Thursday started early and cold for the volunteers who were heading out to parts known and unknown to participate in the annual Point-in-Time homeless count.
Participants gathered at the Salvation Army McLane Center of Hope in Temple and picked up maps of areas in east Bell County where the homeless stay at night. Dots indicated where the homeless have been seen. Other volunteers were doing the same in Killeen and in neighboring counties to the northwest.
Felicia Holland, officer for the Central Texas Homeless Coalition and case manager at the Salvation Army, marked some of the sites because she’s out every day looking for the homeless who are living on the streets. Deputy Daryl Coleman, with the crisis response division of the Bell County Sheriff’s Department, had marked sites as well.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that communities receiving federal funds to conduct a count of all sheltered people in the last week of January annually. Unsheltered counts are required every other year.
During these point-in-time counts, communities are required to identify whether a person is an individual, a member of a family unit, or an unaccompanied youth younger than 18 or age 18-24. In addition, communities must identify if a person is chronically homeless, indicating long-time or repeated homelessness, and the presence of a disability.
Coleman said he had surveyed two people out in the county and two inside the city.
“I saw some tents, but they were empty,” he said.
In Temple, one man had spent the night in the doorway of St. Vincent de Paul. He said he had been homeless for 39 years.
A Vietnam veteran, he said he had post traumatic stress disorder and couldn’t be around people. He does receive veteran benefits. He doesn’t remember where he was living when he became homeless. He did know that the survey was taking too much time to complete.
Madisan Clark has been staying at the Salvation Army for about a month.
Originally from Ohio, Clark became homeless while living in Austin. She was renting a room from a couple, who were violent toward each other.
“I tried to help them out and I was told to get out,” she said.
Documentation has been a problem for Clark.
“I couldn’t get a job without a Texas ID,” she said.
She now has the ID but most jobs require a 90-day residency. Recently, her only source of income has been through panhandling.
Clark was a professional housekeeper and would like to continue in that field.
A 25-year-old woman was outside Feed My Sheep with some friends around 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
She said she had been living on the street for about five years. Wednesday night, she stayed at the Salvation Army, which had opened because of the cold weather for people living on the street.
She became homeless while living in Temple. She said she uses drugs and believes she has a mental health condition.
The Point-in-Time homeless survey in 2018, counted 325 homeless people in Bell County: 161 were women; 152 were men; 32 identified as veterans; and identified 18 as chronically homeless.
The results of the 2019 count should be available in a few months.