Volunteers help identify 45 homeless in Lenoir County
On what was statistically the coldest night of the year across the country according to historical averages — Jan. 30 — volunteers in Lenoir County came together to try to gain an accurate picture of numbers of homeless people living in the county.
According to Colleen Kosinski, one of the volunteers participating, this was part of a national effort called a “point in time count” that seeks to provide a snapshot of nationwide homelessness on the night that has traditionally been the most difficult for those without a place to call home. The count last year was able to identify 26 homeless people in Lenoir County.
The count also gathers demographic information about those who are found, such as age, education level, how long they have been homeless and the reason(s) behind it. This information is used, according to Kosinski, to help connect those individuals to resources in the community that can help them get off the streets and into a safe place to live.
Last year, she said, the count identified several women who were homeless because of domestic violence, and they were able to connect them with SAFE, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence. That information led to them getting housing through the organization’s shelter.
This year, N.C. Works coordinated the effort, with participation and support from numerous other community agencies and organizations, including UNC Lenoir Hospital, the Kinston Community Health Center, AMVETS (a veterans organization) and EastPointe, as well as officers from the Kinston Police Department and the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office.
Volunteers started at the Friends of the Homeless shelter on Independence Ave., and gathered information from those who stayed there Wednesday night, and then some volunteers spread out into the community looking for those who were not able or willing to stay at the shelter.
Throughout the night, officers with the KPD and LCSO deputies kept an eye out as they went about their duties. They used a smartphone app designed for the count, all the while interviewing and inputting data for any homeless they encountered.
That data, Kosinski said, was uploaded instantly to the statewide headquarters in Raleigh, streamlining the process considerably. The volunteers reconvened at 5:30 a.m. Thursday at McDonald’s, to canvass anyone who might have come there to warm up after the cold night, and then went to Mary’s Kitchen to talk with people there, and find out where they spent the night.
Victor Kosinski, a disabled veterans outreach specialist with N.C. Works, headed up this year’s count. He said the information gathered is vital, because it not only identifies people in need in the community, but also is used to support applications for grants by organizations that help the homeless.
The count this year went smoothly, Kosinski said, and because they were able to cover more of the county, including LaGrange, they encountered more people without homes. The preliminary number for this year was 45, which he said he believes is a more accurate reflection of the real numbers in Lenoir County.
He knows the count will not identify every single person in need,
“(The goal) is to do the best we can can with the volunteers we have, to get the most accurate count we can,” he said.