Volunteers in Sioux Falls are hoping 14 questions will open up the community's eyes. Volunteers started at 3:30 Tuesday morning and went to homeless shelters across the city.
Coordinator for the Homeless Advisory Board, Stacey Tieszen, wants the survey to raise awareness about the issue, but she hopes that the community looks at more than just the numbers.
It's a personal conversation on a sensitive topic.
"The questions are, 'How did you get to be homeless?' 'What do you have for income?' and 'What do you need?' That to me is the most crucial piece when we do the survey. We really want to know what gaps are existing in the community where people are not able to their needs met and then try and help them get back on their feet," Tieszen said.
A similar survey in September showed 618 homeless people were living in Minnehaha County; 218 were children. Tieszen admits the numbers are not exact.
"It's a one day count, so we're really only as good as the people we encounter and if they don't talk to us, they sure don't have to," Tieszen said.
Tuesday's turnout is smaller. Tieszen believes it's because of the colder weather, not because the population is shrinking. Lois Thunder has friends and family members who are homeless. She says this time of the year can be difficult to find shelter.
"Finding a place to stay because they have like the Mission and St. Francis, but usually they're full and they turn you away and you got to go elsewhere. I know a few people that ask to stay for a night or two, like my brother. He's homeless and on these cold days he comes and sleeps and my house, and then he's gone," Thunder said.
Tieszen hopes that the survey will give the whole community a better understanding of what it means to be homeless.
"People don't actually choose to be homeless. Lots of times their circumstances that come into play. Mental health is a large one; also addiction issues, people who are experiencing problems with drugs or alcohol," Tieszen
Tieszen thinks more affordable housing, communication between homeless agencies, more job skill training and better community understanding can help lower the survey numbers next year.