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Volunteers Fan Out to Count Kansas Homeless | News

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Volunteers Fan Out to Count Kansas Homeless
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Thousands of volunteers spread out across Kansas on Wednesday to try and get an accurate count of the number of homeless in the state.

Advocates say that the number of homeless families in Kansas is growing in places that you may not expect.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says the homeless count is essential in tailoring state efforts to help. At least partial results should be available in the next 10 days

There are only two emergency shelters in Johnson County. Amber Bell and her family say that they have been blessed to be able to stay there, and without it they would be on the streets.

"That would be extremely difficult," said Bell. "My husband works two jobs, and he works a day job and he works a job at Target.There would be nights when we would be sleeping in the parking lots, and that's scary enough to have your poor kids sleep in a freezing van. It's a terrifying thought."

Bell and her family represent a growing homeless population across the county. The Johnson County Interfaith Hospitality Network, which is supported by 35 churches, say that they could easily double the size of its shelter if more congregations joined the effort.

"Because we are Johnson County, there are so many individuals that don't believe that there are homeless individuals in their backyard," said Vicki Dercher of the Interfaith Hospitality Network. "We are located in heart of Johnson County and are typically at capacity with homeless families in need of shelter."

Agencies that help the homeless find work and a place to live expect the Kansas count to show an increase in the homeless population because of job losses and growing poverty among the working.

"In our last count, 52 percent of households that we counted there that were homeless were also working," said Valerie Carson of United Community Services. "These could be our friends, these could be our neighbors, these could be our family members. We need to be responsive to that because they are part of our community, they're part of our economy, they are us."

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