Guam Homeless Coalition conducting count - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam Homeless Coalition conducting count

by Michele Catahay

Guam - The Guam Homeless Coalition and the Interagency Council on Homelessness will be participating in the 2011 Homeless Count on Friday. Family services director for the Salvation Army Simeon Kihleng has been participating in the Homeless Count for about three years now. He says the island has seen an increase in homeless people by the hundreds in the last year.

He says it's almost always difficult to pinpoint where these people stay, telling KUAM News, "When you drive down the main street, the first couple of houses may be nice homes, but behind those second and third houses, especially where there are dirt roads, people will find there are a lot of people who are living in shacks, people who are homeless. People who are living in and homes where it isn't fit for people to live in."

Social worker with the Department of Veterans Affairs and chairperson of the Guam Homeless Coalition Greg Borja says they're mandated by HUD to complete the count. Approximately 130 volunteers have signed up. "What we've seen is that it's not mandated to be done yearly, but the Guam Homeless Coalition has identified the need to do it," he explained."

"It's a major problem because the issue that we see is 'out of side, out of mind', it's actually where you go into certain areas and you see individuals who are living in conditions that are quite horrible, in housing where it should be condemned," Borja also said.

Guam receives federal dollars, and with the military buildup set to take place in the next several years Borja says the island needs to obtain more funding for affordable housing and services for the homeless. He says homelessness doesn't discriminate, noting, "We've seen children who are less than a year old, newborns living in substandard conditions and we can't fault the family because they're doing what they can with the means they have."

The data collected on that day will be used by homeless service providers, the community and policymakers in developing programs and facilities to assist and benefit our homeless population.

If you see volunteers roaming around and conducting interviews for the homeless count, don't be alarmed because the count will take place from 6am to about 8:30 at night.

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