Counting of US Homeless Scheduled for Wednesday

Altoona Mirror

On Saturday, after the snowstorm stopped, the cold came down, turning slush into ice and faces crimson, making one feel grateful for a warm house.

On Wednesday, a local agency will try to count the people in Blair County who don’t have a warm house to which they can retreat.

It’s the annual Point In Time Count of the homeless, a national event that Blair County Community Action will handle in this area.

“It breaks my heart to know that individuals and families and even kids are out in this,” said April Hileman, director of Community Action’s Homeless Department, on Monday, when the temperature was about 10 degrees.

Forty-two volunteers will travel along 12 preplanned routes between 7 and 9:30 p.m., looking under bridges, around warehouses, behind shopping centers, in certain wooded areas, under at least one stationary railcar, in parks and in ballfield dugouts to locate “unsheltered” homeless in Blair County, Hileman said.

On Thursday, shelters through out the nation, including Blair’s, which is at capacity with 16 residents, will submit their population numbers for the “sheltered” portion of the count, Hileman said.

Funded and supervised by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care program, the PIT Count is used to generate a “snapshot of people who are homeless on a particular night,” according to a Community Action news release.

The data is used locally and nationally to refine our picture of homelessnes, identify unmet needs, provide data for funding applications, increase community awareness and provide an advocacy tool, Hileman said.

Last year’s count of the unsheltered revealed only six individuals, according to Hileman.

At this point, that would seem to have been a gross understatement, given that the “Coordinated Entry” 211 hotline program, which was introduced the day after last year’s count, has revealed there are 52 homeless people in the county, as of Friday — not including the 16 living at the shelter, according to information provided by Hileman.

Coordinated Entry triages and prescreens callers, helping agencies determine who gets priority for housing assistance, according to Hileman.

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