Volunteers count Montgomery County’s homeless population: ‘They appreciate a kind word’

Daybreak is just one of the agencies that gathered before the sun rose on Wednesday to count unsheltered homless people in Montgomery County. CONTRIBUTED
Daybreak is just one of the agencies that gathered before the sun rose on Wednesday to count unsheltered homless people in Montgomery County. CONTRIBUTED

Mary Maclennan had been out all morning counting people sleeping on the street, but she was most worried about someone she didn’t see.

Maclennan, who works for Daybreak, said she knows a 19-year-old has been living on the streets with his mom and step-dad, who are both addicted to opioids.

“They’re using, and I worry about him using if we don’t get him into more permanent housing,” she said. “He’s still a kid.”

Maclennan and about two dozen other volunteers with various agencies that offer services to the homeless participated in an annual Point-in-Time count Wednesday.

This is a one-night count of people experiencing homelessness in Montgomery County used to inform the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the amount of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people living in the area. Final results will not be available until next month.

The counters came across at least 25 unsheltered people in the early morning hours on Wednesday. One man was sleeping in a tent under a bridge. Some people were sleeping in wooded-areas.

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Many of the people volunteers saw on Wednesday morning were homeless people they had worked with in the past. Three of them were veterans.

“They appreciate a kind word,” Maclennan said. “They appreciate just being treated like they’re human.”

Teams gathered at St. Vincent de Paul Dayton administration office at 3:45 a.m. before leaving to canvass the designated locations. They got back around 7:30 a.m. Volunteers from Volunteers of America, Daybreak, Homefull, the Dayton V.A. and Miami Valley Housing Opportunities (MVHO) split into five teams and canvassed the county.

Throughout the day on Wednesday, individuals were surveyed at area meal and service sites like House of Bread, Life Enrichment Center, Target Dayton Ministries and the Samaritan Health Center to identify if they were unsheltered the night before.

In the 2019 count, a total of 577 persons in 475 households were counted in Montgomery County. Of those 475 households counted, about 9% or 40 were unsheltered.

The number of households experiencing homelessness on the night of the annual count has fluctuated over the past decade, with the number of households in 2019 just 1% higher than the number in 2010.

RELATED: Volunteers blanket Montgomery County to conduct annual homeless count

Volunteers said participating in the count gives them a good sense of the people they deal with, where they stay and what they need.

The team that drove and walked around downtown Dayton said there weren’t as many people congregating downtown as in previous years. Volunteers attributed this to gentrification downtown — new housing developments and fewer abandoned buildings.

The library, which usually opens its doors to the homeless, had no one sleeping there on Wednesday morning, volunteers said.

After the early morning count, a few volunteers planned to go back out to check on spots that looked like someone was living there, but were empty. Maclennan planned to do just that for the 19-year-old and a few others she knew were out there.