Houston County group to use new app to count homeless population

New app to help count homeless in Houston County

A group in Houston County is using new technology to try to get a better look at the homeless problem. 

The app is called 'Counting Us,' and the Houston County Human Needs Coalition hopes it gives them an updated number of the homeless people in the county so they can help them better.

Dominique Wilson says it was a domino effect that brought him to Community Outreach. The center provides temporary housing for homeless people. 

Wilson says tension with his mom, moving to Georgia, then tensions with the girl he was living with and losing his job have led to his homelessness the last four weeks.

“Not everybody who's homeless is a stereotype. These are good guys here, there's no drug issues or anything like that. It's just things, sometimes you need help,” Wilson told us outside Community Outreach in Warner Robins. 

He's the kind of person the Houston County Human Needs Coalition is looking for at the end of the month. 

From January 22-27, they'll be counting the homeless using an app. 

Board member Belinda Russell says a more accurate number could help gain funding. 

“There's a lot of money available for homelessness, and so we're hoping that what will happen now that we're going to do a second count, we will have the availability for some of our non-profits and organizations in the community to apply for grants,” Russell said after the group’s Tuesday meeting. 

But this year, they want homeless people to come to them on the morning of the 27th at International Square Shopping Center on Watson Boulevard, the Walmart on Watson and the Walmart in Perry.  

In 2017, they counted 44 people after walking the streets and asking those they found to fill out an 80-question booklet. Russell says it became clear the booklet was too much for people, so they wanted to try something simpler. 

So, when the state asked them to count for a second year in a row, the state also provided an app.

The app will have a code only accessible by the Coalition that then prompts 11 questions. 

Wilson says he'd participate if it'd help other people. 

“Sure, sure. Especially not for myself, because it'll help others. Because me personally, I don't plan on -- I hope I'm not here very long. I plan on getting out of here quickly, but I know there's others who've had worse luck than me,” Wilson said. 

He said places like Community Outreach help provide stability while people try to get their feet back on the ground. Wilson continued that it was difficult applying for jobs when he did not have access to a phone, address, or stable internet. Wilson has been at Outreach for a week and has his phone problem sorted out. 

The Coalition will also provide participants with information on local resources and supply bags. They need donations for those bags. 

They're asking for toothpaste, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, lotion, lip balm, first aid supplies and bottled water. They also are requesting non-perishable food items that are high in protein. 

You can bring those donations to Flint Energies and ask for Belinda Russell or you can take them to the VECTR Center at 1001 S Armed Forces Blvd. in Warner Robins. 

If you’re interesting in volunteering to help with the count, you can call Mandy Stone at the VECTR Center. The Center’s number is (478) 218-3900. 

Coalition volunteers will also visit Houston County food banks, shelters and soup kitchens the week of January 22 to count the number of homeless there as well. 

© 2018 WMAZ-TV


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