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Report: 40 homeless found in Rock County

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Catherine W. Idzerda
January 25, 2008
— Last night, the low temperature was minus 11.

Last night, at least 40 people in Rock County spent the night sleeping outside, in their cars or wandering through 24-hours gas stations, rest stops or big box stores.


Those are the grim results from the Homeless Intervention Task Force’s biannual count of homeless people.


“We targeted Janesville, Beloit, Edgerton, Milton and along the Interstate corridor,” explained Marc Perry, director of planning and development for Community Action of Janesville.


The task force, which comprises members from nonprofit and human services organizations, conducts the survey every September and January.


Teams gathered at ECHO at about 10 p.m. Thursday, participated in a brief training and then spread out into the county.


“We looked in strategic places like under bridges and overpasses,” Perry explained. “We also checked stores like Wal Mart, gas stations, rest stops—places that are open for 24 hours.”


Some people live in their cars and use 24-hour stores and rest stops to keep warm.


Most of the homeless people they encountered were men, but they did find a couple and their child living in their car.


The team made contact with about 16 people but found evidence of at least 40. Often, homeless people scatter when they hear the volunteers coming. However, they leave behind evidence such as sleeping bags. At those sites, volunteers leave care packages because they know the people will return after they leave.


Care packages contain items such as blankets, socks, toiletries, can openers and flashlights.


They convinced one man to take a voucher for a motel stay.


“Honestly, it’s rare that people we meet want to come in,” Perry said.


Some of that has to do with fear, and some of it has to do with embarrassment, Perry explained.


However, that doesn’t mean services aren’t needed. At the end of December, the GIFTS task force started a homeless shelter for single men that rotates from church to church.


Perry reported the traveling shelter now is averaging about 16 men a night.


That’s 16 people who aren’t out in the cold.



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