Homeless count II: More accurate
August 29, 2005
She tucked two Zip-loc bags of shampoo, conditioner and soap – all sample sizes – and a full-size toothbrush into the folds of her new blanket and left it on a chair.
The promise of these and a free lunch brought her into Friends in Service Helping Monday, and she wanted to find out more about services available to a 46-year-old homeless woman.
“Nobody has given me anything for free in a long time,” said the woman, who lives along the Carson River and has been homeless off and on for the past 10 years. She did not want to use her name.
“I need help,” she said. “I need to find out about services,” specifically transportation and the food stamp program.
But how she came to be at FISH is an entirely different story. Volunteers from across the city amassed about 5 a.m. Monday morning to count the homeless. They divvied up the city and checked in sagebrush, behind buildings, along the river and even in motels.
While the volunteers found the 46-year-old woman Monday morning, she was surprised to see some of them were her own. Eight men from FISH’s shelter volunteered to count.
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Two of them, Terry Lynd, 50, and Rick Smith, 49, went out with health department case manager Frances Ashley.
“I’ve roamed these streets for quite a while,” said Smith, who took the day off from his job at The Source, a company that distributes magazines and where he works as a forklift operator. “I just thought I could be some help.”
The three counted more than 100 homeless in an area east of Carson Street, including Mills Park and sites off Hot Springs Road.
“I just thought we’d see some homeless,” Smith said. “I didn’t think we’d see as many as we did today.”
One of their finds was a barrel-shaped barbecue. The grill was taken out and there were blankets inside.
“We didn’t get an accurate count because of the time,” Lynd said. “Everyone is already up and going.”
Monday was the second Point-In-Time Count this year. The first one in January took much effort but revealed few homeless in the area.
“The reason why we were doing it in January is it was HUD- (Housing of Urban Development) mandated by the state,” said Kathy Wolfe, city health official. “We counted about 12 people on the street that day. It was foggy. There was about t 3 feet of snow.”
She decided the city needed to do another one to obtain accurate, realistic numbers. Monday’s data won’t be used directly for grant-funding, as January’s were, but Wolfe does plan to send the numbers to a Reno agency for next year’s report.
Motel mangers and the Carson City Sheriff’s Department also worked on the count. Many homeless were coming to FISH for the meal and were answering an in-depth questionnaire conducted by interviewers about disabilities, reasons for homelessness, and past military services.
“I think it’s going to open a lot of people’s eyes,” Wolfe said.
The numbers, to be compiled by Social Entrepreneurs Inc. in Reno, will be available in upcoming weeks.
Lt. Ken Sandage with the sheriff’s office said deputies had not responded to any complaints this summer about homeless camping on private property along Carson River. Officials last August swept the river corridor and told as many as 50 homeless people to vacate the privately owned land.
— Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.