FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- People in Cumberland County are volunteering for an initiative happening across the country to count how many people are living on the street. The annual effort is called the Point-In-Time Count.
The project provides data to the federal government on the homeless population that is later used to help create resources for people without a permanent home. About a dozen teams will be canvassing the streets from Thursday to Friday.
The local initiative is lead by Cumberland County's Community Development Department. Officials say volunteers are trained in how to approach those who seem to be living on the street.
"When you go out into the community, you're not forceful. We ask if they want to do it but we teach to be sensitive," said Tawana Dawkins of Cumberland County Community Development. "Even if a person is laying somewhere, we teach them to approach them slowly because wherever they are that's their home and you should not enter without being given permission."
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The statistics gathered on people experiencing homelessness through the count will later inform projects like creating shelters and other amenities. Volunteers aren't just surveying people; they're giving away care packages.
"Warm scarves, hand-knit sweaters, socks, little snacks, all those interesting things. Because as we encounter people we want to leave them with something," said Tyrone Fields, an organizer with the Count.
ABC11 spoke with one volunteer who said she is involved because she knows homelessness can happen to anyone.
"Some people are just one check away from being in the same predicament of the individuals that we're serving," said Krizea Armbrister. "And that's the reason why--it's that nobody understands the gravity of homelessness. And it doesn't only happen to that one person. It happens to the community and it happens to the family."
Some volunteers were veterans and said some of the people they surveyed were vets just like them. They noted a number of veterans were stuck without a home because they had yet to receive their military benefits like social security.
"It's kind of eye-opening to see that the systems that are supposed to be helping them are not helping them, and that's why they're where they're at right now. That does kind of touch you in a way because we all served at one point together," volunteer Gabby Villalta said.
The Point-In-Time Count officially finishes Friday morning. Cumberland County said data retrieved from the count will first be reviewed by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) before being released to the public.
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