More than 500,000 people across the nation experienced homelessness on a single night in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
On Wednesday at 11 p.m., dozens of volunteers will spend the night outdoors, in hopes of counting every homeless person in Eau Claire and neighboring counties for a “Point in Time” homeless count, part of a national effort.
“Someone is chronically homeless if they’ve been on the streets, in a shelter, or in a place not meant for habitation for 12 months or longer or a period of 4 or more times over the last 12 months,” said Samantha Harkness, case manager with Western Dairyland.
The count is put on by a collaboration of non-profits including Western Dairyland, Family Promise, and Lutheran Social Services.
Twice a year, Western Dairyland and partnering organizations go out to provide outreach and resources for people experiencing homelessness. The goal is to find people to refer to their housing list to help house them in the future.
Wednesday night, volunteers will hand out things like socks, blankets, food, and hygiene products.
“They’re our neighbors, they’re our friends, they’re our family,” said Harkness. “When you can find somebody and help somebody, it’s really rewarding.”
Western Dairyland operates permanent supportive housing, commonly called, housing first, which provides housing and case management services to individuals or families that are chronically homeless.
Volunteers are still in needed Wednesday night, specifically for Jackson, Buffalo, and Trempealeau counties. Volunteers must be 18 or older.
For more information on volunteering, click here.