, the largest category of homelessness came out of the school districts.
Survey results showed more than 600 homeless children in just eight school districts of three Region 8 counties.
"Those numbers were really eye opening," Biggs said. "To see that 647 children were homeless in our school districts just in our three counties right here in Northeast Arkansas."
Biggs said addressing issues parents have will in turn benefit students in homeless situations.
"It's going to turn into better grades in school, they're getting more sleep at night, their bellies are full, and hopefully everything turns around." Biggs said.
The NEA Coalition of Care said they hope to create a central location soon where homeless people can do things to help them get back on their feet.
"To come and get a shower, do laundry, get on a computer and turn in job applications, fill out forms with DHS, whether it be SNAP benefits or health insurance," Biggs said.
Biggs told Region 8 News that through their survey, they were also able to determine short-term needs that homeless people had including food assistance, medical assistance and employment.
"But we're also focused on long-term and the gaps in education; whether that's GED training or some post-secondary training and special skills training so they can be a part of the workforce and earn a good living," Biggs said.
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