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

<i>WLOS</i><br/>Dozens of volunteers hit the streets of Asheville on Tuesday night
Dozens of volunteers hit the streets of Asheville on Tuesday night

By Hannah Mackenzie

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — Dozens of volunteers hit the streets of Asheville on Tuesday night, taking part in the annual ‘Point in Time’ (PIT) Count.

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

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

Michael DeSerio said it was his first year taking part. As an outreach program manager for Homeward Bound, DeSerio is no stranger to helping homeless people. The organization works to find permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness.

“Anytime people can get a snapshot of what’s actually happening on the streets and in the town, there’s awareness that’s being made and hopefully funding will go to help the need there,” DeSerio said. “Point in Time is really critically important to acquiring funding for homeless services in the Asheville area.”

As part of the count, volunteers conduct a brief survey with folks before heading on to the next person. They also stage at area emergency shelters.

“Right now, I currently have probably 25 people in there,” said John Whitt, with ABCCM’s Costello House. “But as the night goes on that will get closer to 50, and that’s consistently.”

Whitt, the operations manager for Costello House, said two volunteers were inside conducting interviews and would be there throughout the night.

Critics argue PIT counts aren’t accurate; with undercounting leading to detrimental misrepresentations. Whitt does not agree.

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

During the most recent PIT count, more than 580,000 people across the country were documented as experiencing homelessness: a 2.2% increase from the year before.

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