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Survey will count homeless people in Douglas County

How many homeless people are there in Douglas County?

A survey is trying to find out - and you can help.

Some sons and daughters and moms and dads, whether families or individuals, struggle to maintain a safe or decent place to stay in Douglas County, according to Wings Family Services.

Wings is partnering with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Community Impact Coalition (CIC) to see how many there are.

On January 27 and 28, a shelter survey called "The Point in Time Count" will take place.

The count asks four simple questions, the most important being: "Where did you sleep on the night of January 26, 2011?"

"If you come into contact with someone struggling with housing issues, please take two minutes with them to answer the four-question survey," said Dorie Twist from Wings.

If you or your family will be living with friends or family members, or sleeping on the streets, in a vehicle or at a hotel-motel on January 26, you're encouraged to complete the shelter survey.

There are several ways to do the survey:

• In person. Go to Wings Family Services at 1417 South Broadway, Alexandria.

• Call (320) 763-6638 during the day or (320) 304-4233 any time.

• Enjoy a free meal and share your information at the Coffee Pot at 1504 Broadway in Alexandria on Thursday, January 27 from 5 to 7 p.m.

The survey is anonymous and the answers provided will help figure out the need, so local agencies can offer solutions.

It will also determine how much money the local community will receive to address housing needs.

The survey will be taking place throughout the entire state of Minnesota.

The Point in Time Count is a directive of the federal government to find out how many families and individuals are experiencing homelessness on any given night across the country.

In an effort to be accurate, they have chosen a single day, January 26, for all communities to take this count.

Agencies that work with adults and children who may be homeless take surveys of these households on January 27 and 28 to find out more about their situation and report this anonymously back to HUD.

These surveys are often taken at homeless shelters and at areas where homeless people are staying (parks, abandoned buildings, parking lots, etc.).

Why is this important?

HUD uses this information to determine how they will spend their funding. If an area does not report homeless individuals, it receives less funding.

Though the surveys taken are not expansive, the information gathered helps HUD gain understanding of housing issues throughout the nation.

What does it mean for this community?

Because homelessness is not as visible in rural communities as it is in the metro region, HUD believes that homelessness is an urban issue. This has led to smaller funding pools for this region.

"If we cannot accurately report the number of people struggling with homelessness, we will continue to lack the funding needed to help end their homelessness," Twist said.

Where do the dollars go?

Government housing funds are distributed to many programs and agencies dedicated to housing and eradicating homelessness throughout the region, including Housing and Redevelopment Authorities, transitional housing programs, community action agencies, etc.

What can you do?

Help to make this year's Point in Time Count as accurate as possible. If you come into contact with someone struggling with housing issues, take the survey.

If you would like to know more, contact Dorie Twist at, (320) 763-6638 or Jill Fyre Anderson at, 1-800-492-4805.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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