Homeless coalition seeks help for Point-in-Time Count

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BENNINGTON — The Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless is asking for the help of local organizations next week in tallying the county's homeless population.

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, organizations around the state will be performing the annual single-day, Point-in-Time count, and the coalition is responsible for facilitating the count for all of Bennington County. Statewide, the 12th annual count is being organized by The Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness and Chittenden County Homeless Alliance. The data from the count will be used by the state and local homeless organizations in funding applications to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"The BCCH does not see every homeless person, so we rely on local churches, schools, and other agencies," said Executive Director Chris Oldham. He also encouraged individuals to reach out to the coalition. "We also want people who are living in their cars or outdoors, for whatever reason, to know they should contact us... Our goal is to make sure the number is as accurate as possible."

Last year's Point-in-Time count recorded an overall statewide increase of 11 percent in the number of homeless individuals statewide. In total, 1,225 persons were counted as homeless across the state.

Oldham said 100 people were counted in Bennington County, but he said that number is almost certainly low. "I struggle with that number," he said. "If you're staying with friends, or couch-surfing, you are technically not considered homeless." He said that the count also does not consider those who are eminently homeless, such as those living in homes without heat or electricity, or those who have had their houses foreclosed.

He said that if the count was taken in July, when more people are living outside, the number would be considerably higher. "I guarantee that if this count was done on July 1, the count of people who are literally homeless would be doubled or even tripled," he said. For comparison, the coalition served 279 people last year, mostly from southern Bennington County. Even then, said Oldham, the coalition was aware of others from Bennington who did not take advantage of their services, for whatever reason.

Those who are interested in assisting the coalition with the count can contact Lisa Halkias at 802-442-2424 or by email at lisa.halkias.bcch@gmail.com. Oldham said that Halkias is able to take information over the phone once the count begins next Wednesday. Forms can also be picked up in person at the coalition's facility on 966 Main Street in Bennington.

For additional resources about the Point-in-Time Count, visit helpingtohousevt.org/pointintime.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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