January count reveals 92 homeless in area

PARKERSBURG – Homeless numbers in Parkersburg are about the same as in January 2013, officials said Wednesday.

The annual January homeless count took place on Monday evening, said Tim Baer, engagement specialist with Westbrook Health Services.

Eight people were discovered outside in the cold on Monday night, Baer said. Some of these were camping in their cars, while others were using tents, Baer said.

There were multiple locations with evidence of people living there, but no one was found in the area, Baer said.

The Latrobe Street Mission revealed 65 people seeking shelter on Monday evening, 14 of whom were children, Baer said.

The Salvation Army was housing 19 people, four of whom were children, Baer said.

The Wood County Board of Education reported that 369 county students have been classified as homeless since the start of the 2013-2014 school year in August, Baer said.

Baer noted that students who report themselves or their families as living with relatives or friends, rather than in a home owned or rented by their parents directly, are considered homeless for the duration of their stay.

The number of students in this report grows throughout the year, even once those students are considered to have a home again, Baer said.

“I was alarmed about this year’s count,” Baer said. “After the first really cold night in early January, we discovered 16 people on the streets,” he said. It appears that half of those have located shelter or moved away due to the incessant cold weather, he said.

From 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, volunteers were stationed at both the Salvation Army and the Latrobe Street Mission to conduct an information-gathering session, Baer said.

These volunteers collected information on the homeless who were seeking shelter in both locations that evening.

From 8 to 10 p.m. Monday, volunteers walked the streets of Parkersburg in the bitter cold, searching locations that are known as camping spots for the homeless, Baer said.

Those who were located outside of the shelters were provided with backpacks filled with food and personal care items, Baer said.

The homeless count continued with an outreach program through House to Home on Tuesday, featuring a luncheon at 11 a.m. This luncheon provided an opportunity for the homeless count to encounter anyone it may have missed the night before, Baer said.

The House to Home outreach program did not reveal anyone who had not been counted the day before, Baer said.

The annual January homeless count takes place on the same day nationwide, said Ashley Way, executive director of the Wood County Family Resource Network.

The results of the count are reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Way said. HUD then reports the gathered numbers to Congress, which in turn decides how annual funding will be distributed to state coalitions for homelessness across the nation, Way said.

The backpacks that were given out on the streets were donated by Simonton, and the items within were purchased with grant money that was issued to the Wood County Family Resource Network, Baer said.

The Westbrook Health Service, the Children’s Home Society, the Mid-Ohio Valley Fellowship Home, Peer Supports, the United Way and other community volunteers worked together under the name of the Wood County Continuum of Care to perform the homeless count, Baer said.