Homeless count

Felicia Holland, right, with the Central Texas Homeless Coalition, surveys Madisan Clark, a resident of the Salvation Army, for the Point-In-Time homeless survey. Clark was at Feed My Sheep to pick up her mail.

BELTON — Preliminary numbers for the Point In Time Count were released at the Central Texas Homeless Coalition meeting on Tuesday.

The total number of homeless — 409 — increased compared to the 325 people counted in 2018, which might have been the result of the group making a concerted effort to perform counts in Hamilton and Lampasas counties, which have been added to the Central Texas coalition that covers Bell and Coryell counties.

Of the 409 homeless counted in January 2019, 318 were adults, 91 were children under the age of 18, and 24 young adults, ages 18 to 24.

Females numbered 199 and males numbered 200. One transgender person was counted.

Sixteen of the people counted were identified as chronically homeless and 31 were identified as veterans.

 Kyle Moore, homeless liaison officer with the Killeen Police Department, managed the count in Killeen, and said there were things he would do differently in future counts.

“A lot of us look at that 409 and know its low,” Moore said.

There are certain people who can’t be counted, such as those who manage to panhandle enough money to pay for a night’s stay in a motel on the day of the survey. If someone else pays for the motel, the individual can be counted.

“There are people I see every day that I know are homeless, but if they’re hustling to get enough for motel for the night, I can’t count them.” Moore said. “People who are doubling up, aren’t counted.”

Homeless students are counted by local school districts. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act defines homeless children differently than the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which uses information from the Point In Time when determining funding.

“There are thousands of documented homeless students in the area school districts,” said Steve Wick, a Central Counties Services board member and a founding member of the Central Texas Homeless Coalition. 

There were no numbers from the Bell County Jail. Those numbers can’t be used in the count, but it would offer information on how many of the inmates being released have no place to go and would be homeless once out of jail.

Eric Samuels, Texas Homeless Network president and CEO, said the network has a vision that all communities in Texas would have a response in play to end homelessness.

“There will be times when people fall into homelessness, and when that happens, we want a system in place to get them out of that situation as soon as possible,” Samuels said.

Samuels said he thought the number of homeless went up because the local count was more comprehensive.

“I say that because some of the numbers went down, such as veterans and chronically homeless,” he said.

There are opportunities for the community to embrace that could make a significant change in some of the numbers, Samuels said. Last week, the city of Abilene announced that it had housed all of its homeless veterans.

“I think you could embrace the challenge and start by getting others not here involved,” he said.