Valley Behavioral Health is looking for volunteers to help canvas the county for people who are homeless.
The Tooele County point-in-time count is part of a statewide effort to quantify the extent of homelessness. Participation in the annual count is required to receive state and federal funds to help with homeless assistance.
“The count helps us to know how many homeless people are out there,” said Mike Neil, program director for Valley Behavioral Health’s Tooele Valley Resource Center. “Our homeless people are very good at hiding and not being seen.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that the count be held statewide on a single night in January. For 2014 that night will be Thursday, Jan. 30.
Volunteers, in groups of two to four, will be sent to areas where homeless people are likely to be found from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. on the mornings of Jan. 30, 31 and Feb. 1. They will ask people they find where they spent the night on Jan. 30 and encourage them to answer questions for a survey of people experiencing homelessness.
Homeless people, according to H.U.D. guidelines, include people sleeping in a sheltered facility and those sleeping in places not fit for human habitation, including out-of-doors, in vehicles, campers or trailers without utilities and in abandoned buildings.
Some of the places volunteers will be checking include the county’s canyons and reservoirs, a block east and a block west off of Main Street from 700 South to Walmart, parks, under over passes and viaducts, and rodeo grounds.
The homeless count for Tooele County will include people using vouchers to stay in motels or transitional housing.
This will be the eighth year that the county has participated in the annual point-in-time count. In 2012 the count identified 57 homeless people in Tooele County, up 37 percent from 2011.
“We always have new people coming into the resource center that have been displaced,” Neil said. “I would not be surprised if our number of homeless people is up again this year.”
About 100 volunteers will be needed to complete the count, he added.
Volunteer opportunities include outreach volunteers, headquarters staff, and data entry volunteers.
Outreach volunteers will go out in groups to assigned geographical locations from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Jan. 30, 31 and Feb. 1. Headquarter’s staff will work at the Tooele County Emergency Management Building from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. on the mornings of the count to organize returning volunteers and assist with serving breakfast. Data entry volunteers will work from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on days of the count to manually enter data from the surveys.
Food and drink will be provided to all volunteers during every shift at the headquarters.
There will be a training for all volunteers on Jan. 29 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Tooele County Emergency Management Building.
To register as a volunteer to help with the homeless point-in-time count, go to https://tooelepit2014.wufoo.com/forms/tooele-pit/
Valley Behavioral Health, formerly known as Valley Mental Health, took over Tooele County’s food bank, relief services, and domestic violence victim assistance programs in May 2013 as part of the county’s budget reductions.
VBH is a Salt Lake City-based non-profit organization that provides services for mental illness, substance abuse disorders, and behavior problems in Salt Lake, Tooele, and Summit counties.