An unsheltered man and his dog sit on a grassy area next to Chestnut Expressway in January 2023. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

All of the crisis cold weather shelters in Springfield will be open on the night of Jan. 25 — no matter the weather — in an effort to collect information from as many unsheltered people as possible for the annual point-in-time count.

The point-in-time count, known locally as the Every One Counts Campaign, is a federally-mandated count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness.

Because the number of unsheltered people counted helps determine funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, service providers say it’s important to collect information from as many people experiencing homelessness as possible. 

Last year’s point-in-time count found about 450 individuals who were spending the night in some type of shelter program. 

The Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness (the Continuum of Care for Greene, Webster and Christian counties) will conduct the count with help from the Connecting Grounds and Burrell Behavioral Health outreach teams.

Those teams will be doing extensive outreach on the nights of Jan. 25 and 26, according to a news release from Community Partnership of the Ozarks. 

Just outside of the Veterans Coming Home Center in Springfield. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Additionally, the Connecting Grounds’ Outreach Center at 3000 W. Chestnut Expressway will be open 24 hours throughout the night of Jan. 25 to help with the count. 

The crisis cold weather shelters, which normally open on nights when the temperature is expected to hit 32 or colder, are housed inside church buildings and community centers throughout Springfield. Unsheltered people can get a ride to these shelters if they come to Grace United Methodist Church at 600 S. Jefferson Ave., as they normally do for the evening meal served at 5:30 p.m.  

Prior to the pandemic, the Alliance would host a magnet event in downtown Springfield to help draw people to be counted. At these events, people could also get free meals, groceries and free services like vision screenings and haircuts. 

This year, the outreach teams and volunteers will have “goodie bags” with items like socks and hand warmers to hand out to folks participating in the count. 

While the annual point-in-time count is an important tool to help guide program development and funding allocation, homeless advocates and service providers know the number is not 100 percent accurate. It is difficult to capture all of the people living in vehicles or couch surfing, for example. Weather, too, can impact how many people are counted. 

Jackie Rehwald

Jackie Rehwald is a reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. She covers housing, homelessness, domestic violence and early childhood, among other public affairs issues. Her office line is 417-837-3659. More by Jackie Rehwald