Friday, August 8, 2008

Winter Homeless Survey Chilling

By Rachel Pomerance
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 08/06/08

A winter night in Gwinnett County found 910 people homeless or "precariously housed," according to data released Tuesday by Pathways Community Network, a nonprofit that consults with human services agencies.

The findings offer a snapshot of homelessness in the county to the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services and its partner agencies, which plan to chart a course by year's end to manage the problem.

To tally the numbers of this precarious population on the night of Jan. 27, a survey was administered from Jan. 27 through Feb. 10 at a range of Gwinnett locations. Some 45 volunteers collected surveys at 10 hotels or motels; 70 volunteers collected surveys from outdoor or "unsheltered" locations; staff collected surveys at 12 area service agencies.

Among the findings, 539 people were "precariously housed," or in a temporary living situation, while 238 were sheltered by an agency and 31 were unsheltered.

About 70 percent of the family members counted were under the age of 18. Family size averaged 3.18 people. It showed that sheltered adults climbed from 30 in 2007 to 110 in 2008, and the number of sheltered children rose from 29 in 2007 to 128 this year.

Josie Parker, a project manager for Pathways, said the count provided a "nice baseline number," with demographic data and information about housing type. It marked the first count of unsheltered and precariously housed people ever in Gwinnett, the report stated.

Pathways will conduct a deeper survey from mid-August through September to look at the sleeping locations, disabilities and demographics of the population.

Both data collections were funded by the Regional Commission on Homelessness and the United Way of Metro Atlanta to work in partnership with the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services and its partner agencies.

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