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Friday, January 27, 2023

Teams spread out across Carroll County to determine annual state of homelessness – Baltimore Sun

Kristina White and her husband, Wicasa Martinson, of Westminster, will soon be without a home to call their own.

White, 31, and Martinson, 39, have been living with his mother, but said they have until Feb. 1 to find other living arrangements. Martinson works in construction and lawn service, but since these are seasonal jobs that leaves him without pay during the winter months.

“We may be moving to a friend’s house,” said White, who was eating a free hot lunch at Grace Lutheran Church in Westminster Tuesday. “I don’t know. I applied for housing, but I was denied.”

Martinson said he enjoys coming to the church for a hot meal, because it gives him an opportunity to meet other people.

“I can socialize with friends who have similar issues,” he said.

Celene Steckel, director of Carroll County’s Department of Citizen Services, listened attentively to the couple’s concerns, offering help and guidance, as she did with other individuals facing homelessness who were enjoying the hot meal.

Steckel and her department were part of the Carroll County Circle of Caring Homelessness Board’s annual point-in-time count Tuesday, which is conducted to determine how many people are homeless in the county.

“We work with folks on relocation opportunities,” Steckel said. “We talk to people, we outreach to the sheltered and unsheltered in the county.”

Held every year in communities across the country, the point-in-time count is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order for communities to receive federal funds for homeless assistance and homelessness prevention programs.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the mandated count by 30 days in 2022, it was determined there were 14 people considered “unsheltered” or living on the streets, and another 62 living in shelters.

For this year’s count on Tuesday, 11 teams of trained volunteers, county government homeless advocates, and members of the Board of Carroll County Commissioners, piled into cars and vans and headed out to locations throughout Carroll where people who are homeless typically frequent.

This included soup kitchens, social service agencies, food pantries, libraries, wooded encampments, laundromats, park and ride locations and emergency shelters.

Carroll County Commissioner, Kenneth Kiler, District 2, Judy Mance, Homeless Outreach caseworker with HSP, and Celene Steckel, Director of the Department of Citizen Services, talk with customer Barb Brown, left, about the homeless' Point-In-Time-Count in Carroll County at the Soap Opera Laundromat in Hampstead. Brown often works at the business. HUD (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development) suggests laundromats as a possible location where homeless persons might be located. 
Point-In-Time-Count of the homeless in Carroll County, took place on Tuesday, January 24, 2023. Survey groups traveled to locations that included the soup kitchen, parks, laundromat, social service agencies, food pantries, emergency shelters and libraries. Even encampments.

“It’s important to give back to the community,” District 2 Commissioner Ken Kiler said. “It’s kind of a no-brainer. Not unlike the opioid problem.”

Every homeless individual the groups encountered was asked to fill out a survey.

The point-in-time count of sheltered and unsheltered individuals is taken on a single day and night in January. For Carroll County, it was Tuesday.

Judi Nance, a homeless outreach caseworker with Human Services Programs of Carroll County, works on the front lines, checking in on homeless individuals on a regular basis.

Nance said it’s important to build relationships with people who are homeless or are facing homelessness in order to better help them find a permanent home. She brings along supplies they may need, especially if they are located in encampments.

“Trust is a big issue in the homeless population,” she said. “You keep going out and developing a relationship, but many don’t want services.”

Nance said there are some people who prefer to remain unsheltered, but she continues to engage with them, regardless.

This month, Nance said she has been able to find housing for four people. One of the four was living in their car.

“It took a year, but I’m super, super excited for them,” she said.

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