Agencies Work Together on Area Homeless Count

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Cassie Betterley and her friend Christa Crook came to Grand Island with work and housing in mind that didn't materialize.

"We would maybe stay here for a little bit and find something easily, but it's not as easy as what people think it is, it's a lot harder to get on your feet when you're in a new surrounding than we thought it was going to be," says Betterley.

Now Betterley and Crook are staying at one of GI's homeless shelters, Hope Harbor, while they find work and their own place to live.

Grand Island area agencies are counting people like them, people who, for many reasons, are currently homeless.

"Here at Hope Harbor we're counting the people who live here, but we're also counting anybody who could come in and possibly be turned away because we are full," says Hope Harbor Executive Director Melissa DeLaet.

The "Point in Time" count is used to divide federal dollars. It includes numbers from street outreach teams visiting places like parks and truck stops.

"Just checking out different places and things like that that we know that people hang out here that are in a crisis situation, homeless, needing a place to stay," says Heather Cline Ford, Family Outreach Programs Coordinator at Central Nebraska Community Services and a leader of the local Continuum of Care that the Department of Housing and Urban Development directs to do the counts.

Last year's count totaled 260 people in GI, and nearly half were children. The average age of all was 22.

"We want to help all of the people in the community because everybody deserves a safe place to sleep at night," says Cline Ford.

Agencies say that because of things like the weather, there's no way to ever get a 100 percent accurate count of area homeless, but since all agencies in Nebraska are doing it on the same day this year - it may paint a different picture than past years.

"When we can do it all on one day, it's a lot easier in regards to getting duplicate numbers," says Cline Ford.

It will be a more literal point in time, but shelters say it might not reflect them at their fullest.

"It might actually impact the numbers in that we're not able to pick and choose what was our, what we consider our better day," says DeLaet.

The numbers might also give a better idea of how many people have been homeless for a long time versus those battling short term circumstances.

The count also lets outreach teams hand out hygiene products and help people find assistance so that like Betterley and Crook, they can get a fresh start.