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City of Valdosta battles homelessness

Valdosta is bringing in the new year with a community service project: The Points in Time Homeless Count.

At its core, the project involves city officials and volunteers to get a count of Valdosta’s homeless population.

This year’s project will see the Georgia Department of Community Affairs spearheading the count by utilizing citizens’ smartphones and tablets for mobile surveys.

Vanessa Flucas, coordinator for the Valdosta Neighborhood Development department, said Points in Time is a nationwide survey conducted through the federal Housing and Urban Development.

“It records the homeless population and considers where these people slept and were housed on that day,” Flucas said. “That’s why it was named Points in Time. It’s for where they were at that time.”

Tyler Tucker, a community service coordinator at VSU, said the count has multiple purposes, including collecting data on the homeless population, noting trends, planning the best way to treat the issue and obtaining grant money to fund solutions.

“We do this so we can know the numbers and strategize,” Flucas said.

According to Flucas, the city’s homeless count has gone down since Valdosta started conducting the survey in 2015.

“The numbers have gone down,” Flucas said. “However, we have been counting those who are considered ‘precariously housed,’ and it does not provide a true reading.”

Those considered “precariously housed” are defined as people without permanent living situations but receiving assistance by staying at a shelter or going to a program.

While that number of people may have lessened, it doesn’t include those sleeping in cars or those on the streets. It also doesn’t mean the number of homeless people not helped has decreased.

But Flucas hopes that through the count, everyone can be helped.

“There are many organizations in Valdosta that fight for the homeless, such as [Lowndes Associated Ministries for the People], South Georgia Partnership to End Homeless and the Salvation Army,” Flucas said. “The city does not get the grant money themselves. These programs apply for them and receive the money.”

Through funding, these programs can assist the affected by making care packages and essentials kits. They are also accepting donations from Valdosta citizens.

The training for the homeless count will take place Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the City Hall Annex in the multi-purpose room. Tucker will be taking the volunteers.

The official count will begin Monday at 6 p.m. and will last the whole week. To volunteer, contact Tucker at tetucker@valdosta.edu or Flucas at vflucas@valdostacity.com.

Written by Malia Thomas, Staff Writer.

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