By NANCY WHITAKER • Progress Staff Writer
Every winter, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) picks a night in January for a survey of the nation’s homeless. On Jan. 28, NOCAC and the Northwest Ohio Housing Coalition conducted the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count in Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Paulding, Van Wert and Williams counties.
Paulding County had a total of nine people considered homeless.
They included: one adult male, one adult youth male, and a family consisting of a man, woman and a youth. Also homeless in the county on that PIT were three Paulding County veterans.
Those falling in the “at risk” category in Paulding County included: 13 adult men, 22 adult women, 18 male youth, 16 female youth and 40 families consisting of 29 men, 40 women and 49 youth.
On that day alone, there were 144 homeless persons seeking assistance and another 602 persons identified to be at risk of losing their housing within the next 4-6 weeks.
The number of veterans in the six county regions currently at risk of homelessness totaled 18, with Paulding County having three.
Families at risk increased significantly from 2012 and 2013, going from approximately 93 families to 181 families.
Also included were the total number of families and individuals who were being assisted for one night only (in hotels or motels) due to the weather which totaled 26.
As frigid winter weather descended on much of the region in January, there were serious concerns for the many people at risk of physical harm from the “polar vortex” cold.
In northwest Ohio homeless shelters were operating at capacity according to reports. This forced those who couldn’t get in to try to find alternate shelter or to seek shelter all night in a 24-hour truck stop to stay warm.
The PIT purpose is to take a statistical sample of what housing and homelessness looks like on a single day in communities throughout the United States.
This year’s PIT count day was the coldest on record for the region. The unexpected and unprecedented adverse conditions appeared to not only increase the awareness of the homeless in the region, but also served as a catalyst for communities to seek out the most vulnerable of those.
In addition, some agencies that have usually participated in the count could not this day due to counties issuing snow emergency level 2.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, there are 3.5 million homeless Americans, and on any given night, over 700,000 people are without a home.
Approximately 700 of these homeless people will die from hypothermia every year. Those deaths tend to occur in the East Coast and in the Midwest. Temperatures in the region have repeatedly stayed below freezing this winter leaving thousands of homeless people in danger.
Although homeless people living in rural areas tend to be less visible than those sleeping on city streets, curling up in doorways or under bridges, they are not invisible. They are sleeping in storage units, stores, unlocked vehicles, in tents, or their cars. Shelters are often harder to access, and too far away to walk.
As it has been in years past, the 2014 homelessness count is an effort to shine a stark light onto what, on any given day, is the reality of the “invisible” and very present problem of the homeless population of northwestern Ohio.
POINT IN TIME COUNT 2014
Number of Homeless:
Van Wert 24
Number at Risk:
Van Wert 168