WILMINGTON — Although organizers believe the actual number of homeless around Wilmington is higher than the official Point-In-Time (PIT) count, they did document 30 in the woods or streets of Wilmington, 13 at the homeless shelter, eight at the Sugartree Ministries men’s shelter, one at Hope House, and according to the villages’ law enforcement eight in Blanchester and one in Sabina.
In addition to the Sept. 23 PIT count, three pre-points-in-time were conducted where a group walked city streets and wooded areas in Wilmington and the Clinton County area to look for those experiencing homelessness.
To confirm a person as homeless during those walks, group members had to actually speak to or observe the person, Clinton County Homeless Shelter Executive Director Denise Stryker told county commissioners Monday.
So, if a camp site was found and there were, say, four sleeping bags, the group member could only include people they made contact with for purposes of the PIT count, Stryker said.
Those included in the count gave the following reasons for their homelessness: health problems (mentioned frequently, Stryker said), dysfunctional family relationships, addictions, recently released from prison, insufficient income for cost of living or loss of employment, criminal backgrounds that keep them from finding a landlord, and domestic violence (victim living in a van).
During the appointment with commissioners, Stryker emphasized the need for affordable housing.
“That is so important; we need more subsidized, affordable housing,” she said.
Stryker added that there are people who have been at the Clinton County Homeless Shelter for months “because they can’t find anywhere to rent, and they have no drug addiction problems.”
Similarly, there are people who have good court records and a good history as a renter but who also can’t find a landlord “because of a lack of affordable housing.”
On the topic of the actual number of people experiencing homelessness locally being higher than what could be substantiated, Clinton County Homeless Shelter Case Manager Darlene Pitzer told the News Journal that four years ago she and a couple other people went out on their own, to distribute food, gloves, shoes, blankets and tents and at that time there were 200 they counted.
“But since then they’ve cleaned the woods, so you’re going to have a hard time finding as many people as what we did [four years ago],” said Pitzer.
The PIT count this September also included people at two campgrounds in the Clarksville area who may reside in campers but lack either electric or water, regarded as basic for a sheltered person.
The two Clarksville-area campgrounds of Green Meadows and Shady Acres have 64 people who are regarded, for purposes of the PIT, as “unsheltered”.
“Out there is an option versus being in the woods,” Clinton County Homeless Shelter Assistant Manager Amber Taylor said. Likewise, Pitzer said the campgrounds are “like the last resort before going to the street.”
Among the 64 people are a dozen children, said Taylor and Pitzer.
Reportedly, the water at both campgrounds will be shut off from Nov. 1 until April 1.
Pitzer said those living at the campgrounds were asking for wagons to haul water from a reservoir.
When these 64 people are added in the official Point-In-Time count (as they are), the total PIT count for Clinton County is 125 people.
In addition to obtaining an official number, the PIT count allowed the Clinton County Services for the Homeless (homeless shelter) an opportunity to reach out to those experiencing homelessness and offer referrals of available resources to help.
On the day of the PIT count, seven people included in the count did an assessment and were scheduled to meet with shelter staff for the following services: Five referrals for rapid rehousing, and two referrals for permanent supportive housing.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.