Since 2015, the number of homeless people in New York State has increased. Monday night, local teams of volunteers worked with law enforcement agencies to conduct an annual count of the homeless population across the nation. It is a federal requirement for commu nities receiving funds to help homeless people and reduce homelessness from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The count happens overnight. It has two parts: counting those living in shelters and also, those who are described as “unsheltered.” Tierra Labrada works for the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County which helps to train the volunteers. To find unsheltered people, she says, volunteers visit places all over the county.
“They go out and try to find people who might be unsheltered, who might be sleeping outside. They go to known encampments. They go to 24-hour laundromats, gas stations, parking garages, under bridges, parks, parking lots, hitting up some of the big box stores like Wegman’s, Tops, Wal-Mart. All those 24-hour spots that we know that people might be seeking shelter in,” said Labrada.
“And then we have our street outreach team that goes into the Jungle [an outdoor encampment in Ithaca named by the people who live there] because they’ve been able to form relationships with folks there. And those are the people that we trust to go into what’s essentially a neighborhood, for people who are sleeping outside.”
The night also allows agencies the chance to give out care kits of essential items. In Tompkins County, they include ask specific questions to help improve the services the county provides. Communities around the country will be conducting surveys all week.