EATON — The annual Point in Time count was held on Tuesday, Jan. 23, bringing 17 local organizations together with area homeless individuals to spread information and resources.
The third annual Homeless Resource Fair was held, before volunteers split off with local law enforcement to search for area homeless and to see their living conditions. The HIT Foundation will not have results from the homeless count until the beginning of February.
The count is required once a year for federal funding purposes, intended to give a rough idea of the size and scope of homelessness in the area. However, Preble County does things a little differently by hosting a Homeless Resource Fair prior to the annual count.
The annual fair has been going on for three years now, originally created to connect the area homeless with the various organizations available to help them.
“We have to count homeless people anyway, so we thought why don’t we have a resource fair, give them a good meal, and send them away with services or resources that can help them get out of their situation,” Program Coordinator Toni Morgan said.
“The first year it was super small. It was the HIT Foundation, the health department, and Job and Family Services, out at Job and Family Services. We had 12 people come through that night. We were excited about those 12 people. Last year we moved out to [United Church of Christ], because it was a larger space and better for those people. We had six agencies, along with the church and the clothes closet in the basement. We saw about 30 or 40 people come through.
“Tonight we have 17 partners here. We’re growing every year, but this year our number of attendees are down. That can be a testament that the services are working. I think everyone in the room, as long as we saw one person come through here who could benefit from these services, then it has been a success.”
“We are presenting the Seven Pillars Recovery program and showing people that there is hope through Jesus Christ,” John Elam with Gateway Baptist Church said. “Our church has an over 27-year history of helping drug addicts and alcoholics. The Seven Pillar Recovery Program has been established here in town for going on eight years.
“We meet every Monday night at 7 p.m. in the basement of the Gateway Baptist Church. We meet together as men and women and then split up. We talk about every kind of addiction. We feel like every answer is in the Bible. We have parents, addicts, and friends who come.”
Sojourner Recovery also had representatives at the Resource Fair.
Stephanie Baker said, “We are here to provide information about our program and to be able to spread it around to the community so they can get connected with services that are needed. A lot of the time we don’t get to connect directly with the client. We normally go through a family member who is trying to get help for their loved one.
“We are a drug and alcohol recovery program. Here in Preble County we only have a women’s location, but we can also treat males at our location in Hamilton. We are residential, so we bring them in and they have 24-hour care.”
Eric Cecys and Deb Hater with Recovery and Wellness Centers of the Midwest attended the Resource Fair because they are close partners with the HIT Foundation.
“We are promoting our services for recovery and mental health treatment that we offer at our facility. We are hoping to spread the word so people know that we are here and that we are a resource the community has. We are treatment for outpatient treatment and we work closely with the other organizations to be there for people who might be in need,” Cecys said.
“We offer outpatient addiction counseling, mental health counseling, and for addictions we also work with local doctors office to help treat opioid addiction. We work side by side with the HIT Foundation, we have a clients who utilize their resources. Homelessness and addiction can go hand in hand with homelessness.”
Hater added, “We want people to know that we exist and we want them to know that we are here. We will do everything in our power to help them. We just want them to know that those services are here in Preble County.”
While the Homeless Resource Fair is something unique Preble County does, the Point in Time count is actually required by HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“It is basically a snapshot of what your homeless population looks like on any given night. The numbers we get from the point in time count, we can request funding to show the need, it can be used for planning and setting priorities, and just improving your community,” Morgan said.
“During the Point in Time count, if we encounter anyone who is homeless on that night, we are required to have a place for them to go, whether that be the cold shelter or a hotel voucher. We are very lucky in Preble County. We have a huge following in support of our cold shelter. We will open the cold shelter no matter what if it is below 20 degrees. We open from 20-32 degrees if we have volunteers.”
As for how this year’s count fared in comparison to previous years, Morgan said, “In past years it has shown that we definitely have a homeless problem. The face of homelessness has actually changed a lot in the last several years, especially with the addiction crisis that we are in. We are seeing more singles, we do see some families, but more singles and addiction or mental health is prevalent in those cases.
“There are lots of different barriers that cause homelessness, but the number one cause is poverty and a lack of affordable housing. You can have a mental illness, and not be homeless because of your mental illness. You can have an addiction, and not be homeless because of your addiction. If you lack the resources or affordable housing, then you cannot house yourself.”
The Resource Fair not only gave those who attended contact with local organizations, but they were also able to get a free meal, shoes, a coat, gloves, and other much needed items, such as feminine hygiene products and other toiletries.
According to Morgan, service forms are still out and results from the Point in Time Count will not be available until the beginning of February. However, they did see 23 homeless individuals during the Homeless Resource Fair. These were 23 people who were able to come out of the cold, get a warm meal, and learn about services available to them in Preble County.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH