Re­port: Ce­cil County’s home­less count drops slightly

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CH­ERYL MAT­TIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— Ce­cil County’s num­ber of home­less per­sons could be down — the an­nual point-in-time sur­vey con­ducted dur­ing a snow­storm this win­ter in­di­cates a drop — how­ever new rules changed who was counted.

Right now, the count in­di­cates 167 in 2016, down

ELK­TON

from 191 home­less per­sons in the county last year. But new rules didn’t al­low 34 clients from Perry Point VA Med­i­cal Cen­ter to be counted.

“If they had been counted, we would be at 201 in 2016,” said Gwen Par­rack, di­rec­tor of spe­cial pop­u­la­tions ser­vice for the Ce­cil County Health De­part­ment.

The 2016 point in time re­sults were re­vealed last week dur­ing a meet­ing of the Ce­cil County In­ter­A­gency Coun­cil on Home­less­ness at the health de­part­ment. The coun­cil is the county’s gov­ern­ing body on Con­tin­uum of Care to pro­mote com­mu­nity-wide plan­ning to end home­less­ness and help in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies achieve long-term stability.

“We’re still look­ing re­ally high,” Par­rack said. “But each year the meth­ods get bet­ter, so the numbers should be more ac­cu­rate.”

County or­ga­ni­za­tions that serve the home­less — Deep Roots at Clair­vaux Farm; Ch­e­sa­peake Health Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gram; On Our Own; The Paris Foun­da­tion; Ce­cil County Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Shel­ter; and Meet­ing Ground’s ro­tat­ing shel­ter, Mary Ran­dall Cen­ter, Set­tle­ment House and Way­farer’s House — par­tic­i­pated in the 2016 count.

The fi­nal tally showed twice as many home­less males as females, just one of the many as­pects of data the sur­vey cov­ered. A vast ma­jor­ity were white and non-veter­ans.

A ma­jor­ity of the home­less, 71 per­cent, are adults over the age of 25, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent count. Nearly half of the home­less have ei­ther se­ri­ous men­tal ill­ness or sub­stance abuse dis­or­ders or both, while 22 were con­sid­ered chron­i­cally home­less and 10 were home­less due to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. The chronic numbers in Ce­cil County are al­most half of what they were in 2015.

“This count is only a snap­shot in time, taken on one day and could have been im­pacted by the snow­storm,” Par­rack cau­tioned.

In 2011, the point in time count showed 220 home­less. Since that time, the num­ber has gone up and down, but stayed within a low of 167 in the re­cent count and a high of 220 from five years ear­lier.

The point in time census is re­quired by the U.S. De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban Devel­op­ment once a year in Jan­uary. Changes in how the count was con­ducted came af­ter HUD changed the def­i­ni­tion of home­less, ex­plained Ja­son Burns, who was con­tracted to do the count in 2016.

“A ma­jor­ity of the ju­ris­dic­tions do both a shel­tered count and an un­shel­tered count,” Burns said. “Rules changed this time to not count ‘couch-surfers’ and elim­i­nated two pro­grams from Perry Point VA in the count be­cause HUD changed the def­i­ni­tion of home­less.”

Ce­cil County’s shel­tered count was 116, while the un­shel­tered was 51, which is sup­posed to in­clude those liv­ing in tents. The prior year’s un­shel­tered count was 35.

HUD cat­e­go­rizes hous­ing by sea­sonal, emer­gency, tran­si­tional, rapid re­hous­ing and per­ma­nent sup­port hous­ing.

“The numbers for us show an in­crease,” Burns said. “But those of us in the field don’t see that.”

Point in time counts are one of 60 fac­tors con­sid­ered by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for fund­ing al­lo­ca­tions each year.

Sev­eral mem­bers of the in­ter-agency coun­cil asked Burns to pro­vide them with more data from the count in spe­cific ar­eas when he re­turns to a fu­ture meet­ing.

Cindy Os­bourne, di­rec­tor of Elk­ton Hous­ing Author­ity, said HUD’s fre­quent pol­icy changes im­pact the re­sults of these counts.

“In my opin­ion, some of the de­ci­sion mak­ers are dis­con­nected from the field,” she said.

“Some­times get­ting a home doesn’t solve a home­less per­son’s prob­lems,” she added, not­ing that many of them suf­fer from men­tal or sub­stance dis­or­ders.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est data, Ce­cil County’s shel­tered home­less count was 116, while the un­shel­tered was 51, which in­cludes those liv­ing in tents like those pho­tographed be­hind the Big Elk Mall in Novem­ber.

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