EATON — In an effort to help local homeless individuals, a health and information fair was held on Tuesday, Jan. 24, followed by the annual Point-in-Time Count.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires every community to participate in the Point-In-Time Count each year, to better understand the funding needed nationwide to battle homelessness.
The fair was held at Eaton United Church of Christ in an effort to bring homeless individuals inside before the count. The thought was, by offering food and shelter, many would come to the organizations instead of the organizations having to search for them in the cold and dark.
This was a collaboration between Home is the Foundation (HIT Foundation), Preble County Job and Family Services, Preble County Health District, Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Board, Community Action Partnership, and Preble County YWCA Domestic Violence Programs.
The fair offered health screenings, dinner, prize drawings, coats, hats, gloves, assistance information, hygiene packs, and open showers to those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. Every organization which helps the homeless had a table at the fair. The more tables an individual would visit, the more products they could take away with them. This was an effort to give people who needed it the most help possible.
Every organization present brought something specific as to what they can provide to the homeless.
Becky Sorrell with Job and Family Service brought information related to financial assistance.
“What I brought tonight was applications for CASH, Food Stamps, and Medicaid in case anybody needed those types of services,” Sorrell said. “Applications for child care, because homeless people are eligible for child care during the day so they can find jobs or do what they need to do. I brought job fair posters and some different agencies they can contact to help them locate employment.”
“We actually work pretty closely with the HIT Foundation, they’re the entry point to the homeless in the community. We’re that second step,” Director of the Community Action Partnership (CAP) Keelie Gustin said. “They work with them in the shelters and once we get a verification of homelessness from them, they can come in and enroll in our homeless crisis response program, what that does is we search for housing for them, and then we can pay their first months rent or security deposit and get them in there until they can get on their feet.”
“We’re trying to get people health screenings, blood sugar and blood pressure screenings, because they might not have doctors,” Nan Smith with the Preble County Health Department said. “Also to let them know the type of clinic services we have.”
All the organizations brought information of which the homeless individuals in Preble County might not be aware.
This was the second annual homeless health and information fair held in Preble County — and this year attendance tripled, making the Point-in-Time Count.
Program Coordinator Toni Morgan explained, “It is a way for us to draw some at risk or homeless folks in, so that we don’t have to find them to count them.”
The information from the count gets sent to HUD. Those numbers are used when the county applies for funding.
Morgan added, “We do this every year, HUD requires it. We actually have to do a street count. We will have a meeting here around 8 o’clock, but we will have teams of people out all night in the county and various locations looking for homeless people. We actually have a form, it has a script on it. Our teams that are on foot here in Eaton, if they encounter someone will say, ‘Hey, can I ask you a few questions? Where are you going to sleep tonight?’ And based on their answers we go on or stop the survey.”
HUD requires the organization to have a backup shelter set up for the night, so that during the count they can send the found homeless somewhere warm. All those who attended the fair were permitted to spend the night in the cold shelter.
The cold shelter is an emergency cold weather plan. It is open any time the temperature or windchill drops below 32 degrees. It is held at a local church staffed by volunteers and is open from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.
All in the cold shelter are offered dinner, warm breakfast, and given lunch on the way out the door.
Anyone count participants encounter who is living in a place not meant for human habitation, or who does not have a place to sleep that night, is offered a stay in the cold shelter for the night.
After the count, these organizations will work with the individuals found to improve their housing situation.
Morgan added, “Some people are in a place in their lifestyle where they wouldn’t be able to function in a congregant living setting 24 hours a day. We work with them, with their behaviors and lifestyle changes, to get them ready to go into shelter. Some people we house directly out of cold shelter. It just depends on the person and where they are in their journey.”
Sometimes, people do not want help after the count. Morgan said, “Some people just want to come to cold shelter because it’s cold outside. They don’t want any other help. It’s client driven.”
It is important to note that the county only has one 10-bed shelter and it is first-come, first-serve.
Morgan added, the health and information fair links people to services they might not otherwise have access to. It also humanizes the people behind the organizations, by putting faces to them. It helps people feel connected by having conversations with the organizations, that normally they would not have time to converse with.
The fair also spreads awareness to the different organizations about services available to people.
At press time, the Point-In-Time Count for Preble County was unavailable.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH