The Western Virginia Continuum of Care is planning its annual Point-in-Time homeless count for Jan. 22 and accepting Letter of Intent applications from eligible agencies operating within the CoC’s geographic region.

Agencies qualify if they provide or intend to provide homeless services in the following program areas, according to a news release from the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority:

  • Targeted prevention.
  • Rapid re-housing.
  • Coordinated entry/centralized intake.
  • Street outreach.
  • Emergency shelter.

The yearly count helps the CoC qualify for the Virginia Homeless Solutions Program (VHSP) 2020-2022 grant cycle, the release states.

The full notice of VHSP funding availability including eligibility requirements and the Letter of Intent application can be found at continuumofcare513.com.

The Point-in-Time count gives agencies and volunteers an idea of who needs their help. Each year in January, they canvas the region to count and survey people living in unsheltered places, such as cars, abandoned buildings and tent cities, or staying in homeless shelters in the area.

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (HUD) is required to obtain a count of homeless persons or families around Virginia, but the types of shelter included in the count are strictly regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a Friday news release from the CoC explains.

“HUD funds programs in Virginia that serve the homeless,” the release states. “Continued funding from HUD for homeless programs throughout Virginia is contingent upon efforts to collect data on homeless persons.”

The count does not include people living in extended-stay situations such as motels, said Michael Wong, executive director of the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

“We know that is a very large number of people with unstable housing,” he said. However, he explained, such people aren’t considered homeless by the specific HUD rules.

The Point-in-Time count also doesn’t include people who are vulnerable to become homeless, such as those in the prison system who, once released, may have nowhere to go.

“It’s really difficult to count those individuals,” Wong said.

However, HUD does maintain a census survey of homeless who are living with others, said Laura Black, HMIS coordinator/database administrator for the Western Continuum of Care.

"That is how they obtain the numbers on doubled up population that we skip during the PiT," she wrote in a Friday email.

Otherwise, she said, "We would have to go house to house to collect doubled up housing data."

She said the HUD combines data from its American Housing Survey with the Point-in-Time data "to complete a picture of all groups facing homelessness."

In 2019, the CoC identified 210 homeless individuals in the Northern Region of the CoC, which includes the city of Winchester and counties of Frederick, Warren, Page, Shenandoah and Clarke). Of those counted, 38 were children, and 19 were adults living in tents, vehicles or other places not fit for habitation.

Letter of Intent applications with required attachments and templates must be emailed to the CoC Coordinator at vadowei@harrisonburgrha.com by Friday. The first VHSP applicant meeting for all agencies that submit a Letter of Intent will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Shenandoah Department of Fire and Rescue training room, 600 N. Main St., #109, in Woodstock.

For further information on the CoC’s application process for this grant cycle, contact Vine Adowei, CoC Coordinator, at vadowei@harrisonburgrha.com or call 540-437-9545.

The Western Virginia Continuum of Care (CoC) is a collaboration of nonprofits, governments, schools, hospitals, law enforcement, and community members that works to prevent and end homelessness in the Shenandoah Valley. The CoC area includes the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren, and the cities of Winchester and Harrisonburg.

For more Point-in-Time information, visit continuumofcare513.com/point-in-time-count-data.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com