Updated 01/23/2013 05:12 PM
Counting through the cold
Members of the Housing and Homeless Coalition of CNY hit the streets for the annual homeless point in time count. Sarah Blazonis tells us that while identifying those who seek help from local shelters is fairly simple, finding those who are unsheltered is another story.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The team from Onondaga Case Management Services say they knew the sites they wanted to visit Wednesday. Still, they'd only managed to find a few unsheltered homeless by the middle of the day.
"On a day like today when it's so cold, we're not seeing a lot of footprints. People are finding places to go inside," said Tom Lis, a case manager for the homeless with OCMS.
Then, near a bridge over the Creek Walk, they had some luck. Footprints, a makeshift bench and blankets were found, but not the people they were looking for.
"People are in and out, so we don't necessarily find them. We've already found a couple people today, - one guy who hasn't been out of his shelter for a couple days, ‘cause he's just huddled in there," said Lis.
Liddy Hintz is the system administrator for the Homeless Management Information Systems at the Salvation Army. She says teams identified nine unsheltered homeless during last year's count. This year, the coalition is broadening its search.
"Sometimes you get phone calls from places you wouldn't think an unsheltered homeless person would be: Walking around Wal-Mart in Camillus or Cicero or at a Nice-N-Easy on the outskirts of the city," said Hintz.
Hintz says the Rescue Mission's Homeless Intervention Services and Salvation Army's street outreach teams will also be holding counts. The hope is that important connections may also be made.
"Maybe even some are looking toward homelessness that may be thinking that they may become homeless won't even get that far because they may get that information to prevent their homelessness," said Hintz.
A new feature of this year's count will take place Thursday. It's called a next day survey. Teams will head to soup kitchens and other drop-in centers and ask people where they spent the night to get an idea of any unsheltered they may have missed.
The Salvation Army says 386 people sought help from local shelters Tuesday night.