Report: At least 19 in county have no shelter

A recent “point-in-time” count of homelessness in the county shows 19 people are living in an unsheltered environment.

Of the total, three were identified as children under the age of 18.

The report will be filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help determine funding for local agencies that serve the homeless community.

The count is done over a 24-hour period and completed twice a year – in January and July.

“It’s just so you can get a snapshot of one day in Lycoming County,” said Adrienne Wertz, county United Way director of funds distribution and community building.

An unsheltered environment is defined as a location that is unfit for human habitation, such as sleeping in a car, park or tent.

Homeless people living in shelters were not included in the report, as they are deemed “sheltered.”

Wertz headed the count and was joined by volunteers from local agencies in collecting data.

She said the number counted during the period was “low” for what they expect the actual number is. However, she said, there is no way of finding every individual who is living in such conditions because they’re constantly moving and finding new places to occupy.

The time of year also hindered fact collecting, as the colder weather made it difficult to speak with people who do not have shelter.

Soup kitchens and hospitals provided information.

“You literally have to go out on foot or you wouldn’t get an accurate count,” Wertz said.

An interview form gathered information about each individual’s situation. There also was an option for volunteers to complete a form without an interview.

Wertz said the group knows there are more unsheltered people in the county just by looking at the numbers on shelters’ waiting lists.

“The shelters are well aware of the problems, but this helps them when they’re preparing to ask for funding,” she said.

Wertz hopes more area residents will volunteer in July’s count so the agency can report a more accurate number. Training will be provided for volunteers.

“This is really helping the agencies that we help throughout the year,” she said.