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Thirty-eight homeless people identified in Fayette County

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 6:48 p.m.

A recent Point-In-Time survey conducted by the Fayette County Community Action Agency last month identified a total of 38 homeless people in the county.

Thirty-six volunteers including those from local churches and college students took part in a HUD-required count of the unsheltered homeless in the county last month.

"We were able to hit all the areas," said Tammy Knouse, director of customer service with the Fayette County Community Action Agency.

Areas surveyed included Uniontown, Masontown, Connellsville, Point Marion and Brownsville.

While no homeless were identified in Connellsville or Point Marion, the group identified a record number of unsheltered homeless in the area - a total of 38. There were 22 single individuals, eight adult families and eight children with those families.

Knouse said 25 were found in Uniontown, six were found in Masontown and seven were found in Brownsville.

"I remember years where we found zero," Knouse said. Last year's count was at 18. "I think we learned a lot in the past five years."

Krouse believes no homeless were identified in the Connellsville area because the local Salvation Army Soup Kitchen was closed and that is where many of the local homeless gathered for food.

She said weather could also have affected the count. While it was a warmer day, there was rain.

Last year, the commonwealth instructed the FCCAA to do two point-of-time surveys - one in the winter and one in the summer. The volunteers identified 11 people in the winter and identified a mother with three children in the summer in Connellsville.

All those who were found by the volunteers were given shelter options for that night and were also provided a backpack with supplies including blankets, coats and resource information donated by local businesses and organizations.

Sheri Boyle with California University of Pennsylvania took part in the survey with her students and said her students had a "very positive" experience that started out somewhat uneasy as they were entering in an unknown situation.

"After they met some people, they felt better," Boyle said. "When they were finished, they were happy they went."

"It opened up a lot more doors for them," Knouse said.

One student, Noelle Winkler, a student at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, said she had a good, eye-opening experience.

"I never thought we'd find what we found," Winkler said, adding she never really saw any homeless in Fayette County and when she did meet the homeless, she was surprised they didn't look like what people normally see on the news.

"Lots of them were young people who were down and out on their luck," said Mimi McDonough with FCCAA.

McDonough said one of the homeless men decided to enter rehab after the experience. "It was a really nice effort and a community effort."

The next survey will take place in 2015 as required by HUD. The organizers said a new area they will look at is those being released from the Fayette County Prison that have no home to go to.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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