If resources like Gateway to Hope didn’t exist, Samuel Solomon, of Tyler, is not quite sure how he would get by.

Solomon said he has no physical address and sleeps in a camper without heat or air conditioning.

At Gateway to Hope, Solomon has been able to use the location’s address to receive mail, take showers, charge electronics, get haircuts and use the internet.

“I used to work. I used to have a wife, a house and kids and all those things,” he said. “But the kids are grown and the old body broke down.

“At kind of the bottom-line level, I don’t know what I would have done if these things weren’t here,” he added.

On Thursday, volunteers took to the streets and facilities like Gateway that serve Tyler’s homeless population to get a gauge of those in similar situations.

Organized by the East Texas Human Needs Network, the Point-In-Time Homeless Count is completed annually to help social service agencies and other entities address homelessness in the community and adjust or create programs to meet specific needs. 

The data collected also can be useful information for agencies when they are applying for grants.

The first question participants were asked is where they were going to sleep Thursday night. From there, volunteers were able to understand if someone was planning on sleeping in a shelter or on the streets.

Some other details noted during the survey included if a person is a veteran, a child or was experiencing homelessness for the first time.

“We would love to get a good gauge on the number of people who need some help so that organizations can put that together to meet their needs,” said Andrea Wilson, programs director at PATH, a local nonprofit, and who led this year’s count. “If we don’t know what we’re working with, how do we seek funding for more shelter beds or more transitional housing beds.”

Wilson added that every year she hopes the count accomplishes at least one major goal.

“I hope that we are able to give a voice to a population that isn’t heard very often,” she said.

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