‘Dignity and respect is what they’re missing;’ numbers of homeless expected to be higher this year

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Rescue Mission is hosting the first day of annual Point in Time Count on Wednesday.

Every January the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development identifies one day as the Point in Time count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness throughout the United States. Due to COVID, the count is spanning for multiple days this week. The count helps identify community-specific service needs and gaps, access additional funding and resources as well as increase public awareness of the challenges to ending homelessness.

A survey is given out to those struggling with homelessness. Some questions include, where they slept last night, where are they located in the evenings, as well as background questions.

Multiple organizations and businesses throughout the community work together to make this possible such as the YWCA who is coordinating the initiative this year and Just Neighbors Interfaith Homeless Network.

Joshua Gale with Just Neighbors Interfaith Homeless Network says the count is important because, “we need to properly address their needs, to properly coordinate together, and wee have to know who they are first.”

This year has been particularly unique and Gale believes that the numbers will have increased this year. He also believes due to the multiple days the count will be taking place, there will be more accurate numbers. As an incentive for those who are not sheltered, Meijer and Berne Apparel donated items such as gloves, socks, a flashlight and a bag.

It is reported that the 2020 Point in Time count estimated more than 350 individuals experienced homelessness on a given night in Allen County. Last year, The Rescue Mission served more than 1,900 unique individuals.

The Rescue Mission said it collects data on sheltered homeless individuals residing in the emergency shelter or transitional housing, through a Homeless Management Information System.  

Paula Hughes-Schuh with the YWCA says when it comes to homelessness the community should know to “have compassion, it can happen to anyone. When you talk to someone that is homeless, look them in the eye. Show them dignity and respect because a lot of times, that’s what they’re really missing.”

The Rescue Mission will participate in the Point in Time count from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Community meals will be served at regular times.

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