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Volunteers needed to help count homeless veterans

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is calling on volunteers to help count homeless veterans living in the metro Atlanta area. Federal officials need volunteers to hit the streets and shelters in the City of Atlanta, as well as DeKalb and parts of Fulton County on Monday, Jan. 27.    

“Homelessness is an issue that we can not ignore. A number of our veterans who have served this country are homeless,” said DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson. “Under bridges, in abandoned forest areas, you always wonder how do these people exist in these cold conditions. It is imperative that we get an accurate count of the homeless so we can get them the services they need.”

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The data will be reported as part of the 2014 Metro Atlanta Homeless Census.  

“Veterans homelessness is a serious issue across our nation. We need your help. Please join us for this count,” said Johnson, who has assisted in the count before and is currently working on finding a place in DeKalb to house homeless veterans. “We must all come together in this partnership to help our veterans. Help us understand how many vets are homeless and what we can to help in Atlanta, DeKalb County and Fulton County.” 

The Pathways Community Network Institute is leading the effort to sign up volunteers to conduct the count.  

“To best serve the homeless, we must gather accurate data on our homeless population to track the success of local efforts to end homelessness,” said Josie Parker, who is heading the Metro Atlanta Count for Pathways. “By complying with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) requirements, such as conducting a homeless census, our community receives more than $10 million annually in federal funding for homeless services and housing.”

In 2009, President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki

announced the goal of eliminating homelessness among veterans by 2015. Parker says collecting accurate data on the numbers and demographics of individuals and families experiencing homelessness is a critical part of the VA planning and program development to end homelessness.   

In July 2013, Congressman Hank Johnson rallied for more than $4.5 million to help fight veterans’ homelessness. The money went to two ministries and shelters that provide emotional and financial support, as well as housing stability.

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 “Often veterans have put their lives on the line for us, for our freedoms,” said Rep. Johnson. “The U.S. military is the greatest fighting force in history, and the men and women who serve in it must never be neglected. We must do all we can to help veterans get back on their feet.”

Volunteers will receive coffee, tea and snacks and a continental breakfast during the count. 

Volunteers will conduct count surveys at emergency shelters and transitional housing programs from 4 – 9 p.m. Street counts will be conducted from 9 p.m. – 3 a.m.    

In case of bad weather, the count will be held on Thursday, Jan. 30. For more information or to sign up to volunteer, call 404-639-9939 or visit www.pcni.org.

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