by Kate Evans
The Telamon Corporation and the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness will conduct their annual 24-hour Point in Time Homeless Count in Morgan County beginning next Wednesday, January 27 at 4:00 p.m. and ending Thursday, January 28 at 3:59 p.m.
Telamon staff will coordinate a street count and collect information of individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness in Morgan County and is asking for volunteers to help with the count, according to their press release.
Information from the Point in Time Count will help identify the number of county homeless people and families and their needs and help area agencies determine the type of future services and amount of funding that’s needed.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Point in Time Count will be extended until February 11 with its aim to determine where homeless individuals and families were sleeping on the night of January 27. Having two weeks to accomplish that count gives a longer timeframe and needs fewer volunteers. Safety is extremely important.
Telamon Corporation Housing Family Mentor Cynthia Jamison said that she only counted two homeless individuals last year during the actual Point in Time Homeless Count. They had a hard time getting volunteers last year and she did the count herself.
In 2017, the count identified 17 homeless individuals. The numbers have dwindled some but Jamison said that people in need often figure out how to get to places like Berkeley County that have more services and housing possibilities. There are more permanent shelters in Berkeley County. During the daytime there is nowhere in Morgan County for the homeless to go.
“There is a lack of resources for poverty-stricken individuals in Morgan County,” Jamison said.
Jamison is also director of the Faith Community Coalition for the Homeless, which serves Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson Counties. She is a Morgan County resident.
Are living off the land
Jamison said that there are a lot of homeless individuals that have adapted and have learned to live off the land in shacks and sheds up in the mountains. A lot of them don’t want to be found or identified as homeless because of the stigma and pride.
Jamison said she found a family of two adults and two minor children living in a shed in Morgan County during her Point in Time Homeless Count two years ago during the end of January. The family had no running water, a wood stove for heat and a creek on the property for cleaning. The family took showers at a campground.
The Morgan County Homeless Coalition plays an important part in the community assisting the homeless. The coalition is still unable to provide shelter for the homeless through their rotating church shelters due to COVID-19 and liability, Jamison said. Most of their shelter volunteers are in a high-risk group for COVID-19. The Homeless Coalition is putting up homeless individuals that need shelter at a local motel now.
Numbers much greater
Jamison believes the number of homeless is much higher than what they’ve been able to count and what they’ve seen before with the large number of people impacted by COVID-19. People may have to be home to take care of their children and lose their jobs or have lost their jobs due to the impact of COVID-19 and businesses and restaurants being shut down.
People living on disability don’t have the income to meet what they need to live on, she said. There are so many pressures already on the population.
The Point in Time Homeless Count will have field workers to put homeless individuals and families on a housing list. They will assess them for how high a risk of fatality they face on the street. The homeless will be put in apartments with case management then they’ll be moved into the community on their own or with case management supports, she said.
This year Jamison will have an AmeriCorps volunteer to help her on the Point in Time Count. Starting Points has always been very helpful with the county homeless count along with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Boys and Girls Club. All of the agencies try to do their best. There’s just not enough people to go around, she said.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) services are based on the numbers of homeless they find, Jamison stressed. If they don’t get the numbers, then there isn’t as much funding.
“The more volunteers, the merrier,” Jamison said.
Anyone interested in volunteering to do the Point in Time Homeless Count can call Jamison 24 hours a day at 304-886-1959 or they can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People can also contact Jamison if they have information about a homeless person and can provide her with information about where they’re located. Jamison can also help them with resources as she’s the resource coordinator for the tri-state area.