TEXARKANA, Texas — For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, volunteers from the Texarkana “Point in Time” Homeless Count interviewed people living outdoors and asked them a series of questions.
Last year, counting was by observation only.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development requires all homeless coalitions nationwide to count the number of homeless people in their community each year.
“What I like to tell people is that this is a snapshot. It’s the most accurate thing we’ll get because it’s a snapshot of what our homeless population looks like a given day,” said Vashil Fernandez, president of the Texarkana Homeless Coalition.
Fernandez says the data gives them a better idea of how many people are in need and what kinds of services they need.
He says it also helps with future federal grants.
“Since the pandemic, this year is the first year we’ve been able to go out and count. Instead of just doing an observation count. It helps a lot to have more solid data,” Fernandez explained.
Nearly 90 people were counted in the survey in 2020, down 28% from the previous year.
Homeless advocates say they don’t know if this year’s numbers will be higher.
In the past, Fernandez says they’ve used the homeless count to get funds for the Continuum of Care rapid rehousing program.
“We assess people and house them for up to two years and try to provide them with all the resources we can to help them become self-sufficient,” Fernandez said.
Each year that the Homeless Coalition conducts the survey, it also hosts a fundraiser called the Bridge City Project Chili Cook-off.
Fernandez says the event allows them to raise awareness and funds for the homeless community.
“We use these funds to help people find jobs, to help them get their CDL license, or their degrees or certificates. Anything that can help them become more self-sufficient,” Fernandez said.
Homeless County results will take several months to be tallied.
For more information on how you volunteer or donate, visit the Texarkana Homeless Coalition website.