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Task force to count homeless in county

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Melanie Outlaw

You may have seen them sleeping in abandoned homes or warehouses. Some have been spotted in tents in Lancaster County’s woods or fields. But no one is sure how many are living out there.

A group that calls themselves the Lancaster County Homelessness Task Force hopes to shed some light on the population with a count in Lancaster County.

Several agencies, including United Way of Lancaster County, the American Red Cross, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department, Lancaster Police Department, Alston Wilkes Society, K.A.R.E., Lancaster County Council on Aging, Family Promise, and many other volunteers will participate in the County wide unofficial count that will begin Saturday, March 15 and run through April 15.

“We are going out to areas with survey forms and goody bags,” said, Gina Amato, with the American Red Cross. “We will try to find out what the needs are and then work to see that those needs are met to the best of our ability.”

Everyone’s assistance will be needed in identifying the places where homeless individuals may be staying.

“Even if someone doesn’t live in a neighborhood but knows someone who lives in an abandoned home. We really need them to tell us where those areas are,” Amato said.

There are thousands of individuals and families who have sought assistance from area agencies who could find themselves in a homeless situation. It’s imperative that we get an accurate count so that we can further assist those individuals.

Once the count is complete, the results will be compiled. Results will hopefully be compiled in late April. We are hoping this homeless count will allow us to improve resources for area agencies and residents.

I think it’s imperative we address this issue in our community. The problem is not going away.

The task force is asking for donations of non-perishable food items, hygiene products and blankets. Donations can be dropped off from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday at SC WORKS, 705 N. W. St. or 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at Lancaster Fire Department, 401 E. Arch St.

If you know where someone is living and can give an exact or approximate location, please call Amato at (803) 417-9650.

Melanie Outlaw is director of United Way of Lancaster County