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Volunteers Count the Homeless

EUGENE, Ore. — Once a year, local agencies join forces to find out just how many homeless people are living on Lane County streets.

Volunteers will be out Wednesday not just counting, but learning. Many of the organizations helping with the One Night Homeless Count do similar assessments on their own year-round. But on Wednesday, volunteers know their numbers are part of a much larger total, and they hope an equally larger response.

This isn’t just a count by number, it’s a count by character.

What characterizes the homeless population in Lane County? Who are they? How many are there? What do they need?

August Sabini and Vikki are two of almost 100 volunteers setting out to count, as part of the county’s annual One Night Homeless Count they work for New Roads, an organization for homeless youth and one of 24 organizations helping with Wednesday’s county-wide assessment.

“We’re going to be asking people a few more questions to determine if their homeless, if they’re at risk of being homeless, it gives us a good chance to find out about our ethnic count,” Sabini said.

The survey covers just about everything, but some questions are hard for people to answer and it can be even harder to track down people to answer them.

“Obviously, you’re not going to capture every single homeless person in a one-day count, but I really feel it’s going to start to give an accurate picture,” said James Ewell, New Roads Program Coordinator.

The county and organizations like New Roads are banking on that picture to clearly depict not just the number but the need in our homeless community.

“I think a lot of people know homelessness is an issue in Eugene, but I think until you really put a tangible number just how many people that is? How many people are experiencing it at any given time? I think that’s really important. I think that is really the only way we, as a community, can begin to address how to help,” Ewell said.

The information collected Wednesday will contribute to receiving grant money and possibly help with receiving additional funding for necessary programs in the future.

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