Annual Rochester homeless count to take place this month
Each January, communities around the United States that apply for federal funding to address homelessness are required to provide a one-night count of their homeless population.
In Rochester, that annual survey will take place on the night of Jan. 23. Volunteers will fan out across Monroe County from 5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m., trying to get as accurate a count as possible.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development figures many people will be spending the winter night in shelters to escape cold weather and will therefore be easier to count. But the coordinator of the local survey said they'll also be looking in known homeless encampments and in places where homeless individuals were counted in previous years.
Charles Bollinger, programs coordinator for the nonprofit Partners Ending Homelessness, said outreach teams will also do some advance scouting.
"They ask local retail shops, 24-hour stores, 'Do you know of any homeless individuals staying around here? Where do they happen to sleep?' " he explained.
The HUD grant funding that is partially based on the survey results will be used to help people transition into permanent housing.
"The money we get from HUD funds people moving into their own apartment or finding an apartment, giving a security deposit, first month's rent, some case management, and then pretty much helping them get back on their feet," Bollinger said.
In 2019, $12.1 million in federal funding came to Monroe County for homeless programs. Bollinger said they're requesting $13.1 million this year. Partners Ending Homelessness, otherwise known as the Rochester/Monroe County Homeless Continuum of Care, is currently coordinating permanent housing for about 1,000 people.
To conduct the Jan. 23 survey, 120 volunteers are needed, and 60 have already been recruited. Anyone interested in volunteering or learning more should email Bollinger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers will be trained on how to approach people, and they will work in groups throughout the night. In addition to gathering basic information about unsheltered people, they will hand out items like socks and hand warmers.
The 2019 survey counted 849 homeless people in Monroe County. That included both sheltered and unsheltered individuals.