Saturday, January 29, 2005

Counting the Homeless -- More Tragedy GIVE MONEY

STLtoday - News - St. Louis City / County
Richard LaPlume and Diane Maguire made their way in the dark, searching for an opening in the thick bramble that lined the railroad tracks between Value Village and the Dierbergs Town Center in Shrewsbury.

A hundred or so yards from the back alley of the grocery store, LaPlume's flashlight ran across a small opening in the brush, illuminating a collection of old, plastic lawn furniture arranged around a small fire pit. "You can tell someone's been staying here," LaPlume said, pointing to the discarded beer and tuna cans littering the area. "Wonder where they are now?"
Okay, what did the lawn furniture prove? Could this be a place where neighborhood teens hide to drink beer, smoke, and talk?
All across St. Louis County, just out of view from the Starbucks and Krispy Kremes, are similar campsites - temporary homes for those who live on the streets.
What?? While we're having lattes and donuts? Where are the locations? The homeless only congregate by Starbucks and Krispy Kremes? Wow, should make it easy to find them.

The people who frequent such places are rarely listed on the rolls of the county's homeless shelters. So on Wednesday night, Community Alternatives Inc., a local nonprofit organization, conducted the county's first ever one-night street count of the homeless.
Why aren't they listed? Haven't they ever been to a shelter? Haven't they ever been arrested?

Fifty volunteers and staffers, including LaPlume and Maguire, formed 15 teams. Each was assigned a section of the county to scour. LaPlume and Maguire searched parts of southwest St. Louis County.

It was a long night, beginning around 8 p.m. and ending a little before midnight. The temperature was just above freezing. And the results were, at times, frustrating.
In other words they didn't find anything or anyone...

Marilyn Robinson, director of St. Louis County's Department of Human Services, said her agency was waiting on numbers compiled by employees with the county parks system before releasing a total for the street count. She said those numbers should be ready by today. The city of St. Louis also conducted a street count Wednesday, the results of which will not be released until next week.

But according to Community Alternatives Executive Director Gary Morse, the total reached in the county Wednesday was much lower than the actual number of homeless in the area.

"If what you wanted to do was get a homeless count that was low, this was the way to do it," Morse said. "It was one night in the coldest month of the year. The true number is probably closer to five to 15 times as many as we counted."
Whoa Gary... 500 to 1500% higher? Makes grubbing for donations easier if the numbers are higher doesn't it?

Wednesday's count was a part of a nationwide push to resolve the problems of the homeless, inspired by President George W. Bush's announced goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2012.

St. Louis County is one of more than 170 counties and cities nationwide taking part in the count, most of them scheduled for the end of January.

County officials plan to use the information collected to help formulate a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness.
Okay, the President wants a six year plan ("goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2012". Any Idea why the County wants a 10-year Plan? Maybe because the whole "homeless" issue is a crock?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will collect street count totals from across the country, adding them to existing shelter counts in an effort to get a clear picture of the country's homeless population. According to the latest HUD numbers, there are roughly 700,000 homeless people across the country on any given night and more than 3 million over the course of a year.

HUD officials said their numbers were out of date and not terribly accurate, which is why the agency has tied future grant funding to the completion of single-night street counts every two years.
Well, here's the weenie of this story -- "tied future grant funding to the completion of single-night street counts". Oh oh. Now local officials are forced to be ACCOUNTABLE to get FEDERAL FUNDS. I hope the Feds audit the counts carefully. If they find "inconsistencies" the people who cause them should be put in irons. By the way, if this story describes an OFFICIAL street count, why is the county using volunteers who are not accountable to anything, other than inflating the problem so they feel good, or get more funding.

"In order to build a strategy to take on such a big problem, you've got to know the problem," said Brian Sullivan, HUD spokesman. "This count will, in the end, answer some fundamental questions about homelessness."

But according to Morse, by forcing agencies to do the count in just one day, HUD is severely limiting their ability to be thorough. Homeless people are always on the move, sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity.
Yep it is going to answer some fundamental questions... Like how big is this problem, really? The second paragraph is raising my BS meter to high levels? I can understand that you may not have the manpower, but the homeless moving in one day? How many would be on the move? Will they be invisible as they move? Can we paint them a distinguishing color so we don't double count them as they move?

It's illegal to be homeless in St. Louis County. Once a homeless person has been spotted, he or she usually has to find somewhere new to sleep for the night.

St. Louis County's last street count, which found 366 homeless people outside the shelter system, was conducted in 2002 and used a variety of methods over a longer period of time to arrive at a total.

Morse said a similar approach this time would have yielded more accurate totals.
Okay, a variety of methods, over a longer period of time. What methods, and how long a period, and who conducted the counts?

After 3 1/2 hours of searching Wednesday night, after climbing into creek beds and checking every highway underpass, Maguire and LaPlume had found the telltale signs of homelessness a dozen times over. They had found, however, only one homeless person: Hiram Short III, 45, a San Francisco native who has been living on the streets in the county for nearly a year.

Maguire and LaPlume encountered Short at the Steak 'n Shake at Interstate 44 and Highway 141.

On cold nights, Short is allowed to sleep inside the all-night eatery, a courtesy that has probably kept him alive more than once this winter.

Maguire and Plume listened as Short told them of his circumstances. They gave him a package that contained gloves and socks and clean underwear. Then they took down his information and started back to Community Alternatives headquarters, a little disappointed.

"I know there are a lot more like Hiram out there," Maguire said. "We just couldn't find them tonight."
Damn, these folks are quick. They checked "every highway underpass" from Shrewsbury to Fenton in 3 1/2 hours. Bull.... Bull.... Bull..... (for my readers outside the St. Louis Area, or unfamiliar, I'll estimate the mileage between Fenton and Shrewsbury to be about 5 miles. These two covered 25 square miles in 3 1/2 hours. Wow!) By the way, give ole Hiram a bus ticket to Frisco, they love bums there. (But if you have a dog, the city will inspect your dog house and fine you if it is substandard). Also BTW, does the owner of the Steak N' Shake know that he is running a homeless shelter?

Reporter Clay Barbour
Phone: 314-727-6234

Let's let Clay know how good a propaganda job he's done.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mongo... Discovered you thru the Gateway Guy. You're good! .. from a Fellow Missourian

8:52 PM  
Blogger Anda said...

I'm trying to figure out if you are sociopathic or just ignorant to the reality of homelessness. I was a volunteer for the one night count in Seattle this year. The numbers have grown 68% in King County since last year...and no, we don't fabricate those numbers. Why would we? My agency (which does not provide services to the homeless, just happens to be concerned for the well-being of other humans) does not receive any funding for high or low numbers. In fact, funding would never be enough anyway. In fact, non-profits are just that(I'll spell it out for you) NON-PROFIT. They don't make money. They use it to help make other's lives better. Some people are just weird like that. You know, they help instead of burying their heads in the sand. I'll stop there. Maybe though, you should do some research or take some time to volunteer. You might feel something, if you're capable of course.

10:30 PM  

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