Point in time count critical to homeless preparedness

The final week of January is a critical time for homeless shelters and agencies on the eastern shore, when millions in grants could be on the line.  The point-in-time count pinpoints the number of homeless in the region and the funds needed to sustain operations, but the process for allocating that grant money isn't as easy as counting heads.

We're told this annual count gives shelters a better picture how many people are out there in need, and this year more effort is being put into encampments, or those who live outside of shelters.

Many of the homeless still battle the elements and stay out, rather than take advantage of an open shelter.

"Maybe they have a female partner or otherwise just prefer to be outside.  So just like Celeste (Savage) was saying, both from a resources standpoint and the disaster response standpoint, we need to know how many people are outside," says Theo Williams, Salisbury's manager for housing and homelessness.

Knowing who is outside is crucial to places like HALO, who use the numbers to determine the types of services they need to provide.

"HALO is a volunteer based organization, so we have to have the volunteers to cover if we have an influx of individuals," says HALO's executive director Celeste Savage.  "We have to make sure we have the cots, the blankets, the sheets, everything that's involved in that.  We have to look at the availability of coverage."

A nationwide-data gathering method that helps local agencies, get funding in order to increase services and meet service gaps.

"They look at a variety of other things, such as our commitment to a concept known as housing first, the accessibility we provide to people that are experiencing homelessness, and overall integration of our services," says Williams.

The point-in-time count takes place the final ten days of January.  We're told the process of releasing the final numbers will take four to eight weeks.

Maryland was awarded $50 million for 185 programs, Delaware received almost $8 million.

Categories: Local News, Maryland