Dozens of people gathered at the United Way of Grayson County offices in Sherman Thursday night for training to take part in the Point in Time count for 2018.
Texoma Homeless Coalition President Stephanie Chandler led the training and emphasized that the point of the exercise was to confirm, as close as anyone could, the number of homeless people living in Grayson, Fannin and Cooke counties.
However, she stressed, that needed to be accomplished without putting anyone in danger. She cautioned those who volunteered for the count to remember that homeless people aren’t “those people, they are our people.” She said no one, at least no one she ever met, just wakes up one morning and decides they are going to be homeless.
Homeless people are, she said, just people who have, in one way or another, run into circumstances that have caused them to lose their home. While the point of the count is to prove the number of homeless people in the area in order to apply for funds to try to help those people find homes, Chandler said, that didn’t mean that the counters needed to get all caught up in the very detailed form they were given to use during the count.
That form listed dozens of questions including one about how many sexually transmitted diseases one had suffered. Chandler said she couldn’t imagine asking anyone that question if she had just met them.
“Just be open and listen,” she told the volunteers. “People will tell you their story.”
Chandler, and PIT Count Chairman Bob Rhoden, stressed the importance of approaching the homeless people with respect. Imagine, Chandler said, if some stranger walked into your living room and started asking you lots of questions. She said that is how a homeless person might feel if some stranger walked up to their tent or shelter and started asking for information.
Rhoden told the group that people who work with the homeless in this area on a daily basis had already announced that the count would be happening Thursday so that the people they were counting would be aware that strangers approaching them were likely to be friendly.
Chandler cautioned the volunteers to be mindful of bringing back their count sheets so that the information could be gathered and sent to the proper authorities to be included in the national counting.
And armed with their questionnaires, their zone assignments and a willingness to contribute to the cause, those volunteers headed out into the dark to count.
One of the people who headed out was Brianna Sunberg who was excited to go out on her second PIT count. She said she works in housing and sees the need for more affordable housing.
“I want to be a part of the solution,” she said about why she wanted to take part in the count. ”Homelessness exists (in this area) and most people probably know someone who is homeless. It is all around us.”