RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The bi-annual count of Virginia’s homeless population — known as the Point in Time (PIT) count — is happening this week, and some non-profits in the Richmond area are preparing to meet with individuals one-on-one.
Homeward, a nonprofit organization, conducts and organizes the PIT count in the greater Richmond region. PIT counts are required t by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The count will collect data on those experiencing homelessness, and it will be used to inform programs aimed at ending homelessness. The findings will also be used in planning and funding for the Greater Richmond Continuum of Care — the region’s coordinated homeless services system.
CARITAS, a nonprofit based in Richmond, is one of the organizations preparing to do a PIT count at their men’s and women’s shelters this week.
Jennifer Patterson, the director of emergency shelters at CARITAS, said there aren’t enough beds for those who are experiencing homelessness in the Richmond region.
“In previous counts, I believe there were between 600 and 700 individuals experiencing homelessness that we’ve interacted with on those two days of the year,” she said. “I think it’s about 250 beds in our community.”
CARITAS estimates that there are between 300 and 350 shelter beds available year-round in the area.
The nonprofit group uses a survey in the winter and in the summer to ask questions like, “Do you currently have Medicaid?” This will help them get a better picture of who they are serving on a given night.
“We actually remain full year-round,” Patterson said. “We’re the only women’s shelter in the region.”
Rashon French’s life changed when he took a trip to the doctor in March 2022.
“My homelessness basically started from medical situations,” he said. “It went from a COVID test to finding out I have congestive heart failure.”
He was later diagnosed with chronic kidney failure, too.
Multiple trips to the doctor’s office and therapy sessions caused him to fall behind on his bills. Eventually, French was evicted from his apartment and began living in his car.
“First-time experience and scary all in one,” he said.
Although hope was hard to come by for French, he’s thankful to be placed with CARITAS. He’s now employed and plans to transition into permanent housing soon.
“It’s been a good experience for me,” he said.
Once the Greater Richmond PIT count is complete, Homeward will begin analyzing the data and reporting to federal and state agencies. Initial findings from the Winter 2023 PIT count are expected to be released in late February.
If a person is three days or less away from losing their home or is already experiencing homelessness, they are encouraged to call the Homeless Connection Line at 804-972-0813.
211 Virginia can also be called, connecting people in need with resources across the state.