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Mercy Housing Seeks Volunteers For City Homeless Count

By Adeshina Emmanuel | January 11, 2013 12:12pm
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UPTOWN — An affordable housing organization is looking for volunteers to help count the number of homeless people on Northeast Side streets.

Every two years, the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services gathers data about the number of homeless people in the city for its point-in-time homeless count. It's to raise public awareness about homelessness, but the count also factors in to how much federal funding Chicago receives to address the issue and helps determine city planning, according to the city.

The count on the Northeast Side of the city, which includes Uptown, will be coordinated by Mercy Housing Lakefront, an affordable housing provider for people who are formerly homeless, at risk of homelessness, low-income, senior citizens or disabled.

Mercy has several buildings in the neighborhood — including Harold Washington Apartments at 4946 N. Sheridan — where people willing to volunteer their time should show up at about 7 p.m. on Jan. 22, according to the 46th Ward website.

From 7 p.m. until 2 a.m., volunteers will "work in a team to drive around a designated area to count and survey those who are spending the night on the street," according to the site.

The 46th Ward website has more information about how you can get involved.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which mandates the point-in-time counts across the country and collects data, defines a person as homeless who "lacks a fixed, regular and adequate place to sleep" or "regularly spends the night in a shelter, similar institution, or a place not meant for human habitation."

By that definition Chicago had about 6,600 homeless people in the 2011 point-in-time count.

But that definition does not include at-risk individuals in "precarious housing situations" who are "doubled up," living with friends and family, according to the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness.