Lon Mobley and Amanda Sampson, members of the Gospel Center Rescue Mission in Stockton, put on bright orange vests early one recent Monday morning and walked below the Ort J. Lofthus Freeway, looking for unsheltered people living underneath the freeway overpass.

Mobley and Sampson, with the ministry that provides services for people dealing with homelessness and addiction in San Joaquin County, had volunteered for the 2022 Point-in-Time Count.

The biennial count, mandated in every state, is an attempt to count all of the unsheltered and sheltered homeless people to determine how much each county will receive in state and federal funding to address homelessness.

Mobley and Sampson said they understood firsthand what it was like to face homelessness and how much services such as the Gospel Center could help people escape addiction and housing insecurity.

According to the 2019 Point-in-Time Count data, San Joaquin County had 1,558 people who were unsheltered and 1,071 who were sheltered, meaning they were living in emergency housing. Of that total for unsheltered residents, 921 of them were in Stockton.

Volunteers are briefed at the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium before the Point-in-Time homeless count in Stockton on Jan. 31, 2022. For some, the count is part of a personal journey from life on the streets to now helping those in a similar situation. (Photo by Harika Maddala/Bay City News)

A chance to catch up

Mobley had been released four months ago from prison and while trying to reenter society he had difficulty finding work and housing, which left him on the verge of living in the streets.

“I came to the mission … they give you a chance to catch up, keep you off the streets, keep you off drugs, get you good food, get you in clothes,” Mobley said.

Sampson had found the mission after losing her daughter to Child Protective Services, being unsheltered and having substance abuse problems.

“I was in the casino a lot and I got around methamphetamines and on drugs … a lot of it was sadness, being separated from my daughter and not knowing how to deal with that,” Sampson said.

Volunteers with the Stockton Point-in-Time count interview a homeless man at his camp on Jan. 31, 2022. (Photo by Harika Maddala/Bay City News)

While finding and counting homeless people, Sampson said it felt “full circle” for her because she was someone who was dealing with drug abuse and not having a place to live, and now she is trying to help others get off the streets.

“I told them I was in their place before and I just looked for help and by God’s grace I was able to find some support,” Sampson said.

Kevin Lincoln, Stockton’s mayor, said the point-in-time count will help governments understand what the specific needs are of the unsheltered population.

“We can make any necessary adjustments to help people who are unsheltered or experience homelessness get the type of support and wrap around services they need to take the next step toward healing in their life,” Lincoln said.

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