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Counting Sacramento County's Homeless

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Four hundred volunteers hit the streets and open fields in Sacramento County last night looking for homeless people. 

The volunteers wore fluorescent vests and carried flashlights and questionnaires.

For many of the volunteers, like Norma Jacobs, this was the first time they had gone out on a homeless count.  

She says she was surprised by who she found.

"Here I thought more people would have more problems with alcohol or drugs," says Jacobs. "Most people are clean and sober. Generally, maybe there is  type of disability that prevents them from  getting steady employment."

The Union Gospel Mission is a block away from the Sacramento Police substation on Richards Boulevard.

After volunteers counted the people staying at the mission, other volunteers counted the overflow population. Some agreed to be interviewed by the volunteers.  A lucky few received a $5 gift card to McDonalds.

Willie McGee is homeless for the second time in a decade. He says he and local agencies are better prepared this time to deal with homelessness.   

"When it first started in 2010, 2007, it was really really off the wall, if you could put it like that," says McGee. "There was no organization. It was kind of like every man for himself and God for us all."

Jeff Harris is the new Sacramento City Councilman for District 3. He says helping the homeless must be a priority.

"For me, it's the ability to self-advocate. To say, okay, how do I improve my lot, how do I get out of this rut, how do I make my life better," says Harris. "That motivation -- once it's gone -- that's a really tough thing to resurrect."

Volunteers will be at shelters this morning to count homeless families.

Two years ago, the homeless count found about 2,500 people homeless in the county on any given night.

0129 BM Count signin

Volunteers sign in and are assigned a route known to have high numbers of homeless people. This group of volunteers prepares to canvas Sacramento's River District. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

0129 BM Count headlights

Volunteers look over their packets of instructions, surveys and other materials before walking Sacramento's River District to count homeless people. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

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Volunteers found this homeless person sleeping outside the Union Gospel Mission in Sacramento's River District. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

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Volunteers Todd Reiners, Greg Mathews and Deanne Hoekstra prepare to approach a group of homeless people. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

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Anna Marie Gshwantdner interviews Bruce Polk, 58. He plans to sleep outside of a shelter in Sacramento's River District. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

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Everett May, 37, waits with a friend while others complete surveys for the homeless count. They each receive a $5 McDonald's gift card and plan to get dinner together. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

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Kathryn Mathews and Norma Jacobs discuss their surveys of homeless people during the Sacramento County homeless count. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio


Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob is the Sacramento Region Reporter. He has been at the forefront of the coverage of the Sacramento Kings' saga and the effort to build a new arena in Sacramento. He also covers education, business, environment, and sports stories.   Read Full Bio 

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