On Thursday, volunteers of a nonprofit organization participated in this year's count of the homeless population in Bell County.
Central Texas Homeless Coalition, which spearheaded the 2018 point-in-time count, went to shelters and outside areas where homeless people usually congregate.
Volunteers surveyed dozens of homeless people who were going to have lunch at Feed My Sheep, a Texas faith-based ministry for the homeless and needy.
Some of the questions asked included whether they have experienced homelessness before and where they planned to sleep at night.
Felicia Burden with the Central Texas Homeless Coalition who helped surveying homeless said the information gives the community an idea the magnitude of the issue.
During the 2017 point-in-time count, volunteers found 506 people were homeless.
“506 people may not seem a lot in a community of 30,000, 40,000, 50,000,” Burden said. “It's 506 people that don't have a place to live and that's 506 units we need to find."
According to Texas Homeless Network Continuum of Care Manager Mary Rychlik, the nonprofit organization compiles the data collected and analyzes it. The group later sends it to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"The point is to count everybody in a community on one day so the community has a much better idea of how many people in their community are experiencing homelessness and what their needs are so the community can work to address those needs,” Rychlik said.
Burden said the data can also be useful when applying for grants at the state and federal level.
"I really want to make sure that people have a roof over their heads and they feel safe and secure and they're not having to sleep on the streets or their cars under bridges,” Burden said.
A 27-year-old man currently homeless who only wanted to be identified as Paul said it has been difficult living outside.
"I walk everywhere, I carry my stuff everywhere. I sleep outside,” Paul said.
Paul said he has been homeless on and off for 15 years because of having family problems, not attending school and being incarcerated.
He said 16 months ago he started sleeping on the streets again after he lost his job and his house.
"It's pretty tough, you have to figure out what you are going to do with all your stuff, try to adapt, basically try to stay alive,” Paul said.
The Temple resident who said he sleeps under a bridge said he wishes there were more shelters.
“There’s really not a lot of help around here,” Paul said.
The point-in-time count is conducted in cities and counties across the U.S during one day in January. In McLennan County, it is expected to take place next Monday.
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