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Homeless to receive care packages as they are counted

The Daily Dispatch - 1/25/2022

Jan. 24—HENDERSON — A collaborative effort to count the number of people without shelter in Vance County will take place beginning at 10 p.m. on Wednesday.

Community organizations and law enforcement will go out into the community to find unsheltered people or people who are occupying inadequate living space.

The effort is part of a national "point-in-time" count of people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January; this year, it's on Jan. 26. The count provides a snapshot of who is homeless on that night. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, each counting project is planned, coordinated and carried out locally.

Melissa Elliott, founder of Gang Free Inc., said the Henderson Police Department as well as law enforcement from Warren, Granville and Franklin counties are participating in a four-county point-in-time homelessness survey.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some participating agencies to restrict their efforts to counting only people in shelters, Elliott said. But Gang Free Inc. will go out into the community to find and count people who are unsheltered.

In addition to counting homeless people, Gang Free is distributing care packages that include a rapid COVID test, hand warmers, hand sanitizer, N95 face masks, toothbrush, toothpaste, tissue, toilet papers, snacks, canned foods, feminine products, gloves, scarves, blankets, pillows and other items to help a person survive the elements.

Gang Free began the effort long before gearing up for the point-in-time effort. The organization is temporarily housing three families in its headquarters building, Elliott said. And last Friday night the Gang Free team found a young man "barely walking" in the snow. They put him in a local motel, paying for a room for three nights.

The organization is also filling out applications for emergency housing vouchers for unsheltered individuals and families.

"We need more affordable, safe and habitable housing to be a solution to the growing challenge in our community," Elliott said.

Results of the point-in-time count in Vance County will be reported to HUD, where it will be collated with results from throughout the nation to provide a picture of sheltered and unsheltered persons experiencing homelessness at the national and state levels, and in regions within states.

Vance County is in Region 9 of the N.C. Coalition to End Homelessness, which also includes Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Nash, Northampton and Warren counties.

The N.C. Coalition to End Homelessness was incorporated in 2000 to serve as an advocate for homeless people and to create innovative partnerships to end homelessness in North Carolina.

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