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Volunteers conduct count of people experiencing homelessness in KCMO

Homeless Count 2021
Posted at 7:41 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 23:40:46-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kora Wilkes' work with Hope Faith Ministries usually takes her to makeshift homeless camps around Kansas City.

And on Wednesday, she used her knowledge to help count those who are experiencing homelessness.

"The app is really cool because it allows for a pin to be placed on a map so later, we'll be able to have data that we can go back and look at and see this is how many people were in this spot," Wilkes said. "This is how many people were in this spot. And a lot of the questions in there also kind of geared towards like, what needs are not being met."

It's part of an annual tally called the Point-in-Time Count, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires for federal assistance.

This year, it's happening in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving an economic crisis in its wake.

"I anticipate that we’re going to see a whole lot more people out here than we probably have ever had," Wilkes said.

But there are only so many volunteers to count them this year because of the virus – another obstacle to overcome.

"It's also hard because in the winter, people are really kind of ducking away or finding somewhere to stay warm," Jaysen Van Sickle, executive director of Hope Faith, said. "So doing a count in the cold weather is also really tough."

The count occurred on the same day Kansas City's Housing Committee approved a resolution that would create a Homeless Services Task Force. Its members would coordinate city services to those don't have any shelter.

Marqueia Watson, executive director of the Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness, said ending homelessness is not "solely within" the homeless system's domain.

"We're excited to see that they're really being, you know, quite intentional about bringing people that are adjacent to the work but not necessarily in the work along as well," Watson said.

In the long term, the organization would like to see discussions on a strategy around affordability for people who have no or low income

"They’re not people that are out here because something that they did, they’re out here because something happened to them," Watson said.