Point-in-Time count to collect data on area homeless

The Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter has announced that in accordance with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s requirement, it will participate in the Point-in-Time count to collect data on area homeless in a single night during the week leading up to the official date, Jan. 30.

For this the SAS will need the community’s help since the Point-in-Time count is a challenge each year. In a press release, the SAS said often homeless households don’t wish to come forward and identify themselves, or they’re in tent communities in the woods where community members might not be aware of them.

But the count will help the SAS aid area homeless as well as better serve the community, the release said. A growing number of community members have been asking how many individuals and families are homeless in their communities, but that question is difficult to answer when homelessness in rural communities often goes unseen.

In the Northern Shenandoah Valley, area homeless might find shelter in abandoned buildings, campsites in the woods, in unstable housing situations with friends or family, or in motels and hotels where they stay temporarily, often with the help of local churches. The higher rates of poverty, combined with the lack of access to service networks, lead to a high rate of homelessness in our community, the release said.

In Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties as well as the city of Winchester, the Point-in-Time count is like a snapshot of homelessness, typically conducted at churches and by other charities that provide community meals for those in need. Volunteers briefly interview willing participants to collect demographic information and then provide homeless with a small bag of personal care items. For this year’s Point-in-Time count, the Frederick County Health Department will join the Valley Health Mobile Coach to distribute the flu vaccine at the CCAP location in Winchester.

Anyone interested in hosting a Point-in-Time count, volunteering as an interviewer, donating hygiene items for personal care bags or offering information about area homeless should contact the following participants:

Oscar Cerrito-Mendoza with the AIDS Response Effort will handle Clarke County, Frederick County, and Winchester: 540-536-5394 or ocerrito@valleyhealthlink.com.

Debbie Dart with Choices of Page County will handle Page County: 540-743-4414.

Shenandoah County Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter will handle Shenandoah County: 540-436-3202 or sassc@shentel.net.

Alex Schweiger with the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission will handle Warren County 540-636-8800 or aschweiger@nsvregion.org.