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Making The Homeless Count
by Jill Lufrano
Apr 11, 2012 | 2421 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Nathan Orme - St. Thomas Aquinas Church in downtown Reno is the site of Friday’s count of area homeless youths.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - St. Thomas Aquinas Church in downtown Reno is the site of Friday’s count of area homeless youths.
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RENO — Reno-area charity organizations hope to count as many homeless youths as possible this weekend in an effort to help understand the homeless population in Washoe County — who they are, where they spend their nights, their specific circumstances and how long they’ve been living on the streets.

The Children’s Cabinet’s Safe Place Program is partnering with the Help For Youth Transitioning To Success leadership board in the Point In Time Count for homeless persons younger than 24 in Washoe County.

Homeless youths are encouraged to go to the first floor of the school building at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral, at 310 W. Second St. in downtown Reno, anytime between 11 a.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday to participate in the count.

The same event was held in January, which resulted in 52 homeless youth who participated in a survey of questions.

Homeless can mean the person is sleeping on the street, outdoors, in parks, by the river, on a roof, in a garage, attic, basement, an abandoned building, a place in a house (kitchen, couch or bathroom) or a house on a temporary basis.

The Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless conducts the Point in Time count, and consultant Kelly Marschall writes the survey administered during the count. The youth survey used in January had 30 questions.

“The aim is to learn about the homeless population in Washoe County so that we can better understand who is impacted, how they are impacted and what the trends are,” said Peter Marschall, research associate at Social Entrepreneurs, Inc. “In 2011, we counted 139 children living in motels, which is just one subpopulation of homeless youth. We are still processing information for 2012, but we know for sure that we collected 52 surveys from youths on the street.”

The count is important for several reasons, Marschall said.

“First, it helps people and organizations who are interested in helping the homeless to better assist them. Without understanding what causes homelessness, as well as what the needs are of those who are currently homeless, it’s hard to fight the problem,” he said. “Second, it allows us to report a consistent population to the federal government, which in turn gives us the opportunity to apply for federal dollars to address the problem.”

Social Entrepreneurs, Inc. has consulted as coordinators for the county’s Continuum of Care since 2002. To learn more about Washoe County’s Continuum of Care, visit www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/1744.

The county uses information from the survey to help determine what service gaps exist and create plans to better serve the homeless youth in Washoe County, according to the Children’s Cabinet’s spokeswoman Cortney Webb. The federal government also uses the information to help determine how it will fund future homeless projects. Since the homeless youth population in the northern Nevada community is hard to reach out to, the Point In Time Count gives The Children’s Cabinet an opportunity to offer the youths assistance.

As an incentive during the count, the youths who show up will be provided with food and drinks, clothing and hygiene items, backpacks and sleeping bags. All items are donated by local businesses and individuals.

“We try to give them incentives,” said Norma Thomas, Children’s Cabinet Safe Place coordinator.

Some of the items to be provided might be Walmart gift cards and free hair cuts to those 18 years old and older, Thomas said.

To donate an item, call 686-0066 or 329-4141.

The Children’s Cabinet is “pulling our resources and creating something for the youth so they can receive services for stuff,” Thomas said. “We want them to know there are services out there for them and give them basic essentials, such as food, clothing and hygiene products.”

The homeless count that took place in January was mandatory, Thomas said. After the success partnering organizations had with the count, the groups decided to hold quarterly counts, she said.

“We’re trying to build a culture,” Thomas said. “Some (youths) are very skeptical of services. We’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re here for you.’ We want to build a presence in the homeless youth community.”

The goal for the shelter is to take in the homeless youth and to send them back to a safe environment, such as a friend’s or relative’s house, especially those who have grown up in foster-care environments, Thomas said.

“We’re just trying to keep them off the streets,” she said.

For more information about the Safe Place program, which provides an alternative to any unsafe situation, call 352-8090.
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