OHIO VALLEY — Throughout this region, agencies that provide care for the homeless population are gearing up for a survey to help determine the level of funding and resources they’ll receive in the coming year.
The “Point-In-Time” survey, which begins on Monday, January 27 and continues through the week, is a national initiative to help state and federal level agencies gain a better grasp on homelessness statistics and better assess regional needs.
It’s important that service providers participate, said Melissa Kimmel, co-chair of Gallia-Jackson-Meigs-Vinton Continuum of Care, especially since homelessness in a rural area is less visible.
“We have a lot of need here,” Kimmel said. “But homelessness doesn’t fit the stereotypical picture you see in a big city. Often, people are staying on couches, living in dilapidated buildings, or tent cities. They’re not on the street.”
Kimmel has put together a questionnaire, the Ohio Point-In-Time 2014 Unsheltered Homeless Form. She has sent out the questionnaire to all local agencies that are likely be in contact with the homeless during the next week, with a stamped self-adressed envelope to return the questionnaires on January 31 for the count.
For more information on the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs-Vinton part of the initiative, Kimmel may be reached at (740)446-6752.
Across the river in Mason County Wayne Bailey and other staff members at the Mason County Homeless Shelter are also getting ready to participate in the survey through the Coalition to End Homelessness. They face similar sorts of visibility issues, Bailey said.
“There are a couple of different methods for counting the homeless,” Bailey said. “One is to go out on the streets over a 24-hour period and count people. That works better in cities, because in rural areas people are harder to find.”
Bailey said that in the past he and other workers have gone out into wooded areas and under bridges in the effort to get an accurate count.
In the meantime, the homeless shelter plans to keep offering its services, day after day, in order to keep people safe in these extreme low temperatures.
“The population is so vulnerable at this time of year,” said Bailey. “So it’s a busy time.”
For more information on the Mason County part of the initiative, Mason County Homeless Shelter may be reached at (304)675-1124.