latest headlines

Volunteers blanket Montgomery County to conduct annual homeless count

Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 @ 6:09 PM
By: Chris Stewart - Staff Writer

Debra Horton knows why hundreds of people in Montgomery County end up homeless every day: addiction, unemployment, incarceration, abuse.

She experienced them all.

“You don’t realize how many people there are out here and you don’t realize who it affects,” said Horton, now an outreach specialist with Miami Valley Housing Opportunities. “There are 14- and 15-year-olds walking around here with no homes. That affects everybody because this is our community. They grow up and either survive or not.”

RELATED: County has ‘effectively’ ended homelessness among veterans

Early Wednesday, Horton and about 30 other volunteers fanned out across Montgomery County to count how many people — once like her — are living on the street.

The annual Point-in-Time Count is both required and a determining factor in how much federal money the county receives for homeless programs.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care (CoC) grants are the largest single funding source for housing and services for people who are homeless, said Kathleen Shanahan, Montgomery County’s Housing and Homeless Solutions program coordinator.

This year, the Dayton-Kettering-Montgomery County CoC received 29 awards totaling $9.5 million to help get people off streets, out of shelters and into stable housing.

RELATED: HUD awards $9.5M within county to fight homelessness

By 7:30 a.m., Horton and her team identified 18 people primarily along Gettysburg Avenue, including a teenage girl without a coat, who were living without shelter.

They met another man who had just been released from jail and was sleeping in a “bando,” or abandoned house.

“He’s a heroin addict. He’s 19 years old. His mom just passed away and she’s the one who got him hooked on heroin,” Horton said. “So he’s going through that.”

The number of people staying in Montgomery County shelters is reported through a data system. The information is collected from Daybreak youth shelter, Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness outreach (PATH), St. Vincent de Paul Gettysburg Gateway for Men, St. Vincent de Paul Gateway Shelter for Women and Families, and the YWCA of Dayton’s domestic violence shelter.

Last year, the annual Point-in-Time Count showed 382 households in Montgomery County had no home. Altogether, 500 people were counted, 53 of whom were unsheltered.

MORE: $400K recycling grants available to Montgomery County cities, groups

At 11 a.m., Horton found Mickey Henry at the House of Bread, a Dayton food kitchen.

“I’ve been bouncing, but I can’t seem to bounce back,” said Henry, a 32-year-old a couple years out of prison.

He landed in prison for “young, dumb, stupid stuff,” but primarily for robbery, he said.

Before he went to prison, Henry lived in a house on Harvard Boulevard. Now he sleeps in a “bando” not far from downtown on an avenue most would recognize.

“I only go there at night. I’m out trying to hustle jobs all day,” he said. “I need housing.”

Henry was at least the 35th unsheltered person identified by the volunteers on Wednesday.

The final numbers won’t be known for a couple more weeks, Shanahan said. Even then, it’s hard to get a 100-percent accurate count.

“It is as accurate as we can get it,” she said.“You can’t canvass every inch of the county. Particularly when it comes to vacant and abandoned housing.”

MORE: Montgomery County gets $1.2M to help make homelessness ‘rare, brief’

Volunteers came from the city of Dayton, Daybreak, Dayton Police Department, Homefull, Montgomery County, PATH, VA Medical Center and Volunteers of America found the unsheltered in municipalities besides Dayton and in unsuspecting locations, Shanahan said.

“We found people in 24-hour laundromats and Waffle Houses, so it’s not just the typical spots people think of,” she said. “We found (unsheltered) people certainly in Dayton, in Huber Heights, in Vandalia, in Englewood just to name a few.” Teams later visited Moraine and Miamisburg and other parts of town.

While the primary homeless shelters are in Dayton, those who need help are from all across the county, Shanahan said.

“They all didn’t become homeless in Dayton,” she said. “Literally every jurisdiction: Oakwood, Washington Twp., Centerville, Kettering, and those north, when you map it by ZIP code, all jurisdictions in Montgomery County show up as somebody’s last permanent address.”