Counting the homeless is not an exact science, but the regular point-in-time headcount helps gauge Wichita’s progress toward getting individuals off the streets and into permanent shelter. It also helps set funding levels and offers an opportunity to provide health checks, haircuts and food to the homeless population. The latest count, in January, yielded encouraging numbers released last week – that an estimated 561 people were “literally” homeless, compared with 631 last year. It’s likely that, as United Way of the Plains president Pat Hanrahan said, improved cooperation is paying off “in terms of being more efficient in meeting the needs of the homeless.” That’s a credit to the hard work and coordinated efforts of nonprofit agencies, churches, law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, and city and county government. But the job isn’t finished, as evidenced by the 59 homeless veterans counted this year, including 21 termed “chronically homeless” because of disabling conditions. In fact, the clock is ticking on Wichita’s goal, as part of a national effort joined by former Mayor Carl Brewer, to eliminate homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015. One way the community can help is to donate to the Wichita Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team, which is raising funds to meet a challenge grant. – Rhonda Holman
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