Share This Page

Homeless survey misleads, Westmoreland shelter director says

| Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Though only two people were counted as homeless in a survey conducted in Westmoreland County, Dan Carney said the numbers don't tell the whole story.

Another 20 people, including seven children, said they did not have a permanent place to live and were staying with relatives or friends, said Carney, the executive director of Union Mission, a Latrobe homeless shelter. The shelter coordinated the count through the Westmoreland Local Housing Options team.

“Oftentimes it's a tenuous situation,” Carney said. “They stay with someone until that bridge sort of wears itself out, and it strains the relationship.”

The point-in-time count, held from 8 to 10 p.m. on Jan. 30, is required by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine how many people are living without shelter at a given time.

The census is required by HUD, which provides grant funding for homeless assistance programs.

But while HUD's definition of “homeless” is people who do not have any shelter at all, the Westmoreland Local Housing Options Team wants to keep track of those on the edge of homelessness.

For the count, they set up five locations throughout the county where people could go for information about services.

They sent volunteers into the streets to find people without shelter.

In August, the housing team conducted its own count and reported similar numbers.

But in previous years, the number of people “doubling-up” was only in the single digits, Carney said.

And it's not just the homeless who showed up during the count.

“There is always a fair number of people who are experiencing poverty that show up these nights. Again, we offer support, encouragement and other commodities, but these folks aren't counted,” he said. “We focus on identifying those people experiencing housing crises.”

Carney did not have a count of how many people were staying in the county's homeless shelters the night of the count.

“Most of the time, we find the shelters are pretty near full,” he said. “It's rough times right now.”

Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or jreeger@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.