Homeless headcount in Fresno, Madera counties

FRESNO, Calif.

Through the cold and fog of the early morning hours Amy Darter and her team spread out around Fresno's Roeding Park. One by one they counted heads and stopped to talk.

One homeless man named Edward told Amy, "I've been riding freight trains."

Amy talked for awhile with Edward, a 50-something year old man. Once in prison, he has no money, no identification. The food he eats is what he can salvage from nearby dumpsters.

Darter said, "Everyone has their own story. Everyone has their different reason for homelessness. It's not what society would view ... it's not a stereotypical thing."

Volunteers with the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care spread out all over both counties Wednesday to tally the number of people who either spent the night unsheltered, or stayed the night in sheltered beds.

Organizers say the survey could tally as many as 4 to 5 thousand homeless. The information gathered will translate into valuable grant money from local, state and federal sources.

Doreen Eley, administrator for Fresno's Poverello House said, "So we know how much housing we need. How much affordable housing ... how much permanent housing ... transitional housing ... supportive housing ... and so we can know what kind of services we need in this community."

Amy Darter, who works full time at Fresno's Housing Authority, believes all the time spent walking, writing and talking in the cold will pay dividends many miles down the road. "I've met so many wonderful people who were formerly homeless - as soon as we house them, they grow and blossom and become who they want to be."

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