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Michael Satterly, deputy director of the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program searches for homeless in Cherokee County near Ga. Highway 92 last year as part of the annual point-in-time count.

Local volunteers, nonprofits and veterans organizations are gearing up for the annual count of Cherokee County’s homeless population, which determines federal and state funding for homeless programs and resources in each Georgia county.

According to information from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, organizations in each county will be tasked with collecting data from Jan. 28 through Feb. 3, focusing on housing status on the night of Jan. 28. Surveys will be collected in that date range, and a single-night count of all homeless will be conducted on Jan. 28. The survey questions, the DCA said, should work to determine where those experiencing homelessness were sleeping on the night of the count.

Surveys are conducted each year by volunteers who visit known locations of homeless people, as well as food banks, public libraries and other service providers, to get the most accurate count of each county’s homeless.

The state agency also cautioned that homeless people living in majority-rural counties – including Cherokee – “may look very different from those experiencing homelessness in urban areas.”

“The target population is individuals and families living in a place that is not meant for human habitation, such as living outside, in an abandoned structure, dilapidated housing, cars or other motor vehicles or encampments,” according to the DCA documents.

The point-in-time count in Cherokee is led by the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program, and while volunteers will search for all homeless, the organization’s director emphasizes the need to locate and provide for homeless veterans.

“We are working with the other veteran organizations within Cherokee County to help identify our fellow veterans … who are living on the street, in their vehicles, or living in conditions that would consider them to be homeless by Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs standards,” said Jim Lindenmayer, director of the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program.

Lindenmayer said Cherokee County is ranked No. 2, second only to Bibb County in Middle Georgia, in overall numbers of homeless veterans in Georgia’s 152 designated rural counties. He also said the Cherokee County count will take place from Jan. 28 – 30, and volunteers will split the county into five sections.

Lindenmayer said that while the annual homeless count addresses both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people, the county has no homeless shelters, so every homeless person in Cherokee is unsheltered.

Veterans organizations participating in the 2019 count include American Legion Post 45 in Canton, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5262 in Canton, Soleil Veterans Club in Canton, American Legion Post 316 in Woodstock, the Marine Corps League of Woodstock, and the U.S. Army recruiting command.

“In past years we have identified over 20 homeless camps within Cherokee County that we will again visit for activity. Currently, we have identified and are tracking some homeless veterans in the county ahead of the count. Once collected, the information will be returned to the state of Georgia Department of Community Affairs where follow-on programs, both at the state, county, local and the VA level will be developed to address and assist those veterans, both male and female, that find themselves homeless within the county,” Lindenmayer said.

The Cherokee County Homeless Veteran Program is asking for anyone who may know the location of homeless veterans to contact program command at 678-983-7590. Reports on the location of homeless veterans can also be made at any time by leaving a message on the American Legion Post 45 voicemail at 770-479-4405 and selecting option 3.

Thomas is a government, business, crime and features reporter for the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger News. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University and currently lives in Kennesaw, Georgia.

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