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Volunteers Needed To Count The Homeless In Prince William

Patch logo Patch 3 days ago Mark Hand
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PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, VA — Officials in Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park are putting out a call for volunteers to help count the number of homeless people on Jan. 22. The Prince William County Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Prince William Area Continuum of Care (CoC) are overseeing the homeless survey.

The one-night count will look at the number of people in Prince William County's emergency shelters and transitional housing programs, along with how many people are living outside of shelters in the county.

"By doing the count, we can, hopefully, in the near future, start creating projects that meet the needs of those experiencing homelessness in the Prince William area to lower our homeless numbers," DSS Homeless Services Division Chief Tony Turnage said in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires jurisdictions to conduct Point-in-Time (PIT) surveys to count their homeless populations on one single night within the last 10 days of each January. The program began in 2003 and happens annually. HUD requires communities to complete the count in order to receive federal funding for homeless programs.

A PIT count provides a snapshot of the homeless needs in the community, according to Turnage. "It is not all encompassing, but it gives some sense of what's going on and the resources needed. It asks a series of questions to give us an idea of who we're serving," Turnage said in a statement.

According to a report released by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments last May, Prince William County counted 277 people experiencing homelessness in January 2019 compared to 374 in January 2018. Neighboring Farifax County saw an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness, rising from 987 in 2018 to 1,034 in 2019.

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Volunteers will work with the DSS and CoC to collect data, coordinate operations and complete surveys on behalf of people experiencing homelessness. Volunteers will also agree to maintain the confidentiality of the survey.

The CoC includes the local governments of Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, local government agencies, nonprofits and faith-based organizations and other groups that come together to serve the needs of the homeless in the area.

For the PIT count, volunteers must be at least 18 years old and able to work from 6 p.m. to midnight on Jan. 22. In case of bad weather, the count will be done on Thursday, Jan. 23. Potential volunteers also will be required to attend one of two training class on Saturday, Jan. 18. One class will be held at the Bill Mehr Drop-in Center at 14716 Potomac Mills Rd. in Woodbridge. The other class will be at the Northern Virginia SERVE campus at 10056 Dean Drive in Manassas.

Volunteers will focus primarily on unsheltered homeless, Turnage said. "We really want to get a good sense of how many persons who are homeless who are living on the streets," he said.

People interested in volunteering in the homeless count must register in order to be considered. They also can contact the DSS Homeless Service Team at homelessservices@pwcgov.org.

People in Prince William County who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness can call 703-792-3366 for information and referrals.

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