© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Summit County Continuum of Care calling for volunteers to gather data on homeless population

Tim Edgar calls out to a man staying in a tent.
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Earlier this year, Tim Edgar, residential manager at Community Support Services, calls out to a man staying in a tent in Akron as part of the county's annual Point-in-Time Count.

The Summit County Continuum of Care is looking for 100 volunteers in late January to help survey those experiencing homelessness throughout the county, according to CoC leaders.

Each year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires communities to take a head count of the unhoused population in their area, according to the CoC. Every designated area of the country is taking part in the count on Jan. 23, 2024.

The count helps gather data about those experiencing homelessness, Director of Community Engagement Shana Miller said.

“The importance of this effort is to get a true sense of who, where and why folks are homeless,” Miller said.

Volunteers will not only be required to gather numbers but also ask questions. These questions range from how long people have been homeless to where they slept last night and other demographic information. Volunteers also hand out incentives like scarves, blankets and hand warmers to the people who participate in the study. Volunteers help for between four and six hours. The CoC is specifically looking for volunteers to survey homeless individuals at indoor and outdoor locations, including churches, libraries, hot meal sites and other public locations.

This data helps the government appropriately allocate homelessness assistance funding, which goes towards shelter programs, transitional housing, permanent housing programs, landlord mitigation funds and prevention assistance, Miller said.

“We can get local, state, regional, national numbers of homeless individuals and the funding that communities receive as a result of the point in time count,” Miller said. “Basically, funding is based upon numbers, and we try very diligently to get the correct number so that our community receives its fair share of funding in order to fight homelessness."

The point in time count has taken place since the CoC was established in the 1990s.

Miller wants to remind people that homeless people are more than their situation.

“That's not their identity, it’s just unfortunately, right now, their circumstance," she said.

Last year's count found that homelessness is on the rise in Summit County, after steadily declining for a decade. The number of people experiencing homelessness jumped from 441 in 2022 to 648 in 2023, according to Point-In-Time count data.

Emma MacNiven is a senior journalism student at Kent State University.