A tool used in the effort to alleviate homelessness in the area will be utilized next week.
The Roswell Homeless Coalition and some partner agencies will conduct a biennial point-in-time survey for a week starting Tuesday to provide some indication of how many people in the area are homeless or have been homeless in recent years.
“The survey is done statewide. A lot of states use this particular survey. What it does is give us a snapshot, a screenshot, of where we are,” said Jeneva Martinez, a member of the coalition’s board of directors. “It also helps us with specifics to apply for federal, state or local funding.”
She added that the data is also shared with the regional housing authority, community food pantries and other groups that help those in financial need and have an interest in demonstrating the need for public or private assistance.
“When we apply for this type of funding, they want numbers and this will help us gather information,” she said, “although there is no way to accurately count how many people are experiencing homelessness in a community because it fluctuates.”
The coalition is holding a meeting today at 1 p.m. at Waymaker Church, 202 S. Sunset Ave., to talk about the survey with representatives of partner groups and potential volunteers.
“We need volunteers to disperse the survey and collect the data, if there is anyone willing to volunteer and give up their lunch hour to the Community Kitchen or their breakfast time to go to Harvest Ministries to help,” Martinez said.
She also said that volunteers are being sought for a new advisory council for the Homeless Coalition, with applications and information available at today’s meeting.
Martinez said the group will use a survey developed by the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness and will ask at-risk people where they spent the night on Monday, Jan. 28. All people participating in the surveys are able to remain anonymous. If those choosing to answer identify themselves as homeless that night, then other questions are asked concerning the person’s age, sex, veteran status and personal situation.
So far Goodwill Industries, Harvest Ministries, La Casa Behavioral Health, the Community Kitchen and the New Mexico Rehabilitation Center are expected to participate, but Martinez encourages any individual or organization interested to volunteer.
The January 2017 point-in-time survey interviewed 322 people and found that 182 ranging in age from 13 to 84 identified themselves as homeless, with 106 of those being unsheltered. Fifty-eight described themselves as chronically homeless. Twenty-two were families with children, and 34 were people under 18.
Martinez said the numbers could be lower this year because a women’s and men’s emergency shelter are operating.
“I am hopeful that the numbers will show a decline,” she said, “but the reality is that we are still in a crisis in our community for affordable housing.”
She also stressed that data gathered is just a “snapshot” and could be unusually affected by such things as the recent closure of an apartment complex and the partial government shutdown that was in its 33rd day Wednesday, given that affected federal workers have already missed one paycheck and could miss their second on Friday.
The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness has been organizing community surveys since 2009, with surveys of the unsheltered occurring biennially and surveys of sheltered homeless done annually, said Michael Nitsch, project manager for the state Balance of State Continuum of Care program.
He said about 20 cities and communities are expected to participate this year and that the results are used statewide for several purposes, including as a requirement of the state’s receipt of annual Housing and Urban Development funds totaling about $10 million and to plan for new affordable housing projects.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.