JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Volunteers and members of local organizations were in Johnson City on Thursday for their annual Point-In-Time Count, also referred to as the Homeless Count.
In red vests, more than 100 volunteers and members of the organization ARCH counted the homeless across eight counties in Northeast Tennessee. They counted the homeless in Washington, Sullivan, Cater, Greene, Johnson, Unicoi, Hawkins and Hancock counties.
The event helps get grant money for aiding the homeless. The number of homeless people in this area determines how many federal and private dollars will come to this region.
Michael Lewis was out with the group, surveying the homeless at the Johnson City Salvation Army. He's a case manager at ARCH. ARCH keeps track of the homeless in this area and manages the grants.
"It's very important that we have an accurate count so that the funds can be spread out among the homeless," said Lewis.
The volunteers use surveys to find out if people at shelters and on the streets are homeless, or staying with friends and family.
We're told due to the economy, the number of homeless people in Johnson City is on the rise.
"There's been a spike in the last year or so," said Lewis.
Lewis told us that almost 30 percent of the homeless people in Johnson City are veterans.
We're told the number of homeless children has also gone up in the last 12 months.
"We have about 15 families that do qualify for this Point-In-Time Count that are either living on the streets, or in a shelter, or in a hotel," said Bonnie White, an ARCH volunteer.
White is also the homeless coordinator with Johnson City Schools.
We talked to her at another counting spot, the Melting Pot in Johnson City.She told us the federal funds will help struggling families get back on their feet.
"Grants that will help pay light bills, that will help pay first month's rent and deposit," White explained.
Each person who filled out a survey on Thursday was given a fleece blanket and gloves.
The Homeless Count is a 24-hour event so the volunteers will be out all night collecting data.
"We started at around 10:50 a.m. today at this location so we'll end at 10:50 a.m. tomorrow," said White.