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Hundreds Of Volunteers Turn Out For Homeless Count Across Greater Houston

More than 500 people took part in the annual event to help gather data on the homeless population’s size and demographics.

Hundreds of volunteers took part in the annual homeless count Thursday night across Greater Houston.  

Terri Riha was one of the volunteers. She used a checklist as she interviewed a homeless woman in James Bute Park in downtown Houston. She wants to be sure she gets every detail right. Riha has been volunteering with the homeless count for more than 18 years. She said her strategy is to make people feel at ease.

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Terri Riha (center) consults a map with fellow volunteers before the homeless count.

“Building rapport, feeling comfortable with them, and having them feel comfortable enough with you to share their story and to trust in you that the help you’re trying to provide is going to be effective for them,” Riha said.

She said many homeless individuals are not aware of the services available to them, and the most rewarding part is motivating people to seek help.

“It’s magical,” Riha said. “It’s a wonderful feeling for both the homeless person as well as the service provider because you made a difference in that person’s life.”

Last year, the group counted more than 5,300 homeless individuals.

Mark Thiele has been volunteering with the homeless count for three years. He said he wants to make a difference.

“This is an opportunity for both agencies and a tremendous swath of community volunteers to look into the face of homelessness and recommit again to solving this problem,” Thiele said. 

The 2015 figures are expected to be released this summer. Houston Mayor Annise Parker is committed to ending chronic homelessness in the city by 2016.

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Tomeka Weatherspoon

Tomeka Weatherspoon

Producer

Tomeka Weatherspoon is an Emmy-award winning producer. She produces segments, the weekly television program Arts InSight, the short film showcase The Territory and a forthcoming digital series on innovation. Originally from the Midwest, Tomeka studied convergence journalism from the world’s first journalism school at the University of Missouri. She has...

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