Volunteers conduct homelessness count, survey in Harrisonburg

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — More than 50 volunteers hit the streets of Harrisonburg Wednesday night to survey the homeless population as part of the "Point-in-TIme" count.

Open Doors is a mobile homeless shelter that operates out of Harrisonburg

This count serves as a tool for local governments to have an accurate measure of how many people are without a home.

"We use that information, and give it to providers and they can use it to apply for grants and provide the services that help people who are homeless," said Laura Black, with the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Volunteers from James Madison and Eastern Mennonite canvassed the community to count and survey individuals who are unsheltered (in cars, abandoned buildings, and tent cities, i.e.) and staying in homeless shelters in the area.

Kat Detz, one of the volunteers through James Madison, said this was an opportunity for the homeless to have a voice.

"It was really interesting to hear his story about why it's so hard to find employment," Detz said. "Then, we find out do they need more clothes and training skills?"

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to conduct this survey.

HUD funds programs in Virginia that serve the homeless, and continued funding from HUD for homeless programs throughout Virginia is contingent upon efforts to collect data on homeless persons.

Last year, the count identified 132 homeless individuals in Harrisonburg and Rockingham. Of those 132, 28 of them were children. Nine people were found living unsheltered in a place not fit for habitation.

Local officials say that number could be higher this year.

"We will have to wait and see," said Black. "It sounds as though our unsheltered may have already surpassed that, but I don't want to go too far ahead of things."