AKRON, Ohio — The Summit County Continuum of Care is looking for volunteers who can help conduct a critical, upcoming head count of the area’s homeless populations, the agency said.
The CoC is a multi-agency organization that provides an array of services through about 30 partner organizations, including the Battered Women's Shelter, United Way, Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority and others.
CoCs are a program of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Counties that receive HUD funding to fight homelessness work to strategize, creating a plan that works to keep people from returning to homelessness.
The upcoming head count, the Point in Time, is conducted in January, because the coldest month offers the agency the best chance of finding individuals in groups, said CoC Executive Director Mar-quetta Boddie.
In Summit County, two PIT counts take place each January.
Homeless adults are counted in one day. Street outreach teams visit shelters, tent encampments under bridges and in woods, and other locations, having interacted throughout the year with many of the individuals they seek to house.
Sheltered can mean emergency or transitional shelter, while unsheltered people includes those living in tents.
The youth count takes place over an entire week in January. That’s because homelessness is different for people 14 to 24, who often “couch-surf” as opposed to pitching tents in the woods, said CoC Youth Coordinator Shana Miller.
Miller started the CoC Youth Advisory Board, which is composed of formerly homeless young adults, who can connect with at-risk youth and listen to them to better understand their needs, she said.
Miller is looking for young volunteers to help count young at-risk individuals, but will work with anyone willing to help in the count, she said.
“We especially encourage people who have experienced homelessness to get involved, as they are an indispensable resource to a successful point-in-time count of unsheltered people,” Boddie said. “Our goal is to create a more culturally competent and diverse group of volunteers to not only help build trust, but also for improving the provision of services to marginalized groups.”
During the PIT, workers fan out across the city, hitting all locations they believe the homeless frequent, the agency said.
An accurate count of the homeless of all ages is vital to the CoC, because it impacts the level of funding the HUD awards the CoC to disperse to member agencies, Boddie said.
The CoC distributes about $5 million annually to the agencies, with the overarching goal to move people into housing with the appropriate support for the individual’s specific needs, Boddie said. Appropriate support is the best way to keep them from returning to the streets.
According to the CoC 2021 annual report, the agency served more than 4,000 people, of which 74% were newly homeless.
Nearly 1,800 people received emergency shelter, the agency reported. Among the populations served, special groups included chronically homeless people, veterans, young people 12 to 24 and young parents under 25, with children.
To serve as a volunteer for the PIT, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.