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Counting Washtenaw County's homeless population

Paige Pfleger
Michigan Radio

People will be hitting the streets Wednesday to count the number of homeless individuals in Washtenaw County. 

The count is a part of the Point in Time census that is conducted every other year and documents the sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in the area. 

This year's count is especially important, because the county only has one year to end veteran homelessness to meet it's goal as a part of the national Zero:2016 Campaign. 

"It's really going to take a targeted effort, but I think it's definitely attainable," Amanda Carlisle of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance said. "If a community like New Orleans is able to do it, then we will hopefully be able to do the same thing in Washtenaw County." 

The individuals included in Wednesday's count will be asked to answer questions on a survey in order to identify the needs of the population. 

"To reach that larger goal of ending veterans homelessness, ending chronic homelessness, we're going to need to know exactly what these people need in order to get house and stay housed." 

The data collected will not only help inform local officials about homelessness, but will also be reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which allocates federal aid. 

You can look at the results from the 2011 and 2013 Point in Time Count below. If you click between 2011 and 2013, you can see some of the changes in the homeless population over time. 

Washtenaw County Point in Time Count for 2011-2013 | Create infographics
The total number of homeless people in Washtenaw County rose by about 40 people from 2011 to 2013. The number of unsheltered people rose from 43 to 166, but Carlisle believes that these numbers are greatly affected by the weather at the time of the count -- in 2011 it was 24 degrees so more people sought shelter, whereas in 2013 it was 46 degrees outside. 

Tomorrow's weather is predicted to be in the 20s, so the number of unsheltered individuals will likely drop again, Carlisle said. 

The information gathered this year will be presented at a community debriefing on February 2 at Washtenaw Community College's Morris Lawrence Building. The debriefing is open to the public. 

--Paige Pfleger, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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