According to the organization’s website, the coalition currently covers Bledsoe, Bradley, Grundy, Hamilton, Franklin, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea and Sequatchie counties.
Knowing the number of and statistics about homeless people in Southeast Tennessee helps the regional organization plan which services and programs are needed to assist the homeless population.
“We utilize them [the results] here at the local level to determine needs here,” said Robert Harrison, director of planning at the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition.
Information about homeless individuals and families in Southeast Tennessee was garnered through surveys administered by 47 volunteers and several community partners, Harrison said.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland asserts every American should be counted, and that should include an accurate count of homeless or other status in order to address the issue.
“They (the homeless) are part of our country and everyone should have a voice in government regardless of their financial standing,” the mayor said. “I’m concerned about our school system telling us there are children living in cars and that’s certainly something we need to address as well.”
In the current school year, Cleveland City Schools reported 23 students signed affidavits affirming homelessness. That number is down from 34 students the previous year.
According to preliminary results available Jan. 28, some 578 homeless individuals were surveyed, and 113 of them were not living in shelters. In addition, there were 42 homeless families living in shelters. Among those families, there were 70 children. All of the families surveyed had sought the help of shelters.
Rowland said there are homeless who are not taking advantage of the shelter on Wildwood Avenue.
“I’m grieved because I feel we have people every day of the week who do not have a place to stay and keep warm out of this cold winter weather,” he said.
The coalition surveys asked participants to share their names, age, gender, race, information about any possible health problems, and where they have been living.
The results gathered in various counties throughout Southeast Tennessee are relevant to more than those seeking to help the homeless in this area.
“From here, they go to Congress,” Harrison said.
The Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition has conducted the annual count in partnership with the Continuum of Care, a program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Continuum of Care has the authority to issue federal funds to support programs that assist the homeless. Knowing the number of homeless individuals in the area is one step toward receiving funds for local use.
Final results of the local Point-In-Time Count surveys will be compiled and released by the middle of next week, said Harrison.