As he fixed his headband, Nicko Chapa billowed his jacket against the cool breeze and heaved a sigh. The 32-year-old didn’t want much except one thing: an opportunity.
“Does anyone care?” Chapa said Thursday. “We want to get out of homelessness with a little help. Does anyone care? “.
Chapa has been on the streets for two years.
Drifting between various locations in Victoria, he now lives inside a gray and blue tent in a field adjacent to Christ’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen in Victoria. Wandering the grounds, laying out with six other tents, he mingled with other homeless people as they enjoyed an afternoon lunch provided by the kitchen.
“I’ve been through tough losses and setbacks,” Chapa said, reflecting on the deaths of his adoptive mother, girlfriend, brother and cousin.
On Thursday, volunteers traveled to Crossroads communities to interview homeless people as part of an annual effort to document the area’s homeless population. Information collected as part of the count, known as a pinpoint count, will be passed to state and federal organizations for processing. The information also informs the allocation of grant funds at the local level.
Being on the streets, Chapa said he often thought about growing up with his three siblings and dealing with his birth parents, who were in and out of prison, which ultimately led to Chapa being adopted by another family. at the age of 15.
Chapa said he was the only one of his three siblings up for adoption.
“When you’re adopted, whether you’re treated the same or not, your mind is already turned upside down and you make yourself the ‘black sheep,'” he said.
Since becoming homeless, Chapa said he took a trip to Corpus Christi to reconnect with his birth parents. But he said it was not what he expected. “Things just didn’t work out.”
“Don’t judge a book by its cover. Just because we look like that doesn’t mean we’re addicts who want to look like that or want to look like that,” Chapa said. “There are situations and things that we’ve been through, and that’s easier said than done.”
Volunteers were posted to Christ’s Kitchen and other locations in Victoria on Thursday where they spent the day interviewing people who may be homeless. These interviews collected information to be transmitted to the State where it would be processed.
Ginny Stafford, CEO of Mid-Coast Family Services, said the one-time count is an annual one-day effort held across the country where volunteers and professionals travel to communities to record the number of homeless people as well than the number of people living in shelters.
“It’s to give us a realistic number on our gaps and our services, how many people are living on the streets because there’s no space in shelters or other programs,” Stafford said. “At the same time, while we are doing the point count, we are also doing a housing inventory where we get a census of the number of beds and units available in our shelters.”
The tally covers multiple counties with approximately 20 volunteers sent to Victoria, Calhoun, Goliad, Gonzales, Refugio and Jackson counties. Volunteers ask questions of members of the homeless population using a mobile app, Stafford said. The app queries demographics, causes of homelessness and potentially unmet needs. The data is then processed before being sent to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which allocates grant funds, Stafford said.
In 2021, the tally listed 116 people as homeless in Victoria, along with 10 people in surrounding counties, according to information provided by Mid-Coast. At least 42 of the 126 people have been housed by the Salvation Army, the Perpetual Help Home, the Mid-Coast Family Services Women’s Crisis Center and the Transitional Housing Program. At least 84 people were unsheltered, living in places not intended for human habitation.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic has affected those who can least afford it. I believe people are going to have a harder time maintaining their housing, paying their rent and paying their basic bills,” Stafford said. “At some point it’s going to trickle down to where these people are going to lose their homes.”
In a meeting room at the Pine Street Community Center in Victoria, Lisa Griffin spent Wednesday afternoon briefing volunteers on count protocols. Between answering questions and working on logistics, Griffin, who is the director of homeless programs at Mid-Coast Family Services, said she’s been involved in the count for more than a decade. Over the decade, the goal has remained the same, finding a stable home for the homeless, Griffin said.
“It reinstates the feeling that there are people who care about you,” Griffin said. “If you feel like you’re a disenfranchised part of the community, and you don’t have a place to live, and you don’t have access to those things, knowing that someone made an effort to come and find you, which is part of the reason why we do our spot count.”
Angelique Rodriguez said it was her first time volunteering for the Earl. Sitting at the Victoria Public Library with fellow volunteer Diana Rodriquez, she waited, ready for people to come in to be interviewed.
A resource directory provided by the Golden Crescent Aging and Disability Resource Center and hygiene kits filled with socks, soap and toothbrushes were provided to those who stopped.
“Homelessness comes in many different forms, not many people realize it,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not just someone you see. There are a lot of people you don’t see. These communities are everywhere. It’s a lot bigger than some people think, so it’s just a little help they need.