A recent count by the Heart of Illinois Continuum of Care has reported a larger number of homeless people in the Peoria area.

The Point-in-Time Count and what the COC calls a “Street Sweep,” conducted on Jan. 27, consisted of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford and Fulton Counties.

A recent count by the Heart of Illinois Continuum of Care has reported a larger number of homeless people in the Peoria area.

The Point-in-Time Count and what the COC calls a “Street Sweep,” conducted on Jan. 27, consisted of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford and Fulton Counties.

“This is higher than what we typically get. This is how it’s mandated to us on how we do this count. We can’t find everybody,” said Kevin Nowlan, a member of the COC Steering Committee.

“A lot of people don’t want to be found, but we do the best to our ability.”

A press release stated these numbers help the COC understand the face of homelessness within the communities, ensure that services are meeting the needs of the homeless, raise public awareness about issues surrounding the homeless and measure community progress toward preventing and ending homelessness. 

The count of unsheltered homeless is conducted every other year.

In the 2013 count, the COC found 24 households consisting of 26 individuals homeless in all of its coverage area.

The Jan. 27 count found 17 homeless households in Tazewell County and 16 homeless households in Peoria County.

In Tazewell, the unsheltered households consisted of 40 individuals and 20 children under the age of 18.

Pekin had the largest count than any other Tazewell city, town or village with 15 households consisting of 34 individuals and 16 children.

Morton had one homeless individual and Creve Coeur had one household that consisted of five individuals, four of whom were children.

Numbers for Woodford County were not available.

Nowlan said 30 volunteers helped with the count, but the COC cannot get a full number of unsheltered homeless due to areas it cannot access, such as abandoned buildings and properties.

“A lot of planning goes into it, and getting with local communities and police departments for information,” Nowlan said.

The cause for the rise in the number of unsheltered homeless was also an unknown, since the count is done every other year and on a single night.

“I can’t tell you why. It could be better planning that we did this year. I can’t make any extrapolation that there’s more homeless people on the street, just because it’s a Point-In-Time Count,” Nowlan said.

Another issue seen throughout the state and country is the rate of homeless veterans.

In a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Illinois saw a 20-percent rise of homeless veterans, 206 total, from 2009-2014. Illinois was just one of three states that experienced increases of more than 100 homeless veterans since 2009.

Utah had 151 and Arkansas saw a rise of 112 over the five-year period.

In a COC finding from last year, three veterans families and 72 individuals were found in an emergency shelter. In the transitional housing program, one veteran family and 18 individuals were counted, and 45 veteran individuals were in permanent supportive housing programs.

Nowlan said to enter these sheltered programs, the families and individuals would have to be unsheltered prior to being admitted.

The numbers collected by the COC were reported to the federal government for mandate purposes. Federal funding for homeless programs and resources is determined by the numbers, Nowlan said.

“We would be out of compliance if we did not do this,” said Nowlan.

For more information on the COC, visit www.HOICOC.com.