AKRON, Ohio — There are more than 10,000 people living without permanent shelter on a given night in Ohio, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Volunteers in Summit County collected data about those individuals Tuesday in an effort to gain a more accurate representation of resources needed to help that particular population.

What You Need To Know

  • Volunteers helped conduct the point-in-time count in Summit County this week

  • The survey helps provide demographic information about those without permanent shelter in the community to help obtain resources to assist the population

  • The count is required nationwide by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

It's a population which now includes Donnie Jean Hudkins, whose life changed forever when her husband died. 

"He'd taken care of me since I was 20-years-old, 21-years-old," she said. "I'm now 56. I was a stay-at-home mother." 

Lacking an income, she's spent the past several years shuffling between the street and shelters, without a permanent place to call home.

"You can't really think about tomorrow," Hudkins said. "Just try to make it through the day or night."

While grabbing a meal at the Outreach House in Akron Tuesday, volunteers asked Hudkins and the other folks passing through a few questions for the annual point-in-time count. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires a survey take place during a single day each January to determine the size of the community's population that's unhoused, and whether additional funding can be directed to fight homelessness in communities. 

In addition to counts taking place at nonprofits assisting the unsheltered community, about six teams spread out across Summit County to survey known camp locations.

Kayla Koontz, a homeless outreach shelter manager with Community Support Services, said she visits people living out in the elements each day to help build a rapport. 

“Sometimes everybody needs a little help when they’re down, and that’s what we’re here for," she said. "To provide them with the resources they can use to build themselves to the best person they can be."

She and her coworkers, Jennifer Canfield and Mikaylla Simms, trudged through several inches of snow Tuesday to find several campsites in a wooded area near train tracks. Canfield said it was one of about 20 such locations in the county. 

"It's a pretty easy place to set up shop and be able to hide your tent, hide your campsite," she said. "Kind of stay safe."

The group delivered bags of essential items, hoping through the survey to get a better picture of how to help people like Hudkins.

"I tell you what, you start to appreciate things you never thought of before," Hudkins said. "Not really took for granted, just weren't aware of how bad it can really get."