Encampments by homeless persons are sometimes encountered during the PIT Count

Area signs such as these, of possible encampments by people experiencing homelessness, were documented during the 2019 Point-in-Time Count, according to Candace Timmerman with Meg’s House.

There’s just one more Greenwood training session for volunteers to help with the state’s annual Point-in-Time Count to help track homelessness in our communities.

The training session is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the United Center for Community Care, 929 Phoenix St., in Greenwood.

Those attending will be trained in how to administer the survey used to collect Point-in-Time Count data and get the most accurate information. This count enables agencies, volunteers and organizations to make contact with people experiencing homelessness on a given night in January. The 2020 PIT Count is Jan. 22.

Notify Candace Timmerman at 864-980-9405 if you will be attending the training or if you know of a person experiencing homelessness.

Homelessness takes many forms, Timmerman said. She encourages people to contact her if they see someone sleeping in a vehicle in a shopping center parking lot or notice encampments in wooded areas or other scenarios.

Timmerman is the Meg’s House director of housing programs and she is president of the Upstate Continuum of Care and the continuum’s GAMES Chapter president.

Greenwood, Abbeville, McCormick, Edgefield and Saluda counties are part of the GAMES Chapter that is part of the Upstate Continuum of Care. Agencies within the GAMES Chapter include local entities Greenwood Pathway House, Meg’s House and Self Regional Healthcare, as well as United Housing Connections of Greenville.

Made up of more than 80 agencies, the Upstate CoC works to provide homeless people with services and housing and help them toward self-sufficiency. There are four continuums of care in South Carolina.

“We work together to compile a statewide report to provide a comprehensive picture of homelessness,” Timmerman said. “Just the school district homeless numbers from data in 2017 and 2018 are outrageous. The 2019 South Carolina State of Homelessness Report, from the South Carolina Interagency Council on Homelessness reflected 5,782 school-age children in the Upstate were homeless, according to numbers from McKinney-Vento.”

This statewide report, Timmerman said, includes homeless population data from several different sources, including the Point-in-Time or PIT Count, school district homeless population data collected through the McKinney-Vento Act, Annual Homelessness Assessment Report, United States Census data and more.

The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law that ensures rights of students to go to school, even when they are homeless or don’t have a permanent address. Collecting and reporting data on numbers of homeless students are part of federal requirements.

Timmerman also said Greenwood’s numbers for the single-night PIT Count have increased from 115 in 2018 to 124 in 2019.

The 10 counties with the highest number of people counted in 2019 were Richland, Horry, Greenville, Charleston, Spartanburg, Florence, Greenwood, York, Lexington, and Anderson counties, according to the 2019 South Carolina State of Homelessness Report.

To track the scope of homelessness in our communities, every year, the Upstate Continuum of Care conducts the Point in Time Count (PIT) – a count of sheltered and unsheltered persons experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. The 2020 PIT Count will be done on the night of Jan. 22.

Counts are also conducted with organizations serving homeless populations, including Greenwood Soup Kitchen, the Immanuel Lutheran Church Soup Kitchen and the Monsanto Gym at the United Center for Community Care.

Those counted receive toiletries and blankets for participating in the survey, Timmerman said, noting those items have already been collected to distribute.

While the focus on a single night under-represents homeless numbers, Timmerman said data from this count, as well as homeless numbers factored through public school systems, are critical for federal funding for Continuum of Care Housing Programs and Emergency Solutions Grants through the Office of Economic Opportunity that provide shelter funding.

“Housing and Urban Development presents PIT Count data to Congress, in order for funding to be allotted to programs,” Timmerman said.

Regarding the 2019 South Carolina State of Homelessness Report, Timmerman said “Report data is in line with the way I thought things would look. The statewide report takes into account more than just the PIT Count numbers. It also takes into consideration the numbers from public school districts, which have a broader definition of homelessness. Census data was also viewed. The statewide report gives a better picture of what’s actually going on.

“In Greenwood, PIT Count numbers from 2018 to 2019 have gone up,” Timmerman said. “We try to get better with counting and get information from agencies in the community, including law enforcement, about anywhere where somebody might be sleeping in the woods. We want people in need to know resources are out there if they want them.”

Contact St. Claire Donaghy at 864-943-2518.