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A single-day study has found an increased number of people experiencing homeless in Monroe County.
The 2015 Point-In-Time Homeless count found a total of 329 Monroe County residents living without permanent housing. That’s up from 302 people last year and 304 the year before.
The increase comes as numbers continue to fall slightly across Indiana. The Point-in-Time count is performed by local social service agencies in cooperation with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.
The Director of Community Services at the Development Authority, Lori Dimick, says the count is performed each year on a single day in January.
“They take paper forms and try to do the best count they can with what resources they have available,” Dimick said. “People sometimes don’t want to be found.”
In Monroe, Morgan and Greene counties, the largest increase was in the number of people categorized as “unsheltered,” meaning they were living outside of any established homeless shelter. The count found 26 unsheltered individuals this year compared with eight people last year.
Dimick said that change may have more to do with the strategy for finding unsheltered people than with increased numbers, stating that there was an increase in the effort to locate people in need.
“I think it’s due to the fact that there was more effort in getting that count compared to last year,” Dimick said. “It is difficult because there are a lot of people who are sleeping in campgrounds, abandoned buildings, abandoned barns in the rural areas. And they don’t want to be found because they have fear of being arrested, fear of being found out and their place being taken from them.”
WFHB asked for comment today from local agencies that were in charge of the count but we didn’t get calls back before our deadline.
At the Shalom Community Center, Director Forrest Gilmore says the number of clients has actually been down this year. The Shalom Center provides a daytime shelter, meals and other services for people in poverty.
Gilmore says the point-in-time count is useful but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
“It’s probably the best single number that we have to monitor things but it’s also a really imperfect number,” he said. “It’s so hard to count and it’s so transient, there’s so much change. We haven’t seen that kind of increase (at Shalom Center).
“I’m thinking that may just be an uptick in that particular count this year. It may have been more cold and people were coming indoors and so we were able to count them more easily. Or it may be that we did have a slight increase in homelessness in our community and that’s being reflected by the numbers.”
Gilmore says local numbers of people experiencing homelessness peaked in 2011 and have been falling since then. This would be the first year the trend has reversed.