NEWBERRY COUNTY — Twenty two Newberry College nursing students, DSS employees and other individuals from the community volunteered their time in the 2014 Point-in-Time homeless count Thursday to figure an estimate of how many homeless people are in the county.
The students partnered with individuals who worked last year’s homeless count at four different locations around the county. The volunteers went to Westview Behavioral Health Services, the detention center, The Daily Bread food pantry and DSS.
DSS employee and homeless liaison Pandora Jones also did the night count along with a few other DSS employees to count those who may get missed during the day.
“They (the volunteers) ask people about their living situations and if they are homeless, they take a survey,” said Jones. “All the surveys and forms are confidential and locked up until they are turned into the S.C. Homeless Coalition.”
It will most likely be around April sometime when the results from all the counties are tallied and results are given through the Midlands Area Consortium for the Homeless, according to Jones. Last year’s homeless count found 13 unsheltered people in the county.
The volunteers went to the four locations because those are the places that homeless people are most likely to be found or will go to. In addition to taking surveys, the volunteers also hand out emergency kits from United Way to the homeless, Jones said.
The students are senior nursing students at Newberry College who are taking the class, Nursing Care of Diverse Populations as taught by Laurie Harden, assistant professor of nursing.
The students are focusing on the impact of homelessness and the impact on the state in addition to what happens without a shelter and how important it can be to get a shelter, said Harden. Of course they also study other topics and are also involved in other community activities including hospice care, disaster training and home health care.
In fact, the students got involved in the homeless count because of their involvement with Hospice Care of Tri County.
Harden points out that this gives nursing students an opportunity to find what their interest may be and where they may like to work after graduation.
“Homelessness does cross over into the medical field because we do see them. Certain areas are just included more,” said Teresa Halfacre with Hospice Care of Tri County.
Halfacre got involved in the count last year. She volunteered at the detention center as well as the Living Hope food bank and decided she had to do it again.
“Everything stems back to the (coalition) meetings with Charles Weathers where I met Pandora,” said Halfacre, and it just stemmed from there.
Halfacre is talking about the sessions with motivational speaker Weathers brought forth by the Newberry County Coalition on Underage Drinking. The meetings held downtown were meant to get people involved in reaching out to the community on a variety of topics and homelessness was one.
This is how the organization Helping Hands was formed which raises funds and holds events and drives to collect supplies for the homeless. The organization is attempting to bring an emergency shelter to the county.
“I came across people I knew and that surprised me. I’m just happy to be a part of this,” said Halfacre about volunteering and helping the homeless.
Other volunteers who acted as coaches to the students included the Chamber’s Michelle Long, Ebony Young and DSS employees Kisha Wertz, Christy White-Mill, Sarah Smith and Linda Langford.
The count is given through MACH which strives to end homelessness. They were founded in 1994 and is a Continuum of Care as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
For more information about helping to end homelessness, visit www.schomeless.org. For more information about Helping Hands, contact Jones at DSS or Cynthia Vannerson at Hampton Inn.