Help needed to count Verde Valley homeless

COTTONWOOD -- Members of the Verde Valley Homeless Coalition are preparing for their semi-annual Point in Time Homeless Count this August.

"We are looking for community members who are willing to take some time out of their day to get to know some of our homeless neighbors better and people who aren't afraid to shake someone's hand and ask them, 'how's it going; can I ask you a couple questions today,'" said Eliza Louden, case manager for the Cottonwood Catholic Charities.

"It can be intimidating at times, because you are asking very personal questions. But, you would be surprised that with a kind face, people would be willing to open up."

Louden said, "The volunteers are not here to help people and to solve all their problems. We are not going to solve homelessness with this survey, we are just going to ask them questions. Sometimes people will say, 'Oh, what can I do to help?' But the information is valuable enough."

"They go in groups of two, so we will need about 20 volunteers or 10 pairs. We have a good understanding where we can capture the best input; food banks would be one of them. That is usually where we circulate with the amount of people. We are also open to feedback and suggestions, but we have a pretty good idea where we can send people."

The organizers say the numbers have been pretty stable over the years they have conducted the count.

"We do both a summer and a winter count and we have found that there is very little fluctuation. Unlike Flagstaff and Phoenix, we don't have a huge transient homeless population; they actually stay primarily in this area, which leads us to believe that they became homeless here and there is a connection they have with the Verde Valley. There is a reason they are here."

The surveys will take place Aug. 18-22.

As long a people sign up, they will get information about a webinar at Catholic Charities, which will give them a lot of information about the surveys and make the process easier.

"They tell you how to dress, how to present yourself and ask questions," Louden said

"The Point in time Homeless Count gives us a better understanding of the what the population of homeless in our area looks like and the services we are lacking," she said.

Volunteers should contact Kara Vissar at Catholic Charities, 634-2454

The surveys are a component used to bolster grant requests for the agencies.

Janet Conchy, who is the Catholic Charities Loft and Homeless Outreach Coordinator, said the Loft has an ongoing need for donations.

The Loft is a daytime drop-in center located above the Catholic Charities on Main Street where homeless folks can take a shower, wash clothes, use the phone and email.

Conchy says donation priorities include clothing, boots and shoes, flashlights and batteries and backpacks and tents, bug spray, socks, new or gently-used tarps juices and stews. But, she said, water is a big issue at this time of year. The Loft distributes about two dozen bottles of water a day or four cases a week.

"We are averaging about 24 people every day," Conchy says.

The Coalition is also asking for donations for Operations Stand Down to be held in Yavapai County Sept. 16- 17. The Stand Down concept is based on war terminology and means that exhausted combat troops are removed from the battlefield to recover. In this case, it gives a point where the country's estimated 130,000 homeless veterans living on the street can gather in a supportive environment.

"Undie Sunday" is a donation drive through houses of worship to collect new packages of underwear, socks, undershirts, bras and other items that can be given to veteran participants of Stand Down.

For more information contact Kara Visser at 634-4254.

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