by Krystal Paco
Guam - They occupy the island's emergency shelters, the beaches, and sometimes even school bus stops...who are they? They are the island's homeless and they're set to be counted as part of the upcoming Guam Homeless Coalition point-in-time count.
"It's an all-day count of the island's homeless and it's set for January 24, 2014," said Margaret Hattori-Uchima with the University of Guam. "Why do we do the count every year? Even our homeless clients that we count every year always ask us we saw you last year why are you here? 1328 one thing we've done in the last two years is add more information to the form, so that we can get a better idea of some of the characteristics of the homeless."
But what classifies a person as homeless? Hattori-Uchima said, "Individuals and families who lack a fixed regular and adequate nighttime residence."
But it's not just those without shelter, as Hattori-Uchima reported to the Mayors Council of Guam earlier this week, the count includes those who live in substandard housing or structures that leave inhabitants exposed to the elements.
In addition to helping the island garner funding to support the population, the count also provides insight into who is homeless and why they're homeless.
According to this year's count, the top reasons for homelessness are personal choice, financial problems, and unemployment. Other reasons include family problems and drug and alcohol abuse.
But who's homeless?
Chamorros dominate the population. Of a total 1,100 reported homeless this year, over 500 are Chamorro, followed by Chuukese with over 200, and Pohnpeian at 80.
But where can we find the homeless? For the last three years, most could be found in Yigo with close to 500 from the northern village, followed by Dededo with over 300, and Hagatna with close to 100.
But what can we do to help this population? Hattori-Uchima says she's looking to village mayors for assistance. After all, village mayors are literally the heads of huge families. During her presentation, she requested mayors provide not only village information, but volunteers to help the survey, and help with assembling hygiene and food bags, as well as donations.
If you're interested in volunteering for the count, call Amor Say from GHURA at 475-1406.