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Kansas City Community Organizations Count Homeless Residents

Think of it as a census for people who don't have addresses.

Starting Wednesday and continuing into Thursday, volunteers with programs who aid Kansas City's homeless population will tally how many of the city's residents lack a permanent place to say. 

Teresa McClain is associate executive director of Community LINC, one of the organizations participating in the survey. Community LINC provides transitional housing, so McClain's staff knows how many people are using the organization's services and where to find homeless people.

But elsewhere it's more complicated.

"They go to the school district because there's a big population of homeless kids," says McClain. "There are a lot of hotels – what we call budget hotels – where families actually live in hotels, and so they do a count there. And there are actually some that go out into the streets and into the homeless camps."

The count is "point in time" – it provides a snapshot of how many homeless people currently live in Kansas City, Mo.

McClain says the counts are used to create state-by-state report cards on homelessness. Locally, organizations use the counts to figure out what parts of town need more services.

"Nationally, homelessness is about 37 percent families," McClain says. But in metro Kansas City, she says, it's 52 percent.

In recent years, McClain says the number of homeless people counted in Kansas City has dropped as policies have shifted toward what's known as rapid re-housing.

"There's a lot of evidence out there that says the quicker you re-house a person or a family, the less likely they'll repeat the cycle of homelessness," says McClain.

McClain's program tries to move homeless individuals from transitional housing into their own places within four months. About 90 percent of people who receive services through Community LINC do not return to homelessness.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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