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ELMIRA, N.Y. — Volunteers braved the cold Thursday to try and gauge homelessness in Chemung County.
Catholic Charities sent workers out in the community today to see how many of our neighbors are without a place to sleep.

“It was wintertime, so it was cold out and stuff like that, I had nowhere to go, so I went there and they helped me out,” says Lou Louma, who used to be homeless.

Louma was kicked out of his home eight years ago. He had few friends back then, so he turned to Catholic Charities.

“It was tough because I deal with mental illness, I was kind of down and out, just struggling and stuff like that,” he remembers.

Members at Catholic Charities helped Louma find shelter, and later, a job.

The point of Thursday’s work in the county was to check out public places, like a supermarket, where homeless people might have free access to bathrooms, or just an opportunity to get out of the cold for a little bit. Other common “hangouts” are bus stations, libraries, or workforce offices.

The Director of Development at Catholic Charities, Lindsay Winters, says homelessness in Chemung County is not often in the form we think of.

“We’re showing homelessness more in the form of couch surfing than necessarily like being under a bridge or an abandoned building,” says Winters.

Winters says the surveys are to assess struggling neighbors’ most pressing needs.

“Part of the survey is built in to see what other services they need, so that might be shelter, like we provide, or it could mental health service, other financial assistance, and we’ll make referrals based on what kind of needs they have,” she says.

Now, Louma is Catholic Charities’ poster child of success. He lives independently, and has a paying job.

“Everything’s going in the right direction, my goals…are actually working out, I set myself little goals every day,” he says.

Catholic Charities conducts the homeless survey once a year to maintain certain federal funding.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can visit Catholic Charities at 215 E. Church Street or the Samaritan Center at 380 S. Main Street.

Reported by: Erica Brecher
Published: 1/31 5:31 pm on WETM’s website