Organizers of the homeless count in Tarrant and Parker counties are asking for volunteers to take part in the community effort.
The Tarrant County Homeless Coalition is holding its ninth annual the Point-in-Time count as part of the national effort to measure the progress toward ending homelessness.
Tarrant County accounted for 8 percent of the 23,678 homeless in Texas in 2015 according to the Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Programs Homeless Populations and Subpopulations Reports.
During the last 10 days of January the nation participates in the Point-in-Time count to determine where funding should be distributed for the homeless.
This year’s homeless count for Tarrant and Parker counties will work to combat the increasing homeless problem. It will be held on Jan. 28 from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m..
Last year’s count found 217 unsheltered homeless, which is an 8 percent increase since the count started in 2007 according to Directions Home.
The increase connects with the fact that 35 percent of households in Fort Worth did not earn an $18.04 hourly wage, which is what a two-bedroom Fair Market Rent apartment cost, according to Directions Home.
This year Otis Thornton, executive director of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, expects another increase in the number of homeless sleeping outside for a number of reasons.
“The most challenging is that the availability of affordable housing that very poor families can afford has gone down in the last year,” said Thornton. “As occupancy rates go up vacancy rates go down and homeless goes up.”
This year’s results from the count will be announced in late February at the State of the Homeless Address and could determine the amount of funding Tarrant and Parker counties receive.
“This is a really important activity that impacts the amount of funding [we receive],” said volunteer and TCU assistant professor of social work Dr. Petrovich. “The majority of the funding we get in this city for homelessness services is federal and so when we miscount or underrepresent the nature of the problem here we can’t help people as much as we need to.”
The count also shows where the funding should be distributed throughout the counties.
“It helps us determine our funding priorities at the local level,” said Thornton.
Thornton said between three and four hundred volunteers are needed for the count.
Volunteers will be placed in teams of three to five and accompanied by a law enforcement member. They will count the number of homeless living without shelter, in emergency shelter and transitional housing.
“Safety is everybody’s number one priority,” said Petrovich. “What typically happens is you’ll have a map that’ll have some existing kind of locations, like little dots on it where camps have been found before. So, you hit those places and then you want to canvas the area.”
Typically some student organizations, church and professional groups will volunteer said Petrovich.
Volunteers for the greater Fort Worth area will meet at University Christian Church at 2720 S. University Drive.
“It’s amazing, you’ll walk in and you’ll see lots of purple sweatshirts everywhere and everybody’s ready to go,” said Petrovich. “Its really nice to see.”
Thornton said the count could give volunteers a different view of their community.
“For the volunteers who do encounter people who are homeless, its an opportunity to meet someone, to hear a little bit about their story and to see a little bit of the circumstances in which they live,” said Thornton.
Registration to volunteer for the count will remain open until Tuesday.
For more information on the count, Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, or to register click here.
“We’re only asking for five hours of somebody’s life,” said Petrovich. “Potentially this kind of money can fund programs that can change people’s lives forever.”