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Volunteers needed for homeless count

Point-in-Time count slated for Jan. 26

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The annual Point-in-Time count, which counts the homeless population in Pettis County, will occur this year although volunteers are needed. 

Due to the pandemic, the Pettis County Community Partnership didn’t host the count last year. PCCP Director of Housing Chessa Dixson said on Wednesday although the count will happen this year, volunteer numbers are low. The count is slated for the evening of Jan. 26, and data will be collected from dusk to dawn on Jan. 27. Volunteers are only asked to help with the count for a few hours on the evening of Jan. 26. 

“We are still needing volunteers,” Dixson noted. “We’ve struggled to get volunteers, I’m sure because we’re in a pandemic.”

She added during a regular year, PCCP would have around 20 community volunteers — this year they only have three to four.  

“Obviously our staff will participate and go out,” she said. “But normally we have quite a few community volunteers. It’s been a huge, huge struggle.”

Dixson said those who volunteer can come to PCCP around 5 or 6 p.m. Jan. 26 and they will divide into teams. 

“Each team is given an area to cover,” she explained. “We hand out maps and everything, so they just try to make contact with anyone who doesn’t have a place to stay.

“Whether they’re in a car in a parking lot or maybe in a tent,” she continued. “Or a park bench, anything like that.”

Volunteers will complete a brief survey with the homeless individual, either by a paper survey or a virtual survey on their phone. 

Dixson added PCCP also plans to give care kits to the homeless during the count. 

“And we are still seeking donations to put those together,” she noted. 

Care kits consist of trial-size hygiene products, bus passes, blankets, hats, gloves or hand warmers. Dixson said in the past, PCCP has received donations of coupons for free meals at local restaurants. She hopes to offer those again this year. 

“And then we’ll put in some resource information,” she added. “The resource guide for Pettis County.”

She noted by adding resource material the goal is to find housing for those found homeless during the count. 

After the volunteers have completed the count that evening, they return to PCCP and drop off the surveys. 

“And we’ll be sure the data gets entered for HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) to look at,” Dixson said. “It’s really important that we get an accurate picture of what the homeless population looks like here. 

“Because that helps determine how resources are allocated,” she continued. “And how funding is distributed.”

The 2020 Point-in-Time count found 21 unsheltered homeless individuals in Pettis County.

“That was strictly people that we encountered that stayed in a place not meant for human habitation,” Dixson said. “That’s a large number, but even that number is a fraction of what is really in our community.”

She added PCCP will continue, as an agency, to do a service-based count of homeless individuals for seven days after Jan. 26.   

“So, what we plan on doing and what we’ve done in the past is go to the (Community) Café where they are serving hot meals,” she explained. “Or like the libraries where people can go into to warm up. In the past, that’s where we’ve had the best luck.”

Dixson said if the Sedalia Warming Shelter is open during that time period they will also go there for the service-based count. 

“We’re just hoping that we can make contact with anyone who’s in need,” she added. 

Those who wish to volunteer for the Point-in-Time count on Jan. 26 or who wish to donate items for the care kits may contact Dixson at the Pettis County Community Partnership, 1400 S. Limit Ave, Suite 26, or call 660-827-0560 or email chessa@pcmcpartners.org. 

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