Jan. 28 marks the second Point-in-Time count of area homeless. Stephanie Lefebvre of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness said that Roswell and Chaves County were going to be specifically targeted as one of the most under-reported counties in New Mexico. Although these counts have taken place elsewhere in the past, 2011 was the first year that Chaves County participated.
The PIT count figures will be used to distribute funding to help the homeless the throughout New Mexico, particularly in areas of shelter and housing.
The results of the 2011 count revealed 122 homeless; however, those who participated in the count believe the figure underestimates the number of homeless in the county. The 2011 PIT count took place on a Sunday when many of the agencies, such as the Community Kitchen and Harvest Ministries were closed.
Attorney Shelbie Allen, who worked with the late Judge Ralph Shamas on mental health issues, said that Roswell, as a rural community, presented unique challenges for the count. The camps are difficult to find. “Unlike urban areas where you see the homeless on Main Street and in the center of town, most the homeless in Roswell live on the outskirts of town, under street and railroad bridges.”
Allen described the downward spiral faced by the homeless, without assistance. “They have a great deal of difficulty returning to work because the problems they face every day. They have no place to take a bath or a shower; they have no documentation and no transportation, so it’s almost impossible for them to find a job.”
While the PIT survey will count the people who were homeless on Jan. 28, the survey will continue from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1. “We will survey unsheltered people as they access services from Tuesday, Jan. 29, through Friday Feb. 1, asking them where they spent the night of Monday, Jan. 28, 2013,” said Lefebvre.
The local Homeless Committee hopes to get community involvement in the PIT survey. “Each agency will be contacted individually by a member of the committee so that the purpose and value of the survey can be explained,” said committee member Jane Batson.
She referred to the count as critical in providing data required for the county to apply for funding. “In addition, it will provide critical information to key city and county leaders about the magnitude of the homeless situation in Roswell and Chaves County.”
At their Oct. 15 meeting, a number of agencies were identified that provide services which do not include housing. Those agencies will be asked to make the forms available to the homeless from Tuesday to Friday next week.
Batson said, “We also need help to find those homeless individuals who might not routinely come in contact with agencies serving the homeless. Of particular concern are those individuals who ‘couch surf’ or move from house to house. … We know that a number of teens in Roswell and Chaves County are in that situation. We also need help to contact individuals who are living in homeless camps, along the river, and in other locations.”
The committee wants to hear from any entity in Roswell and Chaves County that assists homeless individuals. “We will be glad to get the individual survey form to any entity that believes it may provide service to homeless individuals during that time frame,” said Batson. “We want to hear from churches, individuals who may quietly provide help to the homeless, and organizations that we may not have identified in the initial listing.”
For more information, contact: Jesse Chaves of LC5, a collaborative for housing, 575-624-6071; Jane Batson at 575-624-7233; Lefebvre at 505-982-9000; or email Stephaniefirstname.lastname@example.org.