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Kentucky Counts the Homeless

February 1, 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Every two years, states are required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to count the homeless in their communities. Kentucky conducts this "point-in-time" count annually, over a 24-hour period at the end of January. The bad economy has forced many people out of their houses, onto the streets and into shelters in Kentucky, so the statewide count is expected to show an increase this year.

According to Penny Young, executive director of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky, the so-called "point-in-time" count helps determine how much funding will be available for homeless assistance in the state.

"The purpose of the point-in-time count is to identify the number and characteristics of our homeless persons and families who may be doubled up in other homes."

In addition, the count helps assess the progress of Kentucky's Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness. The counts are held in January because cold weather prompts more people to use shelters, which in turn makes them easier to count.

Young says the information from the count is used in a number of ways.

"We educate the public and our Kentucky legislators on who the homeless individuals are and how serious the problem is in our state. It also shows us transient homelessness from year to year, and assists us in planning our programs as we go forward."

She says homelessness is just as prevalent in rural areas as in larger cities. She adds that there are far fewer shelters in rural areas, making the homeless population harder to identify and sometimes, more difficult to serve.

"In an urban setting, the homeless are probably more visible because they're more in a concentrated area. However, there are still homeless rural individuals, but they're scattered across the county."

Agencies want the homeless to know there is help available, including housing counseling and information for homeless veterans.

Bill Goodman, Public News Service - KY