A federal education official is coming to help with the annual "Point-in-Time" count of Durham's homeless population tonight.
Kevin Jennings (right), the Department of Education's assistant deputy secretary for safe and drug-free Schools, also plans to meet with Durham Public Schools' staff liaison for homeless pupils, Jacqueline Love, while he is in town.
“The number of homeless students is reaching crisis levels,” Jennings said in a prepared release.
According to the release, U.S. public schools enrolled 954,914 homeless children in the 2008-09 school year, a 41 percent increase from 2006-2007.
Jennings' participation in an on-the-spot count is "a great way to connect directly with homeless families with children and unaccompanied homeless youth, in order to understand their challenges and needs,” the release said.
Education department spokeswoman Jo Ann Webb said Jennings has business in Roanoke Rapids Thursday and was interested in taking part in a homeless count while he was in the area. He had worked in a count previously, while living in New York City, said Patrice Nelson, director of Urban Ministries of Durham, one of the agencies organizing the local count.
Jennings particularly wanted to work on a count with an agency that deals with families and school-age children, Nelson said. The N.C. Coalition to End Homelessness put his office in contact with Durham to arrange the visit.
During the Point-in-Time count, staff members from homeless-service agencies and volunteers seek out and collect data from people in shelters, on the streets, in camps and other locations during one night.
That information, besides producing a census to compare with past years, is used in assessing local applications for homeless-service money.