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Homeless numbers decrease since 2012

Feb. 18, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The number of homeless men, women and children living in shelters or on the streets in Huntington has decreased since 2012, according to early figures released by the Huntington-Cabell-Wayne Continuum of Care.

Numbers obtained during a January 2013 count indicated a total homeless population of 249 people, down from 274 counted in January 2012.

That drop could be attributed to extremely cold temperatures the day of the count, according to Francie Roberts-Buchanan, director of Information and Referral Services for Cabell and Wayne Counties, who said several people were encountered who had no home, but indicated they stayed with friends or relatives or in a motel during the cold spell. Those individuals could not be counted according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines.

The point-in-time count, performed statewide, provides communities with a snapshot of homelessness to target how funding should be used. HUD requires communities that receive Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance grant funding to complete annual sheltered and unsheltered counts during the past 10 days in January. Last week, the local Continuum of Care, which consists of 60 agencies that provide services to the homeless in Cabell and Wayne counties, submitted a HUD grant application for $1.7 million.

Counting from Virginia Point Park in Kenova to the Cabell County-Mason County line, trained volunteers use GIS mapping technology to count homeless people living at emergency shelters, in transitional housing, on the streets and in places not meant for human habitation.

According to 2013 figures, 249 homeless individuals were counted, including 58 children. Of the 249 counted, there were 28 homeless families (consisting of at least one adult and one minor child) representing 90 people. Five of the families had five or more members in the family, a number that surprised Roberts-Buchanan.

"I can't ever remember this many large families," she said.

There were also four single fathers with kids and a four-member, two-parent household.

Of the 249 counted, 18 were unsheltered the night prior to the count, which was counted at 7 a.m., when the temperature was 12 degrees. "Unsheltered" could refer to a tent, abandoned building, RV or garage with no utilities. Of the 18 unsheltered, two were women.

"As bad as it is, we did not encounter any families or unaccompanied youth that were unsheltered," she said. "We still know that we need more affordable permanent housing, with emphasis on units for families, and more options for substance abuse treatment and recovery."

Roberts-Buchanan said the number of homeless veterans was not readily available, but that they might discover a dent in the number, thanks to the active commitment of many in the area.

Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.

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