HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Agencies that fanned out across rural areas on Jan. 29, tried to count the number of homeless people in each Missouri county.
In Northeast Missouri, the numbers weren't high, but officials say the annual Point in Time Count gives them a glimpse of a problem that often is hidden.
"The county is very crucial to help identify how many people are out there that really need some help to find stable and permanent housing," said Linda Fritz, community services program director for the North East Community Action Corporation.
"Sometimes people think that homeless people are sleeping in cardboard boxes or under bridges. But it can also be people living in cars or someone who is couch surfing, where they're sheltered, but it's not their place," Fritz said.
In this area the count found five homeless people in Marion County, four in Lewis County, one in Pike County and none in Monroe or Ralls counties.
Brent Engel of NECAC said other counties the agency helped tabulate were Lincoln, with five homeless people located, Montgomery County with two, Randolph with 11 and Warren with 37.
The statewide effort is designed to get a count on sheltered and unsheltered homeless people, including "couch surfers" who move from house-to-house living with friends or family. The final numbers will be used to come up with programs to address homeless issues.
Statistics show that Missouri has almost 5,900 homeless people. That includes about 500 veterans and 500 young adults ages 18 to 24.
Homelessness in rural areas is different than that in large cities. There aren't many people out on the street. There also isn't as much mental illness among rural homeless. Some homeless people in rural areas work jobs during the day, but do not have a permanent place to sleep at night. They rely upon family, friends and others.
Fritz said the Point in Time Count can help agencies apply for grants to help address the needs of homeless people.
"If homeless people come to NECAC or any other agency, we're going to try to help them," Fritz said.
Knowing the size and scope of the problem also helps agencies seek solutions and reach individuals in need.
NECAC has self-sufficiency programs, housing alternatives and life skills classes that can help those who are homeless or on the verge of it. More information is available from the local NECAC Service Center or by calling 573-3246633.
Information on the Point in Time Count is available at moboscoc.org/point-in-time-count