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Students help count Columbus’ homeless

“If you were to see a severely depressed or mentally unstable person about to jump off of a building, would you stand there and watch them jump or would you try to stop them?”

Ken Andrews uses that question to appeal to the logic of people who view homelessness as a series of bad choices, including drug or alcohol abuse.

Andrews is an outreach specialist who works with the Mount Carmel Mobile Outreach Van and the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless.

Should a beggar approach students on the street, Andrews urges students to go back to their dorm and report the whereabouts of the person to a social worker rather than give the money or food the person asks for.

Giving to the beggar directly makes you extremely vulnerable, and your resources would be better put to use if donated to a shelter or a soup kitchen instead, he said.

Andrews estimated about 50 percent of those beggars are not actually homeless. Rather, they are “players,” he said, who are just trying to make a little extra money from non-suspecting college students.

Some Ohio State students are working to help the homeless.

Ohio State social work students and graduates are scheduled today to volunteer to walk the streets and visit homeless shelters in Columbus as part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s “Point-in-Time” count. The students will tally the unsheltered individuals who are living on the streets, in camps, or other areas that are not suitable for human habitation.

The count takes place each year throughout the U.S. during the last week in January. The Columbus and Franklin County Continuum of Care Steering Committee and Community Shelter Board conduct the count locally.

Tiffany Hart, a fourth-year in social work, said she decided to take part in the event because it provides her a good chance to see and be involved with the people she plans to work for in the future. Working with the homeless was her motivation for going into social work, and her main interest is homeless veterans, she said.

The event is split into two parts. The land count will take place from 3:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. and will be by foot or in cars. About 100 volunteers are needed for this part, and a half-hour training session will be held immediately before the count, said Frankie Jones-Harris, communications director at Ohio State’s College of Social Work in an e-mail to volunteers.

The second part is a meal count, which will take place at Faith Mission on East Long Street and also at Friends of the Homeless on East Main Street. The breakfast count will be at 6:30 a.m., lunch at 11:30 a.m., and dinner at 4:30 p.m., Jones-Harris said in the e-mail.

If interested in getting involved with the homeless, donating items or money, or contacting someone about a person living on the streets, contact the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless at 614-228-1342 or e-mail info@columbushomeless.org.


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