Volunteers Conduct Homeless Count in St. Joseph

Published 01/30 2014 10:45PM

Updated 01/31 2014 10:02AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The bitter cold sweeping through Missouri has lasted longer than many people wanted, especially for those who don't have a roof over their heads.
"We know that there are homeless people out there. We've encountered some today. Our shelters are pretty full, it looks like," said Randy Sharp.

Sharp, the Associate Director at InterServ, is one of many volunteers who spent the last few days counting the number of homeless people in shelters, and on the streets of St. Joseph. The effort is part of a nationwide homeless count.

"Because we have had such a long stretch of pretty cold weather with no real lengthy breaks in it, we find that people who have any option are in," said Sharp.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that the count be done during the last 10 days of January.

"Even though it's a very short-term snap-shot kind of count, it does give them some kind of indication of where things are progressing," said Sharp.

Sharp said he doesn't expect to see a high number of people on the street because of the cold weather. He also said people in town are taking full advantage of the shelters.

Two people, who wanted to remain anonymous, said shelters like The Salvation Army have saved their life this winter.

"They got me a warm place to stay, a good bed, good enough to eat here, and helped me get back on my feet," said one man.

"My whole family is here now. There's not many places in town here that will help somebody who's not a felon, or has medical issues or something like that. It's just really good," said another homeless person who did not want to be identified.

Sharp said the homeless count is a tough week for him and the other volunteers, but it reminds them just how far St. Joseph has come.

"A lot of people are hurting, and you see that first hand on a day like this," said Sharp.

In 2013, more than 8,500 people were homeless in Missouri. About 180 of them live in St. Joseph.

Sharp said the totals for this count will be available in the next few weeks.

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