Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
Inside, dinner was served with a choice of entrees including lasagna, meatloaf and chicken. However, the number of volunteers waiting to serve the meals and offer support at the Irving Point in Time Homeless Count and Survey event hosted in part at The Irving Salvation Army outnumbered the expected guests on Jan. 24.
The annual count which mobilizes the efforts of numerous agencies such as Brighter Tomorrows, Housing & Human Services, Urban League, the Islamic Center of Irving and various churches is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to determine the need for services.
“A lot of our homeless population is hard to find, so we know we will probably not see all of our homeless people at this event,” said Vicki Ebner, assistant director of community resources for the City of Irving. “I’m not sure whether the warm weather will help or harm us.
“Across the nation, the count is done in the last 10 days of January. The theory being that people come in from the outdoors, because it is so cold, and they are easier to count. We have found that when it gets really cold, our homeless population goes to Dallas, and they are counted there.
“I thought it might work in our benefit that it is 75 degrees. But what I think we are seeing is that it is nice, warm and pretty, and they are not coming in. I won’t know until the teams come back, and we see what we have.”
Teddie Story, executive director of Irving Cares, has participated in the count for several years.
“The Homeless Persons Count is always very unpredictable,” Story said. “You never know if there will be two or 20 people. So we have gathered this great group of volunteers to greet the people who do come and serve them a nice dinner. Hopefully the people who come will be able to access some services and find out what is available that might fit their needs.”
People representing a variety of community resources joined in a panel discussion designed to answer peoples’ questions about homelessness in the community.
“We felt tonight was an opportunity to start to educate the community on the needs of the homeless within Irving,” said Wendy Burton, outreach director for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. “We also wanted to teach citizens what they can do to better understand and support homeless people within our community.”