Friday, April 10, 2015

Counting the homeless in Darke County

On one of the coldest nights in January, members of the COC Committee, armed with blankets, snacks and hot chocolate, searched various locations in Darke County looking for homeless people. After receiving an anonymous tip, they went to a local abandoned building to discover makeshift sleeping arrangements amid trash and other debris where someone had been staying.
On January 27, 2015, with wind-chill factors of below 0°, members of the Darke County Continuum of Care (COC), led by staff from Community Action Partnership (CAP) and the Dayton VA, completed its ninth Point-In-Time (PIT) count. One of the positive outcomes of the study 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, 19 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 a homeless shelter, one of which was a child. Three individuals were living in a vehicle and had stopped at an all-night laundromat to do laundry. Those three were put up in a hotel and one that the group had several calls about was found a couple days later and entered the Emergency Homeless Shelter. During the study staff members searched under bridges, abandoned buildings, the all-night laundry facilities, libraries, all shelters, campgrounds, abandoned mobile homes and camping trailers.

Janey Christman, Director at CAP, 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. 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’.” Christman further stated that Darke County Metropolitan Housing Authority has been working with the Dayton VA in placement of ten homeless veterans with vouchers through the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program.

In addition, according to the 2014 homeless report available from the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio titled Out of Reach 2014, lack of affordable housing and poverty are the greatest contributors to homelessness for families. They further state that in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent in Ohio, renters need to earn $13.84 per hour. This is Ohio’s 2014 Housing Wage, revealed in the report.

“Nearly one-third of all Ohio renters struggle each month to pay for necessities and still stay housed,” said Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. “With so many experiencing unemployment or underemployment, being able to afford a modest two-bedroom rental is a very real question for a lot of Ohioans right now.”

Working at the 2014 minimum wage in Ohio, a family must have 1.7 wage earners working full-time, or one full-time earner working 70 hours per week, 52 weeks per year to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. “In addition to supporting an increase in the inventory of affordable housing, we support an increase in the federal minimum wage, which has been static since 2009,” said Faith. According to estimates in a recent Congressional Budget Office report on the minimum wage, an increase to $10.10 per hour would boost the weekly earnings of 16.5 million low-wage workers and bring 900,000 people above the poverty line. “Increasing the minimum wage would be one way to start closing the ‘out-of-reach’ housing gap.”

The typical renter in Ohio earns $11.56, which is $2.28 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest unit. The report found that nowhere in America do minimum wage workers earn enough to afford a decent, affordable two-bedroom apartment. In 2014, the national Housing Wage is $18.92.

“In Ohio, we’re fortunate to have the Ohio Housing Trust Fund (OHTF), which supports critical housing needs across the state,” said Faith. “The Out-of-Reach report highlights the importance of dedicating all available funds to the OHTF to help finance affordable housing projects and programs.”

COHHIO is a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to ending homelessness and to promoting decent, safe, fair, affordable housing for all, with a focus on assisting low-income people and those with special needs. For more information, visit:

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