Organizers of the first homeless count in Forsyth County were pleased with the community’s assistance.
Melissa Corliss with United Way of Forsyth County, which led the count, said about 40 volunteers helped in the effort.
Held in early February, the count used the volunteers to collect surveys from those in the community who are considered homeless.
“We did get a lot of calls and a lot of folks were interested in participating,” Corliss said. “We really appreciate the folks that volunteered.”
The count sought surveys from those considered homeless, though that definition may not have fit traditional perceptions.
It included people in a range of situations, including those who live with others or in facilities such as group homes and shelters. Also included were those recently evicted, as well as people living on the streets and in vehicles.
Corliss said about 300 surveys were gathered, many of those coming from Forsyth County’s service agencies that provide assistance to those in need.
The surveys were submitted to Ninth District Opportunity, a nonprofit organization serving Forsyth and 12 other northeast Georgia counties.
Pam Morris, community resource coordinator with Ninth District Opportunity, said this was the first year that all 13 counties in the district took part in the homeless count process.
In years past, she said only Dawson, Lumpkin, Union and White counties had participated in the count, which takes place every two years.
Morris said Forsyth had the most surveys throughout the district.
“The rural counties you’re not going to have as many because it’s harder to target those counties, so of course Forsyth was the highest count,” she said. “That’s because we’re more metro and it’s easier to get the counts … we do have a problem here.”
All the surveys collected throughout the district were sent to Kennesaw State University, which will use scientific measures to evaluate them.
“They use mathematical and statistical methods to get actual numbers and then … from there it goes to the Department of Community Affairs and HUD,” Morris said. “Then the national report is released and the data is used for future funding for homeless and poverty programs.”
Among those, she said, are programs such as shelters, transitional and public housing, homeless prevention education and school liaison workers.
The final report will be complete sometime this summer, said Morris, noting that it would be made available to government leaders as well as the general public.
According to Corliss, this year’s count was “a learning experience.”
“It was our first year, so I think we’ll do better next time around,” she said. “We hope we’ll get better and we’ll have more community awareness of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
Corliss added that many people still don’t believe homelessness is an issue in Forsyth.
“We get calls every day from folks that don’t know where they’re going because they’re about to lose their home or they’ve been [living] in a car and the service providers see that, so there an issue,” she said.
“Just because you’re not seeing people on the streets doesn’t mean there aren’t problems.”