Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How many are homeless in Darke County?

Carol Littman, COC committee member, checks a make-shift shelter believed to have been used to shelter someone in the Greenville area.
The Darke County Continuum of Care, created in 2004, is the framework for an array of outreach through emergency shelters, transitional and permanent housing. Supportive services are in place to address the varying needs of persons who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The primary goal is to define the obstacles and barriers that prevent individuals and families from maintaining permanent housing. Understanding who is homeless and the number of homeless persons in Darke County helps fulfill the mission and, in turn, helps those in need.

MISSION: The Darke County Continuum of Care is dedicated to ending homelessness within our communities by raising awareness of the factors that put people at risk, collaborating in addressing all contributing factors and securing necessary support services to assist individuals and families in maintaining safe, affordable and decent housing.

On January 25, 2012, members of the Darke County COC completed its sixth Point-In-Time (PIT) count. This count, based on a survey of organizations in the county that provide homeless assistance services, is required by the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) to be computed the last week of January in a 24-hour period. One of the positive outcomes of the PIT is the awareness to our community and the response it brings to the homeless plight. Work done by the COC has resulted in a better understanding of who the homeless are and recognize those who are chronically homeless. On the date of the study, 46 individuals were homeless as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) during this one 24 hour period. Also on that night, 25 individuals were living in homeless shelters and there was a single female with 3 children in the Shelter From Violence. Two individuals were living in transitional housing, three in hotels/motels, three in jail, 46 with relatives or friends, and one family, a female adult with four children literally homeless sleeping in her vehicle.

The COC committee is also concerned with individuals who are precariously housed. This includes those living in substandard housing and those living doubled–up with others. Melissa Sparks, COC Chairperson said, “As we all know, families have many dynamics and when families are forced to live with each other due to financial hardships this often leads to a dysfunctional family situation. Many families coming into the shelter are a result of this outcome.” She further stated, “HUD defines homeless as ‘unsheltered homeless - a place not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, streets, and abandoned buildings; sheltered homeless - as persons who reside in an emergency shelter, transitional housing or a hotel/motel’.”

Current emergency housing sources available in Darke County include 1) Community Housing; 2) Darke Co. Emergency Homeless Shelter; 3) Good Samaritan Home; 4) Fitzpatrick House; and 5) the Shelter From Violence.

According to a 2008 homeless report available from the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, lack of affordable housing and poverty are the greatest contributors to homelessness for families. They further state, “A house is the basis for a home. It's the structure inside which our lives unfold; where we nurture our children, face our challenges and celebrate our milestones. For a house to become a home it must be safe, decent, affordable - and available”.

Members of the COC Committee include representatives from Community Action Partnership, FISH, Darke Co. Metropolitan Housing Authority, Darke Co. Mental Health, Darke Co. Grants Office, Darke Co. Commissioners, Darke Co. Veterans Office, Darke Co. Jobs & Family Services, Darke Co. Red Cross, City of Greenville, Darke Co. Emergency Homeless Shelter, Greenville First United Methodist Church, Fuller Center, Safe Haven, Inc., Darke Co. Board of MRDD, Darke Co. Health Dept., Salvation Army, Good Samaritan Home, Community Housing, Light House Christian Center, and Legal Aid of Western Ohio.

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