PIT Count: Volunteers take to the streets to count Asheville’s homeless population

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By Hannah Mackenzie

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ASHEVILLE, NC (WLOS) – Dozens of volunteers took to the streets of Asheville Tuesday night, participating in the annual “Point in Time” (PIT) count.

Their job: to count the number of homeless people they see.

PIT counts are required by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for all communities receiving Continuum of Care (CoC) funding.

Michael DeSerio said it was his first year participating. As outreach program manager for Homeward Bound, DeSerio is no stranger to helping the homeless. The organization strives to find permanent housing for homeless people.

“Anytime people can get a glimpse of what’s really going on on the streets and in the city, there’s an awareness that’s going on and hopefully the funding will go to meet the needs there. “, said DeSerio. “Point in Time is really critical to getting funding for homeless services in the Asheville area.

As part of the count, volunteers conduct a brief survey of people before moving on to the next person. They are also settling in emergency shelters in the region.

“Right now, I currently have probably 25 people in there,” said John Whitt of ABCCM’s Costello House. “But as the night progresses, it will get closer to 50, and it still is.”

Whitt, Costello House’s director of operations, said two volunteers were inside conducting interviews and would be there all night.

Critics argue that the PIT counts are not accurate; with undercount leading to harmful misrepresentation. Whitt disagrees.

“These counts are crucial because I don’t think people see how many people are actually homeless – but the numbers are drastic,” Whitt said. “The more people they can interview and probe, the more hope there is that we get resources to help those people.”

At the last PIT count, more than 580,000 people across the country were documented as homeless: a 2.2% increase from the previous year.

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