Volunteers working to count Utah’s homeless

OGDEN, Utah – Volunteers across the state are hitting the streets, looking to count the number of homeless in Utah.

In 2012, the Department of Workforce Services estimated 16,522 people experienced homelessness in Utah. Dozens of volunteers throughout the state will try and see if those numbers have decreased.

“We just count the homeless,” says Weber Housing Authority Director Andi Watkins. “The literally homeless, those sleeping in places not meant for human habitation; cars, parks.”

Watkins coordinates the Point-In-Time Count in Weber County. The survey is conducted on the same day, January 30, every year. Watkins says the date is significant because it’s marked as the coldest day of the year.

“The hope is that the majority of homeless individuals are in shelters where they’re easier to count,” says Watkins.

But volunteers go anywhere they think homeless individuals may stay. The numbers they collect go to the state and help determine how much state and federal funds communities get for housing programs.

Watkins says most of the homeless individuals are glad to participate, knowing that the agencies are looking for ways to help them get a roof over their heads.

“People around here really don’t get the concept,” says Marcus Finch. “Some people choose to be homeless, which I don’t get. But some people don’t.”

Finch has been living on the streets for about two years. He says while he works out legal trouble and saves money, he relies on programs to get him through the day to day.

More information on efforts to combat homelessness can be found on the state’s housing website. http://housing.utah.gov/news/

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