NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) – They are living in abandoned homes, along creek beds and in the woods. They are East Texans without a place to call home.
Often the homeless go unnoticed, but not Thursday. Volunteers trekked through the Nacogdoches woods in search of those without a home.
"In previous years we've just surveyed the sheltered homeless and this year we're really trying to get out and find some unsheltered homeless which was more difficult in this area anyway due to the weather we've recently had," said Homeless Prevention Director for Love In the Name of Christ, Angela Kirk.
So difficult they couldn't find one person to survey.
Love I.N.C staff member Lacey Hatcher makes frequent walks along Banita Creek.
"I've seen several makeshift homes out of mattresses. I've seen people just lounging around in the creek," said Hatcher.
Kirk did find what she calls "evidence."
"We've found several trails where you can tell this area's been heavily traveled because there's cut limbs, fences pushed over. We found lean-to's, tents, little rooms put together with sticks and twigs," she said.
Homelessness isn't confined to shelters. That's why this is the first year Love I.N.C is searching out those in need.
"Doing the survey is part of a needs gap analysis to show what their needs are, what the reasons that they're become homeless and what's preventing them from regaining housing," said Kirk.
This one day snapshot helps determine how much funding goes to homeless services. Kirk says the need is huge.
"We need more shelters with transitional housing with employment training so they can gain jobs and obtain permanent housing," she said.
They hope seeking out the unsheltered population will spread an important message to East Texans.
"People really don't realize that we have people in a small town like Nacogdoches. We have people out here living on our creek beds and in the woods."
The number of people sheltered in both Lufkin and Nacogdoches are up this year. In Lufkin, 51 are living in homeless shelters and 35 are in Nacogdoches shelters.