Volunteers survey rural homelessness in 12 East Tennessee counties

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CAMPBELL COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — A local nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness spent Wednesday night collecting information about the people they want to help.

The Tennessee Valley Coalition for the Homeless surveyed people experiencing homelessness across 12 rural counties Wednesday night. WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel followed along with a group of volunteers in Campbell County.

The information collected is vital to the nonprofit, giving them a snapshot of who is homeless in the community and getting what’s called a Point-in-Time Count.

The Point-in-Time Count valuable for making a plan to address the issue and end homelessness moving forward.

“What we’re going to be doing is asking them questions about their story, about their homelessness, how did they become homeless, what is their gender, do they have domestic violence in their story, are they a veteran,” said Melanie Cordell, CEO of Tennessee Valley Coalition for the Homeless.

Crews in Campbell County allowed our cameras to follow along as they navigated through what they call “hot spots.”

“We really are trying to target and track the amount of individuals that are in the area and are we effective in making an impact in our area to reduce homelessness,” Cordell said.

Getting a Point-in-Time Count is an annual effort, tracking numbers by gender, age and other identifiers. It’s not only to gain insight, but also to work toward ending homelessness.

“In 2015 we served, in a 24-hour period during the Point-in-Time Count, 181 individuals. That number has decreased, which is what we want, to 122 for 2018, so we’re looking forward to the count tonight to see how many are outside sleeping,” Cordell said of the data for Campbell County.

For these volunteers, their efforts are about more than the numbers, with essentials in hand to pass out to those in need and resources to get them to a warm place.

“These are human beings, we really want to give them the opportunity to not die in the cold, to get to a warming center if there’s something like that in their community, so it’s vital that we reach them as soon as possible,” Cordell said.

Numbers for Wednesday night are not finalized, but the last count at 7 p.m. showed 172 total responses for all 12 of those rural East Tennessee counties, 110 are male, 60 are female and 25 are children under age 18.

Volunteers still have several hours of work planned through the night, to try to reach as many people in these communities experiencing homelessness.

If you’d like to learn more about the Point-In-Time count in your county, or want information on how to volunteer, you can click here.

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