Greenville to count homeless population for first time since COVID, and you can help

·2 min read
Tent City was an organized makeshift homeless housing community under a bridge in Greenville.
Tent City was an organized makeshift homeless housing community under a bridge in Greenville.

Greenville is preparing to count its homeless population for the first time since before COVID-19 began to spread — and local organizations need volunteers.

United Housing Connections and Upstate Continuum of Care are leading the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's point-in-time count that determines how much funding Greenville gets from the federal agency.

Local homelessness and housing-services organizations along with trained volunteers will count sheltered and unsheltered individuals Jan. 26-31.

In 2021, Greenville did not conduct a point-in-time count due to COVID-19.

In 2020, 2,941 people received shelter services.

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Those involved in this year's count will work with local shelters and count those living outdoors, too, with targeted visits to streets and known areas of encampments.

“We use this opportunity not only to collect data, but we also use it to help connect people to housing and support services," said United Housing Connections CEO Lorain Crowl.

Lorain Crowl of United Housing Connections speaks during a press conference announcing an emergency quarantine shelter for homeless with COVID-19 at Whitehorse Academy Dec. 17, 2020.
Lorain Crowl of United Housing Connections speaks during a press conference announcing an emergency quarantine shelter for homeless with COVID-19 at Whitehorse Academy Dec. 17, 2020.

Susan McLarty, coordinator of the Greenville Homeless Alliance, said the point-in-time count just serves as a "snapshot" of what the homeless population looked like in Greenville in a weekend — and in the future they hope to achieve a better tool to provide a more accurate count.

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HUD's definition of homelessness is more narrow than GHA's or the U.S. Department of Education's definition as it does not include those living in motels or sleeping on a friend's couch.

McLarty said they're expecting to see more people living in vehicles this year, citing Graham Pruss, an anthropologist who studies homelessness and vehicle residency.

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According to Pruss, systemic displacement leads to higher vehicle residency — and Greenville has seen the displacement of many Black and low-income residents downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods over the past decade, U.S. Census data shows.

People involved almost hope for cold weather on the weekend of the count, McLarty said, because Miracle Hill will open its cold-weather shelter beds and that can help the count.

"If we get a 70-degree day in January here, they won't seek that kind of overnight, safe place to shelter because those are lower barrier beds."

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Low-barrier beds means the shelter has fewer barriers to entry. Miracle Hill's low-barrier emergency shelter beds means you can come inside under the influence of drugs or alcohol at anytime of the night and you're allowed one small bag. Dogs, personal beongings and partners are not allowed.

To sign up to volunteer, visit this link or email United Housing Connections' Paulette Dunn at pdunn@uhc.org.

Genna Contino covers Greenville County and housing for The Greenville News. Contact Genna at gcontino@gannett.com or on Twitter @GennaContino. Subscribe to The Greenville News at greenvillenews.com/subscribe.

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Greenville SC to count homeless population for first time since COVID

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