Northeast Arkansas' Homeless to be Counted in Two Weeks

JANUARY 12, 2006 - Posted at 3:17 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR - On January 24, nonprofit agencies and churches across northeast Arkansas will join forces to conduct an important study of the region's homeless.  Under the direction of the Northeast Arkansas Continuum of Care (NEACC), organizations will participate in a six-county homeless population census.  The study will serve as a benchmark and is expected to  impact the region's planning and funding of community services for many years to come.

"This census is a point-in-time count," said Gayle Vickers, head of NEACC.  "It will provide us with a snapshot of our citizens who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness.  Not only will it give us critical information about the numbers of homeless persons in our communities, but it will also tell us what their needs are.  We need to know specific needs before we can prioritize how best to plan and delegate resources."

On January 24, agencies across the region will conduct interviews during their daytime hours of service.  That night, volunteers will canvass the streets asking people about the situation.  "If you're out walking that evening, don't be surprised if your approached by someone in an orange vest," Vickers said.  All volunteers will be wearing reflective vests to help identify themselves.  In days leading up to the census, fliers will be posted throughout the region to notify the public of the upcoming count.

The evaluation of the survey data will provide regional organizations with the statistical information needed to submit fundable applications to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other funding sources.  It will also be instrumental in generating reports that can be used as tools to educate others about the homeless in Arkansas.  The information collected is strictly confidential and no names or Social Security numbers will be requested.

How serious is the issue of homelessness in northeast Arkansas?  "That's what we want to determine," Vickers said.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, approximately 3.5 million individuals experience homelessness in the U.S. each year.