Family Focus: Officials seek volunteers to gather homeless population data

by: Erica Bryant Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There are an estimated 300-plus, a 30 percent decrease from last year, homeless people in Mecklenburg County, but getting an accurate number is always a challenge.

Officials plan to update that number, but need the public’s help.

Volunteers like Allison Winston of the Urban Ministry Center will use data and head out to find them.

“Every marker is a known camp or a potential camp, marking locations where they will be going,” Winston said.

The annual Point in Time Count is a coordinated effort by Charlotte and Mecklenburg County officials that provides a snapshot of the number of people who are homeless on one night in January.

LINK: Info on Point in Time Count

“And the way that happens is through volunteers who go out on the streets in the early hours to survey and interview them,” Courtney Morton with Mecklenburg County Homeless Support Services said.

The count last year identified 1,818 people as homeless, most of them single adults, and one-third have families.

A focus this year will also be to get a more accurate count of homeless youths, and to check the African-American population, which is often over-represented among the homeless.

Officials need more volunteers for the project, as well as donations.

“Unfortunately people are staying outside and we want to make sure they aren't suffering from hypothermia, and not passing away on the street before we are able to get them housed,” Winston said.

More than 20 volunteers are still needed for this project.

Training sessions are Jan. 15 and 17, and donations will be accepted until Jan. 26.