Volunteers needed for Jan. 23 homeless count

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comJanuary 10, 2013 

Westside volunteers are needed for a homeless count later this month that is used for funding across Merced County.

Los Banos, Merced County and the city of Merced are working together on the Continuum of Care 10-year plan to End Homelessness. As part of the effort, dozens of volunteers will take to the streets for a three-hour count of the homeless on Jan. 23.

Though volunteers have been secured in Los Banos, said Lori Flanders, Merced County Association of Governments public information officer, there is still a need in Gustine and Dos Palos.

"The most vital part is to have a picture of our local population," Flanders said,

The count is also mandatory for cities to be eligible for Department of Housing and Urban Development funding. The tally is scheduled in January every year, because HUD is looking for people who have nowhere to go when the weather is at its coldest.

The Rev. Steve Hammond, who organizes the Los Banos count, said the census is best served by volunteers who know the area and where to look for people who live on the street.

"We have to show that there's a need," Hammond said.

The glaring need for the homeless in Los Banos is emergency transitional housing, Hammond said. That sort of housing would protect those who need it from extreme weather and get them on the path to finding work and permanent housing, he said.

Homeless funding was a debated topic in Los Banos in 2012. Los Banos City Council cut $12,000 from the Continuum plan, even though the previous year in funding had helped bring a twentyfold $281,000 to Los Banos over two years, and $2.5 million countywide.

The 2012 homeless count showed Los Banos has 75 homeless men and women, while one homeless person was tallied in Atwater, 14 in Livingston and 190 in Merced. Gustine, Dos Palos and the county's unincorporated areas weren't included in the census, because those areas did not secure volunteers last year.

Interested volunteers should contact MCAG's Alicia Ochoa Jones at (209) 723-3153, ext. 328.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.

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