Annual survey finds slightly more seeking shelter

Published 9:39 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

It takes a mountain of faith to combat homelessness.

The 2017 Point in Time Count in Warren County determined an unofficial total of 175 homeless people in the county. The Wednesday count by local shelter staffs and volunteers found an unofficial count of 143 sheltered and 32 unsheltered homeless people.

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“Unofficial means we have to send it to Jackson, and they make sure certain things are on (the surveys) correctly because there are all these teams of (volunteers) who are new to what people are putting down there,” said Tina Hayward, founder/executive director of Mountain of Faith Ministries and count coordinator.

Each homeless person counted was asked multiple questions for a count survey to get a better understanding on their circumstances, health and employment. The information is sent to Jackson and helps determine how much money the area will receive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Counts across the country were required to occur during the final 10 days of January regardless of weather. She said the warmer temperatures the area experience last week led to less people seeking shelter than they would find on a colder day, but overall the count was a success.

Last year, 160 people were counted in the area suggesting Warren County has seen a slight rise in its homeless population.

“That means that there still are an increasing number of people,” she said.

There was a larger volunteer turn out this year too, she said, compared to years past.

“We had more volunteers to come out and count. I had almost twice as many to come out,” Hayward said.

The count was organized by Hayward and Mountain of Faith because the women’s shelter is a member of the Central Mississippi 500 Continuum of Care, an organization made up of human service agencies in five central Mississippi counties. Hayward said it is important for her to keep the count going each year so the area can benefit from federal funding.

“I’m just trying to keep it alive until somebody else can take over,” she said. “Then we can help, and they can become the lead agency.”

Hayward said the Warren County Children’s Shelter discovered there are 277 children in the Vicksburg Warren School District who are homeless. She said that number would not be taken into account in relation to Wednesday’s count because they were not all given the survey. The survey only counted 29 children. She said the PIT count can’t possibly record the majority of homeless people in an area during a one-day survey, but that it was important to gather as much information as possible during the count to get a point in time look at the homeless population.

“I wanted to point out that even though we did a street count and we did a shelter count, some children are in shelter, but the Vicksburg Warren School District counted 277 children,” Hayward said.

Hayward was thankful to volunteers, her staff, other local shelters and ministries that participated in the count, the city and mayor for making the count possible.