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Homeless Count Continues in Ohio Despite Bitter Cold

PHOTO:Volunteers will fan out across Ohio today and tonight to search for those who are without shelter. Photo courtesy of the Community Shelter Board.
PHOTO:Volunteers will fan out across Ohio today and tonight to search for those who are without shelter. Photo courtesy of the Community Shelter Board.
January 28, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Despite the bitter cold, volunteers will be out today in Ohio for the annual Point in Time count of the number of homeless people.

Agencies in most counties are coordinating their own individual counts, and they'll be looking for those living in shelters and those who are unsheltered, staying in places such as parks, cars and abandoned buildings.

Erica Mulryan, Continuum of Care coordinator with the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, says it's tough for the final numbers to truly reflect the actual number of those who are without a home.

"We're trying to find people who are going out of their way in many cases to be and remain hidden,” she explains. “But it's the best we've got and people are doing a lot of work to ensure that they're reaching everyone and anyone they can."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the count be done by any agency that receives funding for emergency shelter, housing and other supportive services for those who are homeless.

HUD requires the counts be completed any time during the last 10 days of January.

The Community Shelter Board in Columbus held its count last week, and spokeswoman Sara Loken says the cold weather doesn't deter volunteers, and actually helps to build awareness.

"You and I suffer during this cold weather walking from our car into the office, and it's so cold and we're uncomfortable,” she points out. “But imagine what it would be like to be outside for an undetermined amount of time because you have nowhere else to go."

The Community Shelter Board had a different approach to the count, holding an inside event so those without a place to stay could meet with agencies that could connect them to shelter and other needed supports.

Mulryan says the data collected will be reported to HUD, and help to better drive the development of new homeless services.

"When we're doing interviews and we can assess some level of need of those who might be unsheltered or living on the land, we can use that data in turn to update or make changes to the services we're providing," she explains.

In 2013, the count found that more than 12,000 people in Ohio were homeless.



Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH