FARMINGTON - Davis County doesn’t have near the number of chronically homeless people that can be found in Salt Lake or Weber Counties.
The few that there are mostly want to continue fending for themselves.
That’s the belief of MaryAnn Nielson, Homeless Liaison with the Davis School District. She was also a key player in last weekend’s federally-mandated Point-in-Time Count.
“The ones we encountered have been homeless anywhere from one to two years,” she said.
Of homeless people located by a nine teams totaling about two dozen people, only about a half dozen were willing to complete a survey.
Called a Vulnerability Index and Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool, the survey was designed to help teams determine how best to serve chronically homeless people.
“People could decide if they wanted to participate or not,” she said. “I would say we probably have three dozen people in our county who are homeless year-round. A lot are under the grid and want to stay that way.”
About a dozen people were actually contacted, of which only six people completed the survey.
Two people were assisted with emergency shelter at local hotels, thanks to designated Family Connection Center funding, Nielson said.
There are more chronically homeless people who camp out are otherwise come to the county in warmer months. In the winter, many go to shelters in Ogden and Salt Lake City, she said.
The group worked with local law enforcement agencies to visit areas where homeless might be. Those included such places as 24-hour Walmarts or other big box stores.
“They’ll move around to 24-hour restaurants just to go in and get warm,” Nielson said.
Teams know now they probably should’ve checked post offices and some other places where people can go at night to get warm.
Members of the county’s homeless coordinating committee are hoping to conduct another count, probably in early August, Nielson said.
The county participated, along with eight other agencies across the state, in the “100,000 Homes” program. It’s a national effort to place chronically homeless people in apartments or other permanent shelter.
That was a big reason behind the interviews, Nielson said.
“The effort of the volunteers was so helpful,” she said. “Even though some teams didn’t encounter any chronically homeless, the stories were touching to everyone. Once we personally come across someone who goes through that, it makes us understand what we need to do as a group to take care of people who are experiencing hard times.”
Nielson is optimistic the problem can be solved.
“One thing I love in Davis County is that these service agencies really do come together,” she said.
“We’re trying to get a better handle on the homeless issues that some of our citizens face,” said County Commissioner Louenda Downs.
She said the summer point-in-time event will help to “give us an idea of those who are not being sheltered in the old weather who are camping out, finding places to survive in the warm weather.”
In Nielson’s role at the school district, she works to help students who are considered homeless. Locally, they and their families often couch-surf, moving from home to home every few weeks or months.
As of last week, there were 1,161 students considered homeless - about the same as a year earlier.
Anyone interested in volunteering in the August point-in-time count can email Nielson at email@example.com.