United Way counts homeless in Manhattan, statewide


    The United Way of Riley County and the Manhattan Emergency Shelter provided more information about homelessness in Kansas by participating in the statewide homeless count Wednesday.
    The United Way sent out surveyors in teams of two to cover 10 areas throughout Riley County known to have homeless activity. The teams covered each area twice, reporting once before 2 p.m. and once after. The count is conducted every two years in January.
    Final numbers are still being determined throughout the county and state but according to Dianne Paukestelis, executive director of United Way of Riley County, there were no surprises with the numbers they found.
    “We found 11 people outdoor on the street and 50 or so in shelters or transition houses, which is about what we expected,” Paukestelis said.
    The purpose of the count was to have a number that will help determine how much federal funding Riley County agencies are able to receive. This also helps them determine how many people do need help throughout the county. County officials will not know until the census is published how the county compares with the rest of the state.
    “If we came across somebody, we gave them a number of where they could call for services,” said Whitney Short, United Way board member and realtor for Christian Associates Real Estate.
    As one of the surveyors, Short said it took a lot of focus trying to spot people who did not want to be found.
    “I’m in the business of selling homes so it was interesting to see the opposite of what I do,” Short said.
    Beyond providing information for funding, the census will also show homelessness is in rural areas, not just in urban ones. Amanda Appelgren, outreach worker at Pawnee Mental Health Services, said she thinks the results will surprise Manhattan residents.
    “We are not immune just because we are a smaller community,” Appelgren said.