Several Hope College students have volunteered to assist in an area-wide effort to count the homeless of Ottawa County.

Some 20 Hope students are participating in the effort through membership or affiliation with SWORG, the college's student social work organization, accompanied by the group's advisor, Professor Melissa Villarreal of the social work faculty. The count will take place on Thursday, Jan. 29, beginning at 5 a.m. and will run for two-three hours.

The project is being coordinated by the Ottawa Area Housing Coalition to count the community's hidden homeless, and is part of a larger effort to determine the number of homeless.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is requiring organizations that receive federal funds for homelessness prevention to conduct the one-day count. The impetus is to end chronic homelessness within 10 years.

The chronic homeless are defined as single adults with a disabling condition who have been homeless more than once in the last few years. The statistics show that the chronic homeless make up about 10 percent of the homeless population, but use 80 percent of the available resources.

Several area organizations are assisting in the local count by contributing volunteers, including additional Hope students. Others from the Hope community interested in helping may contact Professor Villarreal at