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Volunteers span out to count homeless
Volunteers counted the area's homeless population this week, something required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for funding applications. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER / The Journal

An estimated 100 volunteers took to the shelters, parks, libraries, and other locations around Stanislaus County to perform a count of the area’s homeless population.

The count was conducted for the Stanislaus Housing and Support Services Collaborative at the behest of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which stipulates the count be done on a yearly basis as part of their funding application. Stanislaus County typically gets around $3.3 million in Supportive Housing Program funds from HUD, which are used for housing needs, both permanent and temporary, as well as case management services, said Aaron Farnon, the deputy director of the area’s  Continuum of Care organization that participates in the count.

The count began Wednesday evening at the shelters, including Turlock’s Gospel Mission and We Care. Thursday morning the volunteers spread to the parks, libraries, day centers, and other areas where the homeless may spend their days. The count uses a questionnaire that takes about five to 10 minutes to complete to avoid any one person being counted multiple times.

In 2013 the count tallied up to 1,201 homeless individuals and in 2014 the number went to 1,156 individuals. However, the population numbers can vary depending on what definition an organization uses to define homelessness. For example, the Stanislaus County Office of Education uses the term homelessness to include anyone staying in someone else’s home for an extended time, Farnon said.

“The numbers can change, because it really depends on the definition that you are using,” Farnon said. “But it is a good indicator of the chronically homeless.”

This year’s tally should see an increased number because the count has been extended to include Denair, Waterford, Hughson and Hickman for the first time.

The result of the count is expected to be released in April.