Homeless advocates were busy Wednesday preparing for a tough task. Thursday, January 28 various agencies will join together and canvas Douglas, Sarpy, and Pottawattamie counties to count the homeless.
The effort is called a point-in-time (PIT) count, put on by outreach teams from the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless (MAACH). It includes both sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families.
“It's so much harder to find those who don't want to be counted. But yet, we need those numbers,” said Candace Gregory, Executive Director and CEO of the Open Door Mission.
The national initiative is mandated in order for federal, state, and local aid to fight homelessness. The goal is to evaluate the effectiveness of work to end chronic homelessness.
“You want to have accurate data. You want to measure the numbers, and you want to end homelessness,” Gregory said.
Previous counts show about 2,000 people living homeless in Omaha each night. More than 800 of them are residents at the Open Door Mission. The organization has seen its need increase, and believes the actual number of homeless living in the metro is much higher.
“[Individuals] know that they're trespassing, and so they don't want to bring attention to themselves. So a lot of times it's difficult to know where the people are because they’re not supposed to be there,” said Open Door Mission Senior Program Director Steve Frazee.
Frazee said many people also disappear into abandoned buildings and other homes just to stay warm. Volunteers know where to look, but they can’t find everyone.
“We do have individuals who know favorite places where people enjoy hanging out. In the winter time those are more limited to abandoned buildings and homes where people will congregate,” he said.
The TIF count begins Thursday with a volunteer gathering at UNO. They canvass the streets from 7-11 p.m.