The City of Mesa is among local municipalities looking for volunteers to literally hit the streets to help the less fortunate this month.
On Wednesday Jan. 30, the Maricopa Association of Governments will hold the 2013 Point-In-Time Homeless Count from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., and Mesa is one city in particular asking the public to volunteer their time as part of the county-wide effort.
According to MAG, volunteers will be directed to walk the streets in specific areas in order to count and survey people that are homeless. While the activity takes place in various cities across Maricopa county, this is the first year Mesa will use volunteers. Previous years counts have been conducted by police officers.
Brande Mead, the Human Services Program Manager of MAG, said that other cities have had success with the volunteering process. For the 2011 count, the City of Phoenix had more than 300 volunteers.
Michelle Alvis, neighborhood outreach volunteer coordinator for the City of Mesa, is in charge of organizing the count this year. She said that at least 60 volunteers will be needed for Mesa, but that the greater the number, the more people they can reach.
Alvis said that the help of volunteers will “set up the foundation to help the homeless and to better the community.”
Mesa, and the other cities in Maricopa County, receive federal funding in order to assist the homeless. The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and goes to provide permanent housing and basic services. A survey is being implemented this year into the count in order to better understand the condition of the homeless and their needs.
According to MAG’s previous data, the count produces a more precise result than other means, such as observation or knowing the individual’s history. Though the report also states that it makes it difficult to compare results of previous years. A total of 1,749 homeless people were counted in 2011 compared to the 2010 total of 2,729. The City of Mesa in 2011 had 102 homeless people compared to the 2010 total of 461.
The count does not include data from people living in shelters, not seen that day or staying with family members.
Before the count, volunteers will need to attend a training session where they will go over the survey, safety issues, engagement/conversation techniques and logistics of the area. Volunteers must be 18 or older and will be deployed in groups of two or three.
“For this year we want a grow number of volunteers in order to reach everyone and provide better help,” Mead said.
Potential volunteers interested in participating are asked to register online at www.azceh.org. For more information, visit that web site or contact Michelle Alvis at (480) 644-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abel, a senior studying journalism at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact him at (480) 898-6514 or email@example.com.