NEW LEXINGTON — The annual Point-In-Time (PIT) count that provides the number and characteristics of homeless people in a community is scheduled statewide for Jan. 22.
The street count will begin at 8 p.m. Tuesday night and continue until 6 a.m. the following morning. A service provided count will continue from Jan. 23 to Jan. 31. Integrated Services for Behavioral Health in New Lexington is the lead agency in Perry County responsible for identifying the county’s homeless population.
Individuals and households are the two primary designations given to the homeless. Within those categories are several classifications based on age and whether or not children are involved.
Last year’s Perry County PIT count found 12 homeless individuals and seven households. A household is defined as a group of one or more people who are staying together.
Surrounding counties around Perry County have homeless populations ranging from nine individuals, four households in Morgan County to 198 individuals and 125 households in Licking County. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) counted 10,249 homeless Ohioans in 2018, an increase of 1.5 percent over 2017.
A much more comprehensive study completed by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) listed the homeless numbers as much higher. The OHFA report says that 70,123 homeless people sought services in 2017. This total represents a 20 percent increase since 2012.
HUD’s report is based on the PIT count of homeless people on one January night while the OHFA study seeks to quantify the total number of individuals who accessed shelters, supportive housing, and other homeless services across the state throughout the year.
Bill Faith, executive director for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), has drawn a bead on the number one cause for homelessness in the Buckeye State.
“Homelessness isn’t inevitable. We know what the solution is: affordable housing,” said Faith.
It is currently estimated that rent increases are quickly outpacing wages to the point that nearly 400,000 Ohio households spend over half their income on rent. Homeless numbers in Ohio also vary greatly when those figures are separated between rural and urban numbers.
Jamie Groves, now employed at Perry County Children Services, has participated in the Perry County PIT count for the last three years. While she has never actually found a homeless person during the street count, she has found sites that showed evidence where someone had been living there.
“What we mostly find in Perry County is three or four families living in a dwelling that is best suited for one rather than homeless people living under a bridge like in bigger cities,” described Groves.
Amber Nesselrotte, a Community Behavioral Health Worker/Housing Specialist at Integrated Services in New Lexington, heads up the PIT count in Perry County. Nesselrotte has been involved with the homeless count for five years.
“Myself and two or three co-workers meet in the office before we head out to all the communities in the county where we talk with the local law enforcement people. They’re a great source of information for us, “ explained Nesselrotte.
She further explained that individuals without homes but who practice “couch surfing” are not considered homeless by government standards.
Perry County does not have a homeless shelter but Nesselrotte would like for that situation to change in the future.
“We will be having fundraisers in the coming year and hope to find a dwelling. Once we find a suitable place, we can qualify for grants to operate it,” commented Nesselrotte.
The Point In Time count also provides the basis for funding various programs and organizations in Perry County that provide services for our most needy citizens.