HONESDALE, Pa. -- An annual effort to tally the number of homeless people across the state is getting underway Wednesday.
In 2017 and 2018, Wayne County secured nearly $500,000 in federal Housing and Urban Development funding. In that time, more than 200 people got help from shelter programs, but to continue getting that grant money each year, Wayne County needs to count the number of homeless.
Honesdale Central Park on a cold, sunny, January day is quiet, but at night, it's one of the places to look for people who are homeless, so this is where volunteers will go Wednesday night for the statewide "Point in Time count."
“When we write our grants, the grants require data, so this is how we get our data," explained housing coordinator Vanessa McConnell.
About 35 volunteers will canvas every borough in Wayne County for several hours looking for and counting anyone who is currently homeless. Those people will then be offered the chance to stay in a shelter if they want.
“One of the things I think our community isn't fully aware of is our homeless population. These programs are working, our unsheltered numbers are decreasing," said Wayne County Commissioner Jocelyn Cramer.
For anyone who is missed during the PIT count Wednesday night, there is another event, new this year, happening Thursday at the Wayne County warming station.
“Youth seem to be more resourceful, so it is harder to find them. And sometimes youth don't really realize they are homeless," McConnell said.
The “Come and Be Counted” event at the warming station in Honesdale will give anyone who doesn't have a place to stay the chance to use the kitchen and bathroom, or just keep warm for a few hours. County officials hope people show up to get the homeless count even more accurate.
“My biggest thing is just getting the word out. We are here, we are here to help. We have programs to help you," McConnell added.
The warming station is new this year. It's open two days a week and is known as the Big Blue Building on 12th Street.
“Your community is only as strong as your weakest link, so it's really important for all of us to make sure our community is well taken care of," Commissioner Cramer said.
The Come and Be Counted event will take place Thursday, January 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 330 12th Street in Honesdale. From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., the Department of Health will be offering Hepatitis A vaccinations to anyone who has been identified. There will also be warm drinks and snacks.