Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Count: 31 Unsheltered Homeless in Bristol

Searchers that went out early this morning found some homeless people and even more evidence that they're sleeping and living outdoors in the Mum City.
The final tally was 31, which is an educated guess, based on the people they spoke with and the stuff they saw -- tents, bins of belongings, even a doghouse. They found that people were living in Rockwell Park, on the railroad tracks, in the woods, in cars and more.
Marge Rivera, a caseworker at The Salvation Army who helped organize the count, guessed they'd find 13-15 people by looking in all the usual places. She said she was a little surprised to find twice that many. She said they were able to interview eight people. That's a lot compared to the three or four people they spoke with over the winter count in 2009.
The local effort searches typical places where homeless people are known to stay. The statewide point in time count, which tries to count all the unsheltered homeless in a single couple of hours, uses a formula that to me, doesn't make much sense, at least in Bristol.
Anyway, that's not what happened today. They looked in all the usual places and found more than they expected.
For the record, the 31 were men and women, no children. At least one veteran. Ages 20 to mid-50s. Three of them will be in the Bristol Emergency Shelter this evening. Others wanted no part of the place.


  1. Sergeant SchultzJuly 29, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    This story raises lots of questions.

    So what is the formula you disagree with?

    Doesn't it stand to reason that more homeless would brave the elements in July as opposed to... January?

    How many beds are currently available in Bristol shelters right now?

    Why don't the homeless want any part of going to the shelter?

    Do they routinely count the dogs as well?

    Just curious.

  2. Sgt. Schultz,
    Your questions are good ones and I thank you for asking. They did expect to find more in the summer when more people are sleeping outside than in the wintertime, when friends will sometimes offer a place to crash.
    The formula the state uses defies understanding. It divides the city into sections and sends searchers out to look for homeless in a certain percentage of them. This method could have searchers looking in swanky neighborhoods and not on the railroad tracks. They use a statistical method to determine how many homeless there must be based on the expectation that they'll find people in any given area and whether they in fact do find them. Maybe it works, but it doesn't make sense to me. If you want more information, let me know. Either post another comment or contact me. I have written about it in the past and I can find it for you but this is what I remember off the top of my head at this late hour.

    The Bristol Emergency Shelter has 25 beds for men, women and children. The director, Phil Lysiak, tells me it is always full. Apparently as soon as a bed is available it is filled.
    The Elms is a separate (long term) program for 13 men. The women's transitional is another long term program for 10 women with children.

    I put some of this in my story for The Bristol Press but perhaps it got cut out. That's something I can't control.

    Some of the homeless people don't like the shelter because of the strict rules. One rule is no alcohol. That's a tough one for some to live with, apparently. They also frown on drug use at the shelter. These rules may be hard for the homeless population to deal with, since many of them are struggling with addiction or mental health issues or both.

    The shelter requires people to be in by a certain time and to leave in the morning and be out all day.
    Some people just don't want to be confined.

    About the dogs: Another shelter rule is no pets. Some of these people do have a dog or other animal and they don't want to part with them. I can understand how a loyal dog could be the one good thing in your life and how someone could choose not to give it up for a night in the shelter, which is not exactly the Ritz. It's not even Motel 6.
    I'm not saying that to disparage the shelter. I have written about people complaining about conditions there in the past. I am sure it is not the greatest but I am also sure they are dealing with a very tight budget and doing what they can with it.

    Because some people have a tough time living with the rules, some are tossed out of the shelter and some aren't allowed to return for a period of time, or ever.

    They weren't counting the dogs out there, they were just noting that there was a little doghouse near some other stuff that led the searchers to believe that people were living there and had a dog.

    I hope this is useful information to you and my other, valued Extra B.S. readers.