Created: January 18, 2020 07:02 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) – As you drive over those overpasses or stroll down a snowy sidewalk, you've probably passed someone living out in the elements without a home.
Per a 2019 report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 835 people are homeless in Monroe County on any given night.
For years, the staffers at the Rochester and Monroe County chapter of Continuum of Care (COC) have tried to change this.
Programs Coordinator Charles Bollinger says that every year, the group gets its start by packing hundreds of bags.
'Just everyday necessities, everything that we kind of take for granted, homeless individuals don't have," Bollinger said.
It’s part of the annual Point In Time (PIT) count, which is run through the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The program is part of a nation-wide effort within COC chapters.
From packing the bags, about 100 volunteers will search streets, encampments, alleys, and much more all across Monroe County.
Not only will volunteers provide people with the bags, but they will also take a tally of how many people they find and guide them towards a place to stay. In addition to the necessities, the bag includes pamphlets and other resources for people to look into.
"We’re getting people off the streets, into shelters, and then into permanent housing, which is our goal," Bollinger said.
While the NAEH report found the given night number to be 835, Bollinger says their 2019 tally found about 849 people.
With the tally, HUD can keep tabs on how many people are living without a home, and then properly direct funding to keep organizations like COC alive.
That is funding which staffers at Rochester’s Volunteers of America say, is crucial to helping the area's homeless.
"They wouldn't have what they need to stay housed," said Vice President of Housing Services Angela Harbin.
Harbin says the VOA provides affordable and stable housing for people, including covering most if not all of a person's rent. That, she says, is extra important this time of year.
“It is too dangerous for anyone to be out, shelters should not be turning people away,” said Harbin. “The [Monroe County] Department of Social Services should be making those placements no matter what."
While this operation cannot guarantee the homeless will make the choice to seek more long-term shelter options, Bollinger says a continued effort from the community, as well as continued funding, can make a difference.
“We could always use help."
If you are interested in helping the cause, Bollinger says volunteers are already set for this season, though you can join or donate starting in November.
For more resources, click here.
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