For years, the question of whether Bladen County harbors homeless individuals or more, specifically, just how many there might be, has always been a point on conjecture and debate.
All that is about to change, perhaps as early as this week.
The Bladen County Department of Social Services has joined forces with the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness in an effort to put an exact number to the question. That effort will fall under the annual Point in Time Homeless Count umbrella, a count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on a single night in January — and the results will be reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“We must begin somewhere,” Janet Miller, social worker program manager for DSS, said in a statement. “… we all know that there are individuals in our respective communities who lack housing for many reasons.
“This community problem impacts everyone and the quality of life for all,” she continued. “Homelessness is a frequent conversation with law enforcement, faith-based organizations and governmental/nonprofit organizations. Let’s continue the conversation by collecting date that … can be used to pursue sources of financial support to end homelessness.”
Bladen County’s 24-hour count will take place on Wednesday, beginning at 6 p.m., and ending on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Volunteers conducting the count will converge on specific areas of each community known to provide shelter for the homeless. Some of those areas include laundromats, parks, sidewalk benches and wooded areas. Those who may be staying with friends or family, even temporarily, are not eligible to be counted.
Once homeless individuals are located, volunteers will work with them to complete a survey/interview form. Once the 24-hour count is complete, the data collected will be forwarded to HUD.
“Without the formal data, we may continue to be excluded from opportunities for (HUD Continuum of Care) funding,” Miller said.
Anyone interested in assisting with the count should contact Miller by telephone at 910-862-6829 or by email at email@example.com.