January 24, 2019 | Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
By Erica Pauda
Volunteers, Lubbock police and other advocates for the city’s homeless population took to the streets and searched a variety of known gathering spots Thursday as part of the annual Point-In-Time Count.
The local effort is organized every year by the South Plains Homeless Consortium.
Although consortium organizers won’t compile and announce results of the count until March, on Thursday they said the effort brought challenges and, possibly, signs of encouragement after last year’s count showed the city’s homeless population was on the decline.
There weren’t as many people to be found in the same places they were at this time last year - which is always a good thing, said Lubbock Police Homeless Outreach Team Officer Tony Chacon.
“It’s almost like they knew we were coming,” he said.
Even though the homeless count happens around the same time each year, Chacon said the HOT team, as well as volunteers, show up unannounced in various gathering spots and encampments.
The Point-In-Time count is a national campaign where organizers in cities across the country attempt to count the homeless population in their communities, both sheltered and unsheltered, according to a statement from the South Plains Homeless Consortium.
“The Point-In-Time count allows for us to not only get a number of homeless individuals in our community, but it allows us to see what resources we need to provide to help end chronic homelessness,” said Ashley Ammons, president of the SPHC. “We use this tool to learn who is in our community and the unique needs of the homeless population.”
Since the count is done on a national level, the survey utilizes the Counting Us app and is submitted to the South Plains Homeless Network, said Ammons.
By 9 a.m. Thursday, Chacon said he and Ammons only found four homeless people in unsheltered areas.
But over at the Open Door, located at 1916 13th St., many people from the homeless community gathered around a fire pit to keep warm, enjoyed breakfast and coffee or found room inside the community center to get some sleep out of the cold and wind.
Thresa Bentley sat toward the back of the community center and had just finished breakfast.
She said she has been without electricity in her home and has since decided to stay in shelters until she can get it back on.
Bentley said she hopes to be out of the shelters by this weekend.
Chacon and Ammons said surveys and numbers will be complete and ready to present to the public in March.
Last year, Lubbock County’s homeless population - as determined by the count last January - dropped by 101 persons from 2017, the A-J reported last March . Also, chronic homelessness went from 85 in 2017 to 44 in 2018. Total persons counted in Lubbock County were 333 for 2018, while the total person count in 2017 was 434.