CHAMPAIGN, Ill., (WCIA) — Homeless shelter leaders said they need additional state and federal funding to support their operations, and Thursday night, volunteers are taking steps to get there.

It’s part of the Point-in-Time count, a survey to see the number of people who are homeless in Champaign County.

Organizers said it lets them help people now, and prepare for the future.

40 volunteers will start to gather at 8 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Champaign. From there, they’ll go to different intersections across Champaign-Urbana.

Katie Harmon, the Continuum of Care Coordinator in Champaign County, said it’s an important action to take in order to make a difference in people’s lives.

“Futuristically speaking, I would say that if we don’t utilize this Point-in-Time count accordingly, we won’t be able to fund the shelter adequately just with private donations or just with the budget that we have at the township,” Bailee VanAntwerp, the deputy township supervisor, said. She works closely with Strides Homeless Shelter.

She depends on the data from the annual Point-in-Time count to keep making changes and improvements.

“We’re going to be going to different geographic locations throughout Champaign and Urbana to see if we can identify people experiencing homelessness and then ask them some questions,” Harmon said.

From there, the numbers are sent to federal officials who help organizations get the money.

“They can say, okay we’ve noticed that the numbers of unsheltered individuals have increased, we need to allocate more funding to that region specifically,” VanAntwerp said.

But, the numbers also help leaders prepare for what’s ahead.

“In 5 years, even in 10 years, what is it going to look like what kinds of beds are we going to be needing number-wise? This gives us some great insight on who we’re not serving yet and how we can meet their needs,” VanAntwerp added.

She said the survey helps them realize how numbers might’ve changed, leading Strides in the right direction to work through the challenges they currently face. For instance, increasing people working on Strides’ street outreach team.

“Until the numbers show that we aren’t reaching everyone effectively, then we won’t necessarily increase it,” VanAntwerp said.

Harmon knows bringing those numbers to light is one of the goals. She wants to make sure every person in Champaign County has adequate housing.

The Point-in-Time count will help leaders get there.

“People we are reaching, we can provide them with resources and information where they can go to sheltering and get other services that they might need,” Harmon said.

On Thursday night, they’re only focusing on Champaign and Urbana. But, Harmon said volunteers will focus on other areas at a later date. In 2022 at this time, the Count found 137 people who were homeless in Champaign County.