Homeless Counts Eye-Opening

By Mindy Honey, Society Editor, Branson Daily News

Once again, volunteers throughout the community will be scouring Taney County, seeking out the homeless and offering help.

The next Point in Time Count, a 24-hour count of area homeless people, will be held July 29 and organizers are looking for donations and volunteers once again to help out. Organizer Christopher Welch is preparing packages for 500 homeless people.

“We are anticipating huge numbers,” he said.

The last homeless count was in January and had to be scaled back because of a winter storm. The count still found 20 people living in Taney County to be completely unsheltered, with no true place to call home. The count also found 309 people, 237 adults and 72 children, living in weekly rentals units. The count volunteers not only fill out surveys for the Governor’s Committee to End Homelessness, they also pass out backpacks filled with food, hygiene items and information about local organizations that may offer assistance.

“We passed out over 300 care packages and heard some heart-wrenching stories of how individuals, families and children are struggling in Taney county. All of them were thankful for the food, toiletry items, coats, blankets, hats, gloves (and more) that we gave them. Many were emotionally moved that people cared about their problems,” Welch said in a January 30 e-mail.

In late December, I went with Welch and two of his friends on a search for homeless. I had written several stories about the upcoming count and Welch wanted to show me, not just tell me, about the homeless problem in Branson. In about three hours, I met and visited with two people who were homeless and also found at least two, and possibly three or four, campsites where homeless people were staying.

It was eye-opening.

Many were living in the woods just off of the famous 76 Country Boulevard, the road thousands of people drive up and down every day and spend thousands and thousands more at businesses along the road every week and yet here these people were with nothing.

Since that day, one of the gentlemen we met has turned his life around and received help. All it took was Welch and his friend Marty then a man that was living in the woods with no money and only a thin pair of jeans, worn out shoes and tattered coat, has now turned his life around.

The count does more than reveal how big of a problem we have here, it also gives hope to the homeless, which is the best part about the count.

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