Hays County Conducts First Census Of Its Homeless Coummunity
Hays County is conducting its first census of the county’s homeless community Thursday. The so-called point-in-time count is a tally of people experiencing homelessness – both sheltered and unsheltered – at a single time.
The count is required for cities and counties that want funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for programs to help reduce homelessness.
The nonprofit HOME Center of Central Texas is leading the count, which will cover San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Driftwood, Dripping Springs and Wimberley.
“We realized that the hindrance of us getting funding was from there not being any statistics in Hays County to show there’s a rising issue in homelessness,” said Alli Records, secretary for HOME Center of Central Texas and the count’s lead coordinator.
Records said she hopes the new data will help demonstrate the need for more resources in the county. HOME Center has already accounted for more than 400 students across Hays County school districts who are experiencing homelessness.
“Evidently, there is a big issue that’s underneath the surface that hasn’t been exposed yet,” Records said. “The point-in-time count will not only educate the community, but it will also bring awareness to the rising need of resources.”
Hays County currently has two shelters: the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Shelter and the Southside Community Center. Records said both are limited in space and receive little support.
Kristin Zakoor is the assistant director of data at Texas Homeless Network, a nonprofit that seeks to help communities reduce homelessness.
“We are seeing that, because of the crisis in regards to homelessness, more areas are feeling that they need to mobilize and really try to find ways to combat homelessness in their areas,” Zakoor said.
Texas Homeless Network relies on communities within its geographic area – which includes Hays, Bastrop, Lee and Williamson counties – to collect homelessness data through initiatives such as the point-in-time counts. (Austin and Travis County are not a part of the Texas Homeless Network but conduct their own count.)
Zakoor says these counts not only help cities and counties get federal funding but also help communities better understand who is experiencing homelessness.
“What is the profile of the person experiencing homelessness in our area?” she says. “What are the resources that are needed in order to put them into permanent housing?”
Bastrop, Lee, and Williamson counties are also participating in the count. Austin is gearing up for its count early Saturday morning.
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