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January 24, 2013

Higher homeless count expected

NORMAN — Cleveland County is conducting an annual homeless count today to provide a snapshot of the number of individuals and families in the area that are considered homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The count began at midnight Wednesday and will continue until midnight today.

“It allows us to see each year whether we are making headway,” said city of Norman grants planner Lisa Krieg.

Food and Shelter Executive Director April Doshier said she expects the count to rise this year, based on the increased requests in services her organization is receiving.

Doshier said a lot of people have been coming into Norman for mental health treatment, and with the larger correctional facility, more people are being released in the streets.

Krieg said the number of homeless people in the county has remained fairly constant for the past few years, coming in around 600.

The count will not only include the number of those spending the night at shelters but also those who go to the shelter for noon or evening meals, those known to be living in encampments and those who call in who may have been “flying under the radar” traveling from couch to couch for shelter, Doshier said.

Those spearheading the count also will receive information from law enforcement, such as Norman and Moore police and the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, if officers come into contact with someone during the 24-hour period. The Department of Human Services also will analyze clients and ask questions that would indicate homelessness, Krieg said.

Each shelter will receive a form to fill out, including information such as age, basic demographics and household composition. Doshier said entities taking the count also will ask individuals and families how they became homeless and what they’ve done to try to get out of homelessness.

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