Group runs annual survey to determine homeless population


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — This week is crucial for determining how much federal grant money can be allocated to homeless advocacy groups in Northwest Arkansas, experts said.

The Northwest Arkansas Continuum of Care used several tools to determine how many homeless people were in the area in a 24-hour period. The system is called a point-in-time survey.

“What we report to HUD gets reported to Congress, the experiences in local communities of homelessness in each specific region,” said Steven Burt, the executive director of NWA Continuum of Care.

The group has a name list of people who’re chronically homeless. It also used in-person surveys, online data collection and volunteers to determine the number.

“It gets easier after we’ve learned who they are, where they go and what they’re doing at any given point in the day,” Burt said.

The data determines how much federal money homeless advocacy groups can get.

“Northwest Arkansas has a significant homeless population, and we are trying to increase those resources in our community,” Burt said.

The number of homeless families and kids is collected with the help of area schools, Burt said, and he expects the number of homeless kids in Northwest Arkansas to go down.

There’s a hidden homeless issue in schools, said Damon Donnell, the Springdale student services coordinator.

“Remember, when a family becomes homeless, there are kids and students involved in that who also have to go to school the next day,” Donnell said.

Springdale schools use the term “fit families in transition” instead of homeless, and more people use services when they’re respected, Donnell said.

“We have been able to help so many families by the grace of others,” Donnell said. “That’s what I would really want everybody to know about that.”

The money allocated to schools primarily goes to non-shelter needs like transportation, food and educational resources.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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