The "I Count" campaign zeroed in on area feeding sites Tuesday as volunteers raced the clock in their "point in time" survey to document the need for more services for the homeless.
The campaign was conducted under the auspices of the Southwest Oklahoma Continuum of Care for Lawton Support Services, a part of the Lawton Housing Authority, but the Soldier and Family Council got involved because community support was needed to ensure an accurate count.
"It goes back quite a ways," said Nate Slate, who chairs the council for the Fires Chapter of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). "It first followed a discussion about food banks. Did we have enough food in the food banks? How was that going in the community? And at that time there was a shortage in the food banks and that led to a discussion about homelessness, and about stresses on the economy, and the challenges that people were going through."
Slate credits Randy and Penny Dunham, representatives of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 751, with bringing up the concern about homeless veterans. Their group had been involved with taking homeless vets to the Sooner Stand Downs in Oklahoma City for some time.
When the discussion turned to how many homeless vets were living in this area, the projected numbers varied dramatically from speaker to speaker.
"That was disconcerting. How can you address a problem if you really don't know the magnitude of it?" Slate said.
The first "point in time" survey to ask the question "Are you a veteran?" took place last year, and the numbers were very low, he noted. The VVA was concerned about that because its members said they had transported more homeless vets to Oklahoma City than were reflected in the count.
That's how it came to light that Southwest Oklahoma Continuum of Care was a one-man operation, and program director Jervis Jackson had done the count all by himself.