Cities survey homeless population

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Updated: Fri, 24 Jan 2014 09:48:44 CST

Homelessness in Nebraska rose 7% from 2011 to 2012.

Today every city in the state is taking a new count of their homeless population.

Volunteers in Grand Island say that number may still be on the rise.

It's a cold, cold winter.

"I got a bunch of blankets, I pack it in pretty tight. It's livable." Said Tim, a homeless man in Grand Island.

Bundled up from head to toe, these clothes, his car and some blankets are Tim's only constant source of warmth and security.

He's been jobless and homeless since before Christmas.

"Very, very tough out here. I've put out applications from Blaire all the way up to Kearney. Hopefully something happens somewhere." Said Tim.

Wednesday he catches a bit of a break, meeting volunteers conducting the Point in Time count, a survey of area homeless people.

He's given information on area shelters, and told how he can receive his veterans' benefits.

"We want to help all the people in the community, because everybody deserves a safe place to sleep at night." Said Heather Cline Ford, the Family Outreach Programs Coordinator with Central Nebraska Community Services.

Multiple agencies participated in Wednesday's survey. The hardest part is seeking out the people like Tim who aren't in shelters.

They drive by parks, through Mormon Island, even truck stops.

"When you can show in a rural part of Nebraska that there are homeless people and it's not just in the larger cities like Lincoln and Omaha, that there is a problem here." Said Cline Ford.

Area shelters are counting their homeless individuals as well.

Hope Harbor says they'll be contributing over 60 individuals to the count.

"Right now if a bed opens up it's because somebody moved out and we're cleaning a room to get the next person in." Said Melissa DeLaet, Executive Director of Hope Harbor.

The shelter has been consistently full since October of 2012.

"They've given me that chance to find a job and raise some money." Said Cassie Betterley, a resident of Hope Harbor.

The numbers collected Wednesday will help determine the future of many others to come.

"The more we can show there's a need, the more money there is for our agencies to be able to ask for to help our homeless population." Said DeLaet.

The Point in Time count helps decide where U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding goes.

Officials say that the more accurate the count and the greater they can show a need, the more money that will be made available to assist the homeless in the area.