Local leaders believe they have a plan to collect better data concerning homeless numbers in the county following the first homeless summit Wednesday.
At a recent quarterly meeting aimed at improving the homeless situation in Williams County, it was decided local leaders needed to meet monthly, and that the first goal needs to be getting more accurate numbers concerning how many homeless are in the county.
“One of the first barriers for Williams County is getting a correct count,” said Becky Kimble of The Ability Center.
During the quarterly meeting, it was stated the last quarter count of homeless was 16, but it is believed there are more.
A representative of a homeless shelter in Bryan, who wanted to remain anonymous, stated her facility turns away about 800 people a year from the shelter due to lack of space.
A local agency has worked on a reporting worksheet that could be used by agencies to report the number of homeless they help, but it is believed the worksheet will not be user friendly and thus not helpful.
There are also concerns of privacy and collecting personal information.
Pastor Chris Avell of Dad’s Place in Bryan, offered to help.
“I work in web development and stuff like that, the technology is already there for HIPPA compliance and credit cards and stuff like that,” Avell said. “It’s free to use where it can collect data, aggregate the data, show the data and yet keep all of the confidential data from anyone’s eyes.”
He said such a program could be created in a matter of days, yet would be easy to use for any of the agencies that would want to access it to enter numbers. It would also be able to prevent duplicate entries from being counted.
“It wouldn’t even reject the data saying this person’s already in the database, but it would know not to compile that data,” Avell said.
Luke Nagy of First Brethren Church of Bryan and head of the Bryan Area Ministerial Association (BAMA) members would be willing to help collect data also, since they help many homeless people by providing them with funds to stay temporarily in local hotels or motels.
He also stressed that while there is a need to work toward a long-term solution that includes collecting the data, there is a need to act quickly.
“I know from talking to other pastors, there is an interest in doing something tangible and doing it now,” Nagy said. “And I don’t know how long that interest is going to last.
“The immediate needs of homelessness is something we should look at doing, at least as a stopgap measure, creatively coming up with what we can do until we’re ready to move toward something bigger,” he added.
While it was noted at last week’s quarterly meeting that no representatives of the county government or county municipalities had regularly attended that meeting, representatives of the Williams County commissioners, city of Bryan and villages such as Edgerton, Montpelier, Pioneer, Stryker and West Unity attended Wednesday’s meeting.