Valdosta conducts annual homeless count - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Valdosta conducts annual homeless count

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By Robin Jedlicka - bio | email

January 29, 2009

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) -   As the economy struggles, the increase in foreclosures leaves more people facing the reality of homelessness. 

Volunteers throughout south Georgia are conducting a homeless count this week.  In Valdosta, like many cities, they've seen a change for the worse.

"The inflow of homeless people that we've encountered in the past couple of months is staggering," says Diane West, a Case Management Director.  

This year, workers are having people fill out two-page surveys to determine whether they are homeless.  To see if each person has a suitable home, they ask the simple question: "Where did you spend last Sunday night?"  Results will be sent to Kennesaw State University, where they will analyze findings from across the state.

This year, Valdosta State University is playing a crucial role in the count. "We have faculty members like Dr. Tracy Meyers and Dr. Shani Gray who have been working with local churches, local shelters, local governmental agencies to help conduct the count," says Dr. James LaPlant.

What they've seen has been alarming.   Dr. Tracy Woodard-Meyers explains, "It's a different looking group of people out there asking for help. It's not the same. It's not your 'traditional' homeless person. It is people that look like you and me."

Jane Osborn of the South Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness explains this change. "The recession is absolutely affecting people in terms of being able to maintain the housing they have had for years for some of them," she says. 

While the findings may be bleak, professors are grateful for the lessons they can bring back to their classrooms--particularly for students in sociology and criminal justice. "These are the types of issues that they will have to address if they're going to have longevity in the field," says Dr. Shani Gray, and Associate Professor at VSU. 

Workers say their efforts will be well worth it if the results bring more resources to help the many in need.

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