FLORENCE — The Homeless Care Council of Northwest Alabama is seeking volunteers to help document the number of homeless people living in six northwest Alabama counties.
The annual "Point in Time" count will take place Jan. 24 in Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Marion, Winston and Lawrence counties, according to Ashley Smith, the council's executive director.
Smith said the count is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is used to determine HUD funding for homeless aid programs in the region.
"We use those numbers when we apply for funds for the year," Smith said.
HUD determined the count will take place during the last 10 days of January. Organizations like the Homeless Care Council can choose which day they want to conduct their count.
Smith said some University of North Alabama students will help conduct the count, but she still needs additional volunteers, especially in Franklin, Lawrence, Marion and Winston counties.
"We need upwards of 50 volunteers," Smith said. "We need volunteers who are familiar with those counties."
She said by the end of the month, many homeless residents will have spent assistance money they might have received and are back on the streets.
While she could not provide individual numbers for the six counties, Smith said volunteers in 2019 counted 53 unsheltered homeless persons, 138 sheltered homeless persons, and 34 homeless persons using a "service-based facility."
Tammy McDaniel, executive director of the Community Action Agency of Northwest Alabama, said the homeless count is important when it comes to grant money.
"We try to know what we're looking at as far as services the community could use," McDaniel said. "This is very important to the grant process."
Another reason the count is helpful, McDaniel said, is that it helps the entire community know the true demographics of homelessness in the area, and how organizations like the council and community action agency are trying to help.
Smith said some volunteers are familiar with places homeless people congregate. Teams of volunteers will be given specific places to go to gather the data, Smith said.
She said homeless people are not required to provide their name for the count.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the county can send an email Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the event of inclement weather, the count will be conducted Jan. 27.