You may not see them, but they are there. Just how many individuals are experiencing homelessness in Lebanon County?

There is no solid answer to that question. The U.S. Government estimates that on any given night, as many as a half-million residents are homeless nationwide. Other agencies that deal with the homeless say those numbers are too low.

United Way of Lebanon County is asking for volunteers to help conduct the annual Point In Time Count (PIT) of the homeless. The PIT is spearheaded by the U. S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and communities across the country that receive social services funding are required to conduct the PIT annually in their own area.

The Lebanon County PIT will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 22. A mandatory training session will begin at 7:30 PM. The Lebanon County PIT event is planned, organized and carried out as a cooperative effort of The Lebanon County Coalition To End Homelessness (LCCEH), United Way of Lebanon County, Community Health Council of Lebanon County and Lebanon County Christian Ministries (LCCM).

United Way CEO Brooke Smith told FOX 43 recently of the importance of an accurate count, saying the count affects funding received by local social service agencies that work on homelessness. FOX 43 also reported last week that 85 volunteers are needed to conduct the PIT count. There are still openings, according to United Way’s website.

Individuals or groups interested in volunteering are required to register in advance on the United Way. On the night of the PIT they will fan out in groups of five to eight individuals to gather information in one of five designated “zones” across Lebanon County:

  • North zone: Northern Lebanon, Jonestown, Fredericksburg
  • South zone: West Cornwall, Cornwall
  • East zone: Myerstown, Richland
  • West zone: Palmyra, Annville, Cleona
  • Central zone: City of Lebanon

The evening begins with a mandatory one-hour training session, happening at 7:30 p.m. at Salem Lutheran Church (119 N. 8th St., Lebanon). The PIT Count itself will take place from 9-11 p.m. All volunteers are required to return to the church for a safety check-in at the end of the night.

Organizers suggest volunteers be:

  • Over the age of 12
  • Physically capable (there will be lots of walking)
  • Properly dressed for weather conditions

Volunteers should also bring a flashlight and a charged cell phone.

In addition to counting the number of individuals experiencing homelessness, volunteers will try to collect their demographic data as well as information on how long the individual has been homeless and why.

Information gathered by the PIT Count will be submitted to the state and federal governments, which give local social service agencies the tools they need to alleviate homelessness and its common causes, such as deep poverty, domestic violence and untreated mental health and substance abuse disorders.

For more information, visit the PIT Count website or reach out to Brooke Smith at United Way or LCCM executive director Bryan Smith.