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Ranks of homeless rise by 18 percent

Published: Wed, February 23, 2011 @ 12:06 a.m.

The poor economy is blamed for a dramatic 18 percent increase in the number of homeless people in Mahoning County over the 2010 count. The 24-hour count, conducted from midnight Jan. 24 to 11:59 p.m. Jan. 25, identified 223 county residents as homeless compared to 183 during the 24-hour count on the same date last year.

14 were unsheltered; 112 were in emergency shelters, and 97 in transitional housing.

133 were individuals; 90 were persons with families.

46 were chronically homeless.

40 were severely mentally ill.

65 were chronic substance abusers.

12 were military veterans.

1 had HIV/AIDS.

28 were victims of domestic violence.

6 were unaccompanied youth under 18.

253 individuals were in permanent supportive housing.

354 were in Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program housing.

Source: Mahoning County

Homeless Continuum of Care

By William K. Alcorn



The poor economy is blamed for a dramatic 18 percent increase in the number of homeless people in Mahoning County over last year.

The 2011 Homeless Point-In-Time 24-Hour Count, conducted from midnight Jan. 24 to 11:59 p.m. Jan. 25 by the Mahoning County Homeless Continuum of Care, found 223 homeless residents compared with 183 during the 24-hour count on the same day in 2010, said Michele Schaper, Homeless Management Information System administrator.

For the past four years before this year’s increase, there has been a decrease, even if minimal, in the number of homeless, Schaper said.

The reason for the increase is the poor economy in which people find themselves unable to keep or get jobs and therefore unable to maintain the housing that they have, she said.

The annual count, done by volunteers — primarily staff of agencies that serve the homeless — is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which defines homeless persons as those without permanent shelter, not just those living on the street, Schaper.

Actually, according to the 2011 count, only 14 of the 223 homeless are “unsheltered. Fortunately, there are not very many unsheltered homeless in our community,” she said.

The vast majority, 94 percent, of HUD-defined homeless in Mahoning County are living in emergency shelters or transitional housing, she said.

Transitional housing is temporary housing which provides beds from six months to two years for individuals and families.

Examples of programs that provide transitional housing are Beatitude House’s House of Blessing, the Youngstown YWCA’s Barbara Wick Transitional Housing, and Meridian Services William Bodnar Transitional Home for veterans. Generally they provide wrap-around services and treatment, if necessary, for alcohol and drug addiction and mental illness, Schaper said.

The local Point-In-Time Count is a collaborative effort of the Mahoning County Homeless Continuum of Care, which is composed of local not-for-profit agencies, government agencies, and faith-based organizations interested in housing and homeless issues, said Erin Bishop, Continuum of Care coordinator.

The Continuum of Care is committed to eliminating homelessness and improving housing options in Mahoning County. The information is very important because it is utilized in the submission of the Continuum of Care grant to HUD, Bishop said.

On Jan. 19, HUD awarded $1.41 billion in funding to keep nearly 7,000 local homeless-assistance programs offering critically needed housing and services to homeless persons and families in the coming year.

Of that amount, the Mahoning County Homeless Continuum of Care received $1,586,996; with which seven agencies are operating 16 programs that provide assistance to the homeless and near- homeless in the community, Bishop said.

In addition to HUD funding, the city of Youngstown received $1,610,332 in Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for three years.

The HPRP funds are aimed at keeping people from becoming homeless by providing security deposits and short-, medium- and long-term rental assistance that must be recertified every three months, said Beverly Hosey, compliance director of the Youngstown Community Development Agency. She said the agency has until August 2012 to spend the money and that about half of it has been spent today.

The HPRP program has enabled agencies to serve hundreds of families since it began in October 2009, Schaper said.

“Without it, we could have had hundreds more homeless, the majority of which are single women with children who meet the requirements that made them eligible for assistance,” she said.

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