New Hampshire will move forward with its yearly count of individuals experiencing homeless on Wednesday.
Each year, communities across the country use one day in January to get a snapshot of the number of people experiencing homelessness. This data informs what kind of support and funding are needed at a federal and local level.
“It informs all kinds of services that come into our state. So we want to get as accurate a count as possible because we want to get the funding to the places that need it,” said Melissa Hatfield, who leads the state’s Bureau of Housing Supports.
For Hatfield, the count is important, but she says housing is what ends homelessness.
“That’s what we’re hoping this number can help us advocate for, is more affordable housing for folks,” she said.
With the pandemic, outreach teams across the state will gear up with PPE, masks and tablets to engage with this community.
At the time of 2020's January count, a little more than 2,000 people in New Hampshire were experiencing homelessness.
Hatfield says it’s possible that this year’s count might be higher because of the pandemic.
“Part of that is due to social distancing in shelters, and part of it has been due to fear of being in a congregate setting. So we’ve seen a bit of an increase in unsheltered homelessness.”
Hatfield says her bureau is also working with the state’s 13 public health regions to set up mobile vaccination clinics and appointments at homeless shelters over the next few weeks.
“We can’t do it fast enough,” she said. “We know this congregate setting is the riskiest setting to have folks unvaccinated. We worry about the folks that are unsheltered as well because a lot of times people come into a shelter for a night or two and then go back out. We want to make sure everyone is protected.”
Data collected from the Homeless Management Information System suggests around 4,500 people in N.H. experienced homelessness last year. Click here to read the full 2020 report from the N.H. Coalition to End Homelessness.