CIRCLEVILLE — Counting the homeless population will be done a little bit differently this year as organizers work to create the best and fullest picture of what it’s like on any given night in Pickaway County.
The annual Point in Time Count will begin at 8 p.m. on Jan. 21 and run through the night into the early hours of Jan. 22.
“We’re starting at 8 p.m., a little early, so we can catch people that are in the shelters and we can count them before they go to sleep,” Becky Hammond, Deputy Director of Pickaway County Community Action (PICCA), said. “Not only do we count people that are unsheltered but we count people that are sheltered as well.”
“This is a snapshot of what one night looks like with homelessness for people both in shelter and out of shelter,” Fallon Kingery, Community Services Director, said.
In 2019’s count, Pickaway County had 63 homeless people that were counted, all of which were sheltered. Hammond said she expects that number to increase this year. There were 10,345 homeless people counted in the 80 non-urban counties, also known as “the balance of state.”
“They didn’t find any unsheltered here in Pickaway County last year,” Hammond added. “I have a feeling that we will this year just due to the reports that we’ve gotten.”
The information from the count is required by the federal government but locally the data is used as part of a needs assessment for determining programming, grants and other things that PICCA and other agencies can do to combat the problem.
“It’s part of our needs assessment to apply for grants to fill in the gaps,” Hammond commented. “We know there are some gaps because we have a committee that has been formed for it.”
Homelessness has been a topic of concern for the community for years. Late last year, Circleville Mayor Don McIlroy hosted a roundtable and discussion panel featuring local agencies and leaders on the topic of homelessness and to share what programs they have and to find the gaps that exist between their organizations.
Since that meeting, a committee formed to discuss and combat the problem has met several times.
In the wake of those meetings and discussions, Hammond said there are more volunteers this year than in the past, which will lead to more teams.
“There’s a lot of interest and for the first time in probably seven or eight years, we’ll have more than one team going out and counting,” Hammond told The Circleville Herald. “We have 14 volunteers so far. The biggest amount of work will be in the city limits based on the reports. We sent out fliers to the police before to see where they’ve seen them and that’s where we go to check.”
Kingery said Friday at 11:30 a.m. an information session will be held for volunteers that will explain the Point in Time Count, why they do it and how to approach people for the count.
Hammond and Kingery explained that this year instead of the traditional clipboard they’ll be doing the count using a phone app that the volunteers can download to fill in some of the information required.
“We can still do the paper forms if we need to and if we see someone from afar we can do an observed form,” Kingery said.
Any person that the Point in Time Count volunteers come in contact with will be given information on PICCA and how to connect with them for services and programs they may qualify for.
“We always try to get them to come in so we can do a full assessment since this is a quick survey,” Hammond stated. “We will have a bit of funding to put people up in a hotel for one night if they want to go and then we’ll bring them to PICCA for a full assessment the following day.”
Kingery said they’ll also have duffle bags to pass out to those that want them, as well.
“They’ll have food and hygiene items, gloves, hats and socks for people that don’t want to come into a shelter, for whatever reason that will be,” concluded Kingery.
Recently the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced $2.2 billion in funding of local homeless programs, $107 million of which will come to Ohio through the Continuum of Care program, which provides support and resources for recipients who work directly to combat homelessness.
The grants support programs to assist families and individuals who are homeless regardless if they’re sheltered or not or people who are in an emergency situation where they could become homeless.
“I have always found that the best results are achieved when state, local, and federal partners work together with a shared sense of duty to help our country’s most vulnerable citizens,” Ben Carson, Housing and Urban Development Secretary, said. “At HUD, we are committed to empowering local communities and their leaders with the tools they need to help individuals, youth, and families experiencing homelessness.”
U.S. Congressman Steve Stivers [R-OH] recently visited the Huckleberry House in Columbus, with Governor Mike DeWine and Carson. Huckleberry House is a safe place and source of support for young people who are facing challenges such as homelessness.
“Young people need a solid foundation to succeed, and that starts with having a roof over their head and a safe place to call home,” Stivers commented. “Through many visits over the years, I’ve seen firsthand the hard work of dedicated individuals at Huckleberry House, and I will continue to work with folks like Secretary Carson and Governor DeWine to support their efforts and make sure that they have the resources they need to care for the youth in our communities.”