Our View: Fight homelessness with information


Friday morning, Jan. 27, nearly three dozen volunteers will fan out across Carlton County and attempt to count the number of homeless people here. It will be a challenging task.

For the purposes of this statewide count, homeless includes those who are living outside, on the streets, in abandoned buildings, on public transit, in encampments or other places not meant for human habitation. It also includes people temporarily staying with family or friends (couch-surfing), in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs or motels.

Why should we, who are cozy in our own homes, care about a homeless count?

Aside from the obvious — that no one should be homeless in this great county, state and country — the count does three things for Minnesota:

  1. It helps the state understand the scope of the problem and trends to better target resources and improve and identify gaps in service;

  2. The state uses the data to justify current services and programs, and to build awareness, political will and support at all levels (local, state, national).

  3. The Point In Time (PIT) count is also a critical source of national data. It is a way to measure progress in the state and federal plans to end homelessness, which means decisions about funding programs are based, in part, on that data.

Thus, if the results are incorrect, the data is incorrect. And the decisions will be flawed.

And that’s where regular folks reading the Pine Journal come in. If you know the whereabouts of someone who is homeless — whether you’ve seen them sleeping in an abandoned railroad car or they’re crashed on your couch — then call Bob Nelson at the Cloquet Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) at 218-879-3353 or email him at bob@cloquetcarltonhra.org. Do it today.

The surveys do not use personal information like names. But all people completing the survey will receive a bag with useful supplies for daily living including hats, socks, matches, shopping cards, and food, and more. Hopefully, they will also make connections that can help them get out of their current homeless situation.

Want to do more? They can use more adult volunteers to go out with the 30 student volunteers who have signed up. Volunteer training will begin at 8 a.m. Jan. 27 at Aspen Arms (950 14th St., Cloquet). Following training, the count will runs from 9 a.m. to noon, with lunch and debriefing at Aspen Arms at 1 p.m. Lakes and Pines CAC will assist with the count in the southern region of Carlton County. Call Bob Nelson to get signed up.

Because homelessness is not OK, and it is a problem here, even if you don’t see people sleeping in cardboard boxes.

~ Jana Peterson