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Volunteers needed for homeless count to keep federal funding

Posted at 6:44 PM, Jan 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-21 05:52:45-05

LANSING, Mich. — Counties in Mid-Michigan are preparing to count the number of homeless in their communities, which will determine the amount of funding shelters and organizations will receive.

Jackson's Interfaith Homeless Shelter bagged toiletries that will be passed out to the homeless during Wednesday's count. However, organizers are having a problem finding people who are willing to help out.

"We need actual people that are willing to get out in the cold, in the dark and go look for them," said Sheryl Sabo-Grieve, Jackson Interfaith Homeless Shelter volunteer coordinator.

She said it's not the easiest job to ask volunteers to do but it's vital for Jackson's annual Point-in-Time Count.

"It means our numbers are not going to be accurate. We are not going to be able to hit a lot of the spots we need to hit," Sabo-Grieve said.

If the homeless are under-counted, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development won't provide enough money for homeless services.

"We count on that money for food. We count on that money for heat. We count on that money just for service to help someone get where they need to go. There is just so many needs," Sabo-Grieve said.

Last year, Jackson County's Point-in-Time Count only had about 20 volunteers. This year, they are hoping for 100 volunteers to go out with local agencies.

"These agencies that are going out and doing the count will be guiding you," Sabo-Grieve said.

Paul Miller has volunteered the last couple of years and said it's both a heartbreaking and eye-opening experience.

"I have been doing this for four years now and it's still heartbreaking to see what conditions that people try and live in, especially in this colder time of year. It's tough," Miller said.

That's why volunteers and organizations will also use the count to try to bring the unsheltered homeless into shelters.

"That's our goal--to try to bring them in from the cold. If we can't do that, then we take them things to help them to survive," Sabo-Grieve said.

Jackson County's count will take place Wednesday, Jan. 20 from 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. Volunteers are asked to gather at 1208 Greenwood Avenue.

For instructions on how to get involved in Wednesday's count, click here.

The Eaton Count PIT Count is January 28.

The Clinton County PIT Count is January 29.

The Ingham County PIT Count is January 30.

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