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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

Rockford Gears Up For Annual Homeless Count

Yvonne Boose
Empty chairs representing Rockford's homeless people who died in 2020.

The annual tally of people who are homeless in the Rockford region is going to be more challenging this year. That’s due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 



Rockford city officials and partner agencies are gearing up for the "point-in-time count." The survey of people experiencing homelessness takes place once a year over a 24-hour period. The PIT covers Winnebago, Boone and DeKalb counties.

Angie Walker is a housing advocate with the City of Rockford. She says the coronavirus adds a level of difficulty. 


“My agency, we don't really use volunteers a lot,” said Walker. “But a lot of our partner agencies do, the shelters do, our dropping day centers do, our donation centers do. And that's been something that's been really tough this year.”


Walker says volunteers tend to be older and shelters don’t want to risk getting them sick. What’s more, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loosened some of the restrictions, like doing a headcount without the usual survey. 


The survey is relatively bare bones and asks questions about race, age and length of homelessness.  


Due to the ongoing pandemic, HUD says it expects the numbers this year will not be comparable to past counts. The Rockford count kicks off Monday afternoon. 


  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.
Juanpablo covers environmental, substandard housing and police-community relations. He’s been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office in Chicago. As a civic reporting fellow at City Bureau, a non-profit news organization that focuses on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez-Franco produced print and audio stories about the Pilsen neighborhood. Before that, he was a production intern at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the rural America editorial intern at In These Times magazine. Ramirez-Franco grew up in northern Illinois. He is a graduate of Knox College.