WAYNE COUNTY—The annual Point-In-Time (PIT) Count, aimed to monitor the homeless population in the area, is scheduled to take place this evening.

Helen Kelly, Housing Coordinator for Wayne County Human Services, presented statistics at last week's Commissioners' business meeting for the last three years' worth of data.

Kelly noted when she took over the PIT count in 2016, numbers spiked, due in part to better counting methods, increased awareness for the issue, and the inclusion of sheltered homeless individuals in the count.

“From there, once we got better at counting, the numbers went up, and then we started to see a dip, which is what we hoped would happen as we started getting more and more services in place and building capacity to help meet the need,” said Kelly.

Embarking on the PIT count, community volunteers “...go out, they hit the streets. They check alleyways. They go to bars. They go to hospitals. They say 'Have you seen anyone living in their vehicle?,'” Kelly explained. “They'll go to the Walmart parking lot a few times, to see if there's a car there longer than usual.”

Volunteers take a record of individuals who may need services, this year making use of a new app alongside the traditional paper reports to collect data.

The data is used to identify trends to better inform care services and programs and to help in grant writing.

Data, including location at the time of the interview, is only collected from willing participants who do not pose a threat to the volunteers, Kelly explained.

“Over the years, we really kind of perfected our methods out here,” said Kelly. “Last year, the State actually invited Wayne County to train the rest of the state on some of the things we're doing for our PIT count because they wanted to see that replicated.”

In addition to information gathering, volunteers also disburse items like sleeping bags and toiletries to those in need.

“Ultimately we'd like to serve them if they're willing,” said Kelly. “If we're not aware of this person already, we're made aware of them that night.”

While there is currently no mass shelter for homeless individuals in Wayne County, Kelly explained there are three smaller shelters throughout the county, currently at capacity while the occupants look for permanent residences.

The housing coordinator added, “Shelters...really just manage homelessness. They're not ending it, they're just managing it. A lot of the programs that you guys have allowed us to do, they actually end homelessness. The only real way to end it is to give someone a home.”

The several small emergency shelters “... almost meeting the need. We're definitely better than we were a few years ago. We're not quite there yet, but we're getting closer to meeting that need.”

She explained the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states a county has reached “functional zero” homelessness if it can turn around a need for housing consistently in 30 days or less.

“Recently, we've been averaging about 28 days,” said Kelly.

Those in Wayne County in need of housing services or who know of someone who is can dial 211 for the coordinated entry system.

They can also seek help through the Human Services department at 570-253-4262.

Other business

At last Thursday's Commissioners meeting, the County approved the reappointment of David Gregory and Lothar Holbert to the Wayne County Industrial Development Authority.

Gregory's term was approved from January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2022.

Holbert's was approved effective January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2023.

Separately, the Commissioners also approved the judicial appointment of Joseph Wolff as an Adult Probation Officer.

In a separate matter, the County received a grant award of $91,950 from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to fund victim witness coordination services.