Preliminary numbers for the Point-In-Time (PIT) count remind local residents of the continued need for shelter.
On Jan. 31, participants from several local agencies, including homeless shelters and veterans, conducted a count of homeless individuals in Davie, Iredell, Surry, Stokes and Yadkin counties.
In preparation for the evening, count teams canvassed counties searching for signs of people at various points including bridges, abandoned buildings and other potential shelters.
Janet Guyer, newest staff at the Elkin homeless shelter The ARK, joined the PIT count for the first time with ARK Director Cynthia Cothren.
Guyer was amazed at the size of areas to search in one evening.
“It’s one thing to drive around the entire area from Ingles to the old Walmart,” said Guyer, after walking the area on a dark cold night, “but it gives you an entirely different perspective.”
“When you are looking behind every shopping center, vacant building, parks, and even vehicles where folks may be seeking shelter,” said Cothren, “it seems a massive area to search.”
It is also dangerous.
“We take precautions,” said Kevin Hege, veterans representative for the NC Department of Commerce. “You never know what you’re going to walk into when you are doing these counts. These people are already pretty vulnerable and on alert, and we’re a bunch of strangers walking up on them.”
These strangers hoped to bring relief in several ways starting with the most practical needs.
“We distributed food from Chick-fil-A and sleeping bags,” said Hege.
Helping Hands of Surry/Yadkin County collected winter gear and other items to be distributed during the count.
“We have been amazed by how many people came to help provide for those that are in need,” said Eric Allman, who also appreciated the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce serving as a drop-off point.
“We got enough stuff that we will be able to continue to provide after tonight.”
Although the PIT count takes place in January, Helping Hands plans to conduct a similar drive in September.
The count also provides in more long-term ways by supplying information required for grants and funding, including the vouchers that were used that night to supply quarters for homeless veterans.
Those homeless individuals staying on vouchers or at locations such as The ARK in Elkin, Shepherds House in Mount Airy and Fifth Street Ministries in Statesville are considered “sheltered” and are included in the final count with those who are “unsheltered” and living in their car or more difficult situations.
Final numbers for this year’s count are expected to be available for comparison against last year’s total of 85 homeless individuals at the end of the week.
For more information about the Point-In-Time program, go to endhomelessness.org/resource/what-is-a-point-in-time-count/.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.