Homeless Count To Target Veterans

By Corinne Rose

January 25, 2013 Updated Jan 25, 2013 at 7:26 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) -- In this cold weather, homeless people can really struggle.

But a special count of the homeless next week will help veterans and others get services they need.

"We're not trying to get anyone in trouble, nobody's going to get arrested, we're not looking for felons on the street, we're just trying to identify how many homeless there are. And not just veterans, all the homeless in the community," says the VA's homeless coordinator, Naomi Nicastro.

Wednesday, teams will fan out across northern Indiana for the national point in time count of homeless people.

And embedded in those teams are folks from the VA, looking for homeless veterans.

"We invite them to come to specific count sites around the city on that day, and if they fill out a survey, we give them a backpack that has blankets, toiletries, gloves, things like that in it to kind of encourage them to come out and be counted. Because homeless people don't really want to be counted. They don't really want to be found," Nicastro says.

If staff finds a homeless veteran, they call social workers to get them off the streets and into a place like Shepherd's House immediately.

"We're hoping to see the count for veterans going down, because of all the efforts we're putting into place. But the economy needs to pick up to help impact that, I guess," Nicastro adds.

An accurate homeless count is important, because the federal government distributes resources where they're needed most. Last year, teams counted 558 homeless men, women and children in allen and surrounding counties... 32 were veterans.

"I have never seen the energy and the resources put into anything we've done in 20 years like I have with this effort to end homelessness. It really is unprecedented. And we're making some really good progress with getting homeless veterans off the street. Not as quickly as we'd like to see but we're definitely making progress," Nicastro says.

If you know a veteran who needs help, call this toll-free number: 1-877-424-3838 or 1-877-4-AID-VET. Count sites will include the Rescue Mission, the Ave Maria House and Samuel Walker Community Center.

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