Houston homeless count, survey underway

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A count of the homeless in Houston and Harris and Fort Bend Counties is underway. Courtney Fischer reports. (KTRK)

Hundreds of volunteers will interview homeless men and women in Houston, Harris and Fort Bend counties this week.

This year's Count & Survey Program is different from years past. Volunteers are trained to ask questions instead of just recording homeless population in our area.

"Can you to us for a minute? We hate to bother you in the morning," said Mark Thiele, as he pulled back part of a blue tarp.

That tarp is the door to Richard Newsome's makeshift home near the south Loop. Thiele is one of the volunteers conducting surveys on behalf of Houston's Coalition for the Homeless.

Newsome tells abc13 he's been homeless for about a year. He's lived by 610 for three months.

"They told me (there were) plenty of opportunities in Houston, come find a job, live a good life." Newsome said.

He came to Houston from Missouri at the urging of his family three years ago, but says drugs put him on the street. Now Newsome works odd jobs and lives in a tent with two other friends.

"How many times of you been in emergency shelter in the past three years?" Thiele read from a tablet.

It's one of the 15-20 questions on the 2016 survey. The idea is to better understand why some of the men and women are homeless and what each of them needs most.

"I like the reasons, they ask for the reasons why, to find a solution to it," Newsome said.

But not everyone wants to share their story. At another homeless camp along Buffalo Speedway, a woman waives away the volunteers. That's okay too.

"Most of the time they're just looking to talk and have someone listen to them," said Jessalyn Dimanno, another volunteer.

The canvassing will last three full days. Since 2011, homelessness in this area has steadily dropped. The data from this year's survey won't be available until May or June. Organizers say because volunteers are asking questions this year, the biggest issues facing homeless men and women in the Houston area should be clearer.

"Really trying to get their stories, the details, to get the resources we need to effectively and all homelessness in Houston." Thiele said.

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