More than 500,000 people across the nation are homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Wednesday night, local volunteers worked through the night, to get a snapshot of homelessness in the Eau Claire community.
Starting at 11 p.m. Wednesday until around 6 a.m. Thursday, around two dozen volunteers cast a wide net outdoors, in hopes of counting every homeless person without shelter in Eau Claire and neighboring counties for a “Point in Time Homeless Count,” which is part of a national effort.
If volunteers came across someone experiencing homelessness, that person was offered a survey, a folder filled with resources, and a hygiene kit.
“We’re hoping there’s nobody out there that needs us tonight or needs to be found, but if we do find them, we want to make sure that we get them out of the elements and get them onto the path of ending homelessness,” Kelly Christianson, Executive Director of Family Promise of the Chippewa Valley.
“I honestly didn’t realize it was such a problem until I got into this field,” says Samantha Harkness, housing first case manager at Western Dairyland. “The reason I got into social work was to help people and if I can make a difference or anyone volunteering tonight can make a difference in someone’s life experiencing homelessness, that’s all we can ask for.”
The count is put on by a collaboration of non-profits including Western Dairyland, Family Promise and Lutheran Social Services.
One organizer estimates two people were found outside of shelters Wednesday night in Eau Claire.
Final numbers are expected on Monday.