Point-in-Time Count volunteers count the homeless in Wood County

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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Volunteers took a snapshot of homelessness in Wood County and across the nation Wednesday night.

It's called the Point-in-Time Count. Volunteers search communities across the country to survey and count homeless people over a 24 hour period. The information is then passed on to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, better known as HUD.

“Every year, HUD has every continuative care throughout the United States go out one night during the year to count individuals that are staying out doors. That way we can get an accurate count of literal homeless, people that are staying outdoors or in places not meant for human habitation,” said Tim Baer, a path engagement specialist with Westbrook Health Services. “From there, they use it to determine a lot of HUD spending, how the dollar is spread to different communities."

Volunteers handed out bags full of helpful items to the homeless while they were out. For some, the count is a way to learn about the issue of homelessness firsthand.

“It’s going to be enlightening for me, because this is new to me, but I know we have a serious crisis in our community with the homeless, and I want to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem," said Debbie Jeffrey, a volunteer.

Wednesday night, Tim Baer stayed up all night surveying the homeless.

By 9 a.m. Thursday, the count was ahead of pace from last year.

“Our efforts from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. this morning, we had 37 individuals that had been surveyed and identified as staying outdoors. Our total was at 78 for the entire county. That 78 includes people that were also in emergency shelters here in Parkersburg,” said Baer.

And by 5 p.m. Thursday, Baer told WTAP the total of "unsheltered" and "sheltered" homeless had reached 105. He had not yet accessed every survey taken by 4 p.m.

However, Baer says a higher count doesn’t necessarily mean there are more homeless people.

“We’ve had such a great effort from the community as a whole. We had teams working out throughout the entire course of the night. We had another set of teams come and set up at 4 o’clock to kind of coordinate with the teams who had already been out through the course of the night. Went to places they had been through the evening, just places where we had found evidence, or maybe that somebody was there and maybe wasn’t willing to talk to us at that time. But, we did our due diligence and went back and were able to engage with more individuals,” said Baer.

The count officially ended at 4 p.m. Thursday, but there is a brief grace period the counters can add to their totals.

“We have some extra days down the road we can actually, if we can verify the individuals were staying outdoors, we can still add them to the total,” said Baer.