PREBLE COUNTY —This year, Home is the Foundation (HIT Foundation) partnered with Preble County Habitat for Humanity to host a Community Resource Fair on Tuesday, Jan. 21. Following the event, volunteers gathered for the annual Point in Time count.
At the fair, 27 community partners gathered to provide information and resources to those in need. These organizations included Birthright of Eaton, Miami Valley Community Action Partnership (Preble County), CareSource, Eaton Nazarene Celebrate Recovery, Preble County Council on Aging, Early Head Start, Eaton First Church of the Nazarene, Food 4 Families, Preble County Habitat For Humanity, Home Is The Foundation, Preble County Head Start- Free Preschool for families in Preble County, Preble County JFS, Life Recovery, Preble County Mental Health & Recovery Board, Kettering Health Network Emergency Center – Preble, Preble County District Library, Preble County Public Health, Recovery and Wellness, Samaritan Behavioral Health, Preble County Success Program, The Common Good of Preble County, Dale’s – Triumphant Life Ministries, United Way of the Greater Dayton Area, Preble County Veterans Service, Preble County WIC, and YWCA Dayton (Preble).
Those attending the fair had access to a warm meal, coats, hats, gloves, showers, and information on other local resources available to them.
In the past, Preble County has always hosted a Homeless Resource Fair prior to the annual Point in Time count. However, this year they wanted to bring in all individuals in need of services, not just those facing homelessness. According to HIT Foundation Housing Focused Case Manager Jennifer Stan, approximately 70 people were served at the fair.
“This year is special, because we opened it up to not just the homeless, but the whole community — low income, under-served, anyone who needed resources. We wanted everyone to come out, get everyone here at the same place and time. You can see with everyone here, there are a lot of resources in this small community,” Stan said.
“Originally, we had the resource fair on the same night as the Point in Time count to count the homeless. We thought if we opened it out, we could get more people out here and get a bigger turn out. We really wanted to show off all of our resources and show the community that the HIT Foundation partners with everybody in this room. That is what helps us serve the entire community, the relationship we have with all of these agencies.
“By attending this fair, I hope people learned of a new resource, I hope they went home with something they were needing, and I hope they got information they needed as well.”
Preble County Veteran Services had a booth at the Community Resource Fair for the first time this year. Director Cole French recognizes that many veterans face homelessness and wanted the organization to be represented at the fair so veterans in need could reach out for help.
“We just wanted to reach out and let everyone know that we provide services to veterans in Preble County. We just wanted to make sure people know we exist and we provide services that can help out veterans,” he said. “Homeless veterans is a big thing right now in our country and I think this targets that community.”
When asked what he would want veterans in need to know, French said, “Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.”
In addition to learning about various services, stations were also set up to give people in need haircuts, something they might not prioritize with limited funds.
One of those stations was manned by Lisa Chandler with Off the Top Salon. For her, it is important to show individuals facing homelessness love and support in the ways she can — which includes volunteering her time to give haircuts.
“I have a heart to help our community. I opened my own salon across from Lakengren two years ago and I help with the homeless shelter, they come out twice a month. Because of my past experience with homelessness, I decided I needed to help give back. I want them to know they’re important and what I want to do is offer hope to them, and a little bit of healing. It’s really important to make people feel like they’re loved and they matter,” she said.
“I think [the Community Resource Fair] shows community unity, honestly. I really think it is necessary that people know no matter what their circumstances are, a haircut is important and will make them feel good. It doesn’t matter what their income or experiences are, they are worthy to get a haircut.”
Following the Community Resource Fair, volunteers split off with local law enforcement to search for area homeless individuals and to see their living conditions. The HIT Foundation will not have final results from the homeless count until February.
The PIT count is required once a year for federal funding purposes, and is intended to give a rough idea of the size and scope of homelessness in the area.
“The Point in Time count is always done one night a year, I think the last week in January. Everyone nationwide participates in it. We go out and count homeless people in the community, just so we can get a better understanding of who is served, who is under-served, how many homeless we have in the community, and to raise awareness to the community. We ask our volunteers to come get involved, and they really like that,” Stan said.
This year, there were a few changes to the annual count. The biggest change was the use of the Counting Us App, which is a new electronic approach to surveying people right from your smart phone. This app is able to pinpoint an exact location of where that person was found.
Also new this year, Preble County was not required to canvas the entire county. According to Stan, the state has given each county exact locations to count, based on census information. Preble County was split up into five tracts that needed to be counted. Two tracts were in Eaton, one in West Alexandria, one in Camden, and one in Lakengren.
“[These changes] will help the count, because it will give volunteers more purpose, because now they know the exact location they have to count. Whereas before, some volunteers might have went out and not known where they were counting. Now, we’re told exactly where to count,” she said.
Preble County District Library Director Lauren Robinson has been a volunteer with the Point in Time count for three years. She enjoys volunteering for the count, because it gives her an opportunity to help the community in a different capacity.
“The Point in Time Count is an important count for the people in our community who are experiencing homelessness. The count allows local agencies to track the progress towards the goal of ending homelessness in Preble County. The data gathered during this one night helps the community to plan programs and services that meet the special needs of Preble County. I wanted to be part of the count again this year to help serve my community,” she said.
“The amount of people willing to give their time to help those in need is heartwarming. All of the volunteers are out there to help bring resources to the people who need them the most. Everyone should volunteer to help with the Point in Time Count at least once, as you will see a different side of Preble County. Spending the night searching under bridges, in parks, and behind local businesses in extremely cold temperatures brings home the need for homeless services.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH