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Volunteers Needed for Point-in-Time Count
Counting Topeka’s Homeless on January 29th

TOPEKA, Kan. – In Shawnee County in January 2013, 439 people were counted as homeless, including 343 in emergency shelters, 73 in transitional housing, and 23 unsheltered. The data is staggering, and we need your help collecting it locally through the annual Topeka/Shawnee County Point-in-Time count.

This year, the count will take place between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, January 29th, and we need about 200 volunteers who will be trained the week before the count. The count is set by the Federal government, and is one of the requirements that enables the Topeka/Shawnee County Continuum of Care to receive more than $2 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for use on programs targeting homelessness.

What homelessness looks like
Homeless programs in our community recognize different kinds of homelessness.

Those in area shelters. Last year alone, the Topeka Rescue Mission sheltered more than 2,100 different people and provided nearly 548,000 meals. Shelters in Topeka exist to fill a gap in housing, and usually aren’t meant for long-term stays. The Point-in-Time count will gather numbers from Topeka shelters and agencies.

Squatters seek out un-occupied buildings for short-term shelter, or may stay under a bridge or in a tent. These people usually don’t have access to electricity or water.

Those staying on a friend’s couch. Couch surfing is a new kind of homelessness being identified in area schools. Sleeping in a car or on a different couch every night has its own set of mental and academic challenges for adults and youth. Within the Topeka Public School District, 443 students are considered homeless, and that number changes daily.

This year, a counting team will visit Meadows Elementary. They will seek to identify this kind of homelessness by asking families to participate in a survey.

How you can help
Volunteer to help count. See the situation first-hand and make a difference in the lives of the homeless in your own community. First, sign up for a 1-hour training session on January 21st, 22nd, or 23rd. At the training, you can sign up for two-hour shifts, a half-day, or full day. On the 29th, if you are counting outdoors, in unoccupied buildings, under bridges, or counting those living in tents, you’ll be accompanied by a Topeka Police officer. Dress warmly. Sign up at this link: www.surveymonkey.com/s/PITvolunteer2014.

Donate to the cause. Volunteers distribute care packages to the people they count. We may include socks, gloves, hats, and toiletries such as shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Drop off your donation at 620 SE Madison, Housing and Neighborhood Development Department, 1st Floor.

For more information, contact Corrie Wright, Chair of the Topeka/Shawnee County Homeless Task Force, at cwright@topeka.org, or (785) 368-3711, or Point-in-Time Team Leader Theresa Douthart at tdouthart@breakthroughhouse.org, or (785) 232-6807, ext. 325.

© City of Topeka