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Local agencies will count homeless people in the county

WILLMAR -- Social service, housing and emergency assistance agencies will be counting all persons who are homeless or doubled up one day next week in Kandiyohi County and southwest Minnesota.

The annual count is being coordinated through the Southwest Minnesota Continuum of Care in Slayton, a housing and planning group that serves as the access point for homeless program funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Because no homeless shelters exist in southwest Minnesota, the count will be done through agencies that encounter homeless individuals and families, said Jennifer Schuller, Continuum of Care coordinator.

Continuum of Care member agencies, including Kandiyohi County Community Corrections and The Salvation Army, are working with local service providers to count all persons who are homeless or doubled up on Wednesday.

After the Wednesday count, homeless persons who consent will be interviewed between Thursday and Feb. 4. Annual counts conducted in recent years indicate between 140 and 170 persons in the region are homeless; between one-third and one-half of those are children, Schuller said.

A count of homeless individuals is required once a year to receive funding for homeless services or housing, Schuller said. Data from these and other counts have supported successful applications for millions of dollars in state, federal and private money for community services and housing for southwest Minnesota, Schuller said.

Jo Boraas, supportive housing program manager for the Willmar office of The Salvation Army, said about 40 local providers and agencies in Kandiyohi County will be taking part in the count.

Boraas said any agency or provider that would possibly have contact with homeless individuals or provide service or be able to refer homeless individuals to a service will participate.

The homeless will be counted at the time they show up for service at an agency or provider, such as The Salvation Army, Kandiyohi County Family Services, the Willmar Area Food Shelf or churches, according to Boraas.

"We're not going to know where they're going to be at any given time because they find ways to move around,'' she said. "A lot of times what happens is they need food or they need shelter and they're going to go the agency that will provide that, and that's where we're going to find a majority.''

The count will be done all day long because different agencies have different hours, Boraas said.

"Everything that we can do to help the individuals, we need to know how many there are, so that's why the count exists,'' said Boraas.

Any agency or person wanting to assist with the count in Kandiyohi County or who has information about a homeless person may call Jen Hovland at 320-231-7061 or Boraas at 320-235-2033. For more information on Continuum of Care, call Schuller at 507-836-8673, extension 409.