Federal grant helps pay for $39k annual cost for Waco homeless - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

Federal grant helps pay for $39k annual cost for Waco homeless

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WACO -

It costs thousands in city money for each homeless person every year, and they're offsetting that by counting who all is on the streets.

According to a Baylor study, it costs the city $39,000 a year for each homeless person in Waco. That's because of hospital stays, 911 calls and welfare checks. However, if that person has a home, it costs the city much less because they are off the streets.

To get them off the streets, Waco applies for a federal grant called the continuum of care grant. To get this grant, the city needs to count how many homeless people are in the city. That way they can get the $763,000 a year like that got last year.

"Which is vital for taking folks who are either living on the streets or living in our emergency shelters and getting them and linking them into housing because that's the goal of all this," HMIS administrator for the city Jennifer Caballero.

Last year the city says they counted 30 chronically homeless people. Those are people who have been homeless for more than a year. However, there were more than 250 people in total on the streets.

The Homeless Connection at the Waco Convention center helped to count the number of homeless Thursday. It also provided a one stop shop for services like medical screenings, a dentist, haircuts and coats. Volunteers say they provide 400 coats and they're always open for donations.

The connection also provided another service. It reunited two men who became fast friends in the early 90's. Robinson JV baseball coach Cullen Zellers met up with Vietnam veteran Mike Johnson. Neither expected to see each other.

"When I saw him, just unbelievable. He ran up and he said it's you and gave me a big hug," Zellers said.

"The last person in the world, I thought I'd never see him again and there he is," Johnson said.

Johnson says they became friends after he let Johnson stay on his porch when he lived on 5th street near Baylor.

"When the weather would come through, I'd run to that porch, get on the porch and when he moved in he just allowed it to keep happening and we became close friends," Johnson said.

Now, more than 21 years later they're reunited. Zellers says he's been telling his kids on his baseball team about Johnson and they were all there to see the reunion.

"I looked around and the women in charge of this group, just tears streaming. Yeah it's crazy," Zellers said.

"Actually I kind of teared up a little bit. I did but I didn't let anybody see it," Johnson said. "You can't put a price on that kind of friendship, that kind of love. You can't do it."

Both men say they will try and keep in touch from now on. Johnson said hopefully he'll be able to meet Zellers' wife and kids.

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