REHOBOTH BEACH, Del.- This week Delaware is counting how many homeless people live in the state. The federal government requires the count annually at the end of January. This year's count includes a new element.
Teams across the state went out in the wee hours of the morning Wednesday to look for homeless people, specifically ones not staying in shelters.
The moon was high above Rehoboth Beach when the two-hour-long search began at 5 AM. Tim Rennick led the expedition. He's been with the Community Resource Center for about a year. Wednesday morning he was on a mission.
"Seeking out homeless men, women and potentially children in areas that are historically known for being locations for homeless people to live when they're outside," he said.
Rennick checked out five locations, some deep in the woods. As he did, he was trying hard not to scare anyone off.
"Without an accurate number of the homeless population in any given area," he said. "You really can't justify the requests for funding. So, it's essential that we are able to as best we can accurately reflect the number of homeless people."
Susan Starrett with the Homeless Planning Council of Delaware says in the past this count has focused just on people who come into places for services.
"There are definitely people who won't go to any of the food programs," she said. "Or won't come in for case management or outreach service or anything like that. The idea is to be able to identify other people we may not have."
Rennick went around checking spot after spot but had trouble finding anyone. Starrett says 75-percent of Delaware's approximately 1,000 homeless live in New Castle County. And that might not be the only reason Rennick was coming up empty-handed.
"People don't want to be found," said Starrett. "So, they hide themselves pretty well."
By 7 AM the sun is rising over the ocean. Rennick's final count for Rehoboth is zero. But he says that doesn't mean the hunt wasn't worth it.
"If anything what this teaches us is we have the comfort of knowing our homeless population is able to find warm places to be at night. But by no means does that diminish the number of homeless people we have in our community. They are absolutely around and with us and need our attention, effort and our compassion and work."
Starrett says teams in other parts of the state did find homeless people during their searches - especially in Wilmington. There were groups out in New Castle and Sussex counties. But Starrett says there were not enough volunteers to do the same thing in Kent.
Monday, May 20 2013 9:13 AM EDT2013-05-20 13:13:36 GMT
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