News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, Jan. 28, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- On Monday night across the state of Georgia, volunteers walked the streets trying to find out how many people in our cities are homeless. It's an annual census to help generate funding, but this year Augusta is doing things differently.
They say this year they want a more accurate count. Over the past few years, the numbers haven't truly reflected the amount of people living on the streets, so this year, they're taking this survey not only to the streets, but also to hospitals, clinics and even jails.
"It's very difficult," said Terry Bellew of being homeless.
Bellew has been living on the streets for the past five months along with hundreds of others, spending their nights in shelters.
"They're pretty full every night just about," he explained. "Sometimes you can't even get in because they're already full and some people have to sleep on mats."
It's a problem those who work with the homeless see every day.
"Agencies are having to turn individuals away for lack of assistance [daily] and so we're unable to put them all in shelters, we're unable to provide food for everyone, health care all of the social service agencies have had to cut back," said Kimberly Blanchard, who has been working with the homeless for five years and is the volunteer coordinator of this year's point in time count.
Dozens of volunteers hit the streets in Richmond County working to get more funding.
"When we go to request funding, request additional funding, we can prove the case if these numbers are strong enough to say Augusta does have a homeless problem, which we know we have," Blanchard said.
They hand out surveys to those who are homeless asking where they were spending the night Monday night. It's done in order to find out the most accurate information about the homeless population.
"In addition to wanting to apply for new funding, in order to have new buildings and to have new things added to our community, we've got to get these numbers as strong as we possibly can," she said.
Because when they don't have room in the shelters, a bed can be hard to find.
"Wherever they fall asleep, to be honest, I've done it myself," said Terry about where they sleep when the shelters are full.
Experts say the face of homelessness is changing and the population is growing as resources shrink, so they really need this funding. A big issue that the funding would help fix is the lack of women and children's shelters.