PREBLE COUNTY — During the frigid evening of Tuesday, Jan. 26, while many were staying warm in their homes, several dedicated community members were busy caring for those who aren’t afforded such a luxury.
The HIT Foundation coordinated the Point in Time count, an event conducted by the Continuum of Care program. Those involved drove around the county in search of unsheltered individuals and offered to bring them into the cold weather shelter for the night. Volunteers also had to count the sheltered homeless during the night.
This count determines how many homeless persons are in the county at the specific point in time.
That number is then used by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) to determine need and funding levels for their homeless service grants – which can include shelter operations, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing, according to Toni Morgan, the program coordinator for the HIT Foundation.
“The Point in Time count was very successful mostly due to the dedicated team of volunteers we have on board. One thing we changed this year that seemed to work very well was breaking the county into school districts for the teams to search,” said Morgan. “Each team was responsible for looking in abandoned schools and houses, parks, campgrounds, under bridges, etc. They also contacted the local schools, 24-hour grocery stores, hotels, libraries, and law enforcement for leads on any potential homeless folks.”
They also partnered to hold a Homeless Health and Information Fair, hosted at Preble County Job and Family Services office in Eaton.
During that fair — held for anyone who was homeless or who was at risk of being homeless — attendees could speak with representatives from the HIT Foundation, JFS and Samaritan Behavioral Health to learn about available resources. There was also a hot meal, access to showers and hygiene supplies, as well as free coats, hats, and gloves.
“It’s a lifesaver for me. I would have frozen to death without. So I’m pretty thankful,” said Barry, a 60-year old homeless man who was very emotional talking about the program.
He currently resides at the homeless shelter after hearing about the HIT Foundation from a friend.
“Maybe I’m just lucky, but the people I’ve associated with since I’ve been there are just outstanding people. The staff is unbelievable. It’s just the best people. They don’t treat you like your dirt. You’re a human there. They seem to understand. It’s an outstanding place,” he said.
The count will not be official until after The Register-Herald goes to press, but the sheltered count included 10 individuals in the homeless shelter, 12 in the domestic violence shelter, nine in transitional housing, and five in the cold shelter. The crew also encountered four unsheltered individuals in Eaton, with two deciding to spend the night in the cold shelter while two refused.
Morgan also noted that even the “official” count isn’t necessarily a complete count, however.
“I think it is important to remember that the Point In Time will not reflect homeless individuals that are “couch surfing” or “doubled up.” It is specifically sheltered homeless and those sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation. In Preble County, you won’t typically see homelessness like you would in an urban area because they are usually bouncing from place to place,” she said. “It’s when they run out of options that they come into shelter if beds are available, find an abandoned building, pitch a tent, sleep in their cars, or walk around all night catching naps during the day wherever they can find a place to sit down.”
The count can also be used by other, similar agencies to help strengthen non-HUD funding requests by demonstrating need, said Morgan.