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Charles McCormick with Thankful Thursday ministry at Williams Memorial CME Church delivers meals to a family at a homeless camp in September 2020.

HIGH POINT — Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s Point-In-Time count of unsheltered homeless people will be conducted via observation only from Jan. 27-29.

More volunteers are needed to physically visit known encampments and targeted areas of Guilford County, according to Partners Ending Homelessness Executive Director Brian Hahne. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allowed more flexibility this year on how the data can be collected, Hahne said. While the count will capture where the unsheltered slept on the night of Jan. 27, Hahne’s organization was given three service days to collect data.

“COVID has upended just about all of our lives, like everybody else,” Hahne said. “We’re not being required by HUD to do our normal interviewing, getting demographic data and learning more. We’ve going to go observe over three days and try to get a headcount of folks who are unsheltered.”

Two teams will conduct traditional interviews, capture clients’ demographic data and try to get folks either sheltered or moved toward housing, Hahne said. Other volunteers will not be expected to interact as closely. That’s good because many volunteers in the shelter network are older people who aren’t getting out because of the pandemic.

“Under normal circumstances, we would have all our volunteers be much more engaged with clients,” Hahne said. “This year due to COVID, we’re going to try to keep our distance to not increase the likelihood of spread. Our goal is to mobilize more volunteers than we normally do.”

Partners Ending Homelessness wants to work with police and fire departments in High Point and Greensboro that have mapped tent communities’ locations in order to determine the current homeless population.

“They see it literally on the frontlines every day,” Hahne said. “We want to get an idea of what we’ve got unsheltered throughout the community and we’re leaning into our partners on that. By having a few extra days, we’re hopeful that we can map where camps are or where the unsheltered are so we can go out and see what we can find.”

Hahne said there are at least 12 or 15 camps in High Point, some with as many as 12 to 15 people. Most are small gatherings of two to four people.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners set aside about $750,000 of the federal CARES funding it received last spring specifically for homeless shelters. The money was used for unexpected costs of cleaning, staffing, food and supplies to readjust shelter layouts for wider spacing among residents.

The pandemic poses massive challenges to those serving the homeless.

“We were struggling to know what to do,” Hahne said. “We set up a quarantine and isolation hotel in conjunction with the county. We have moved over 600 clients through that hotel to test them to see if they are COVID positive. If they are, they stay in quarantine for 10-14 days. If they’re not, we’re quickly moving them to shelter or to housing. We’ve been able to quickly get the shelters dollars to reimburse for those costs, and the county’s been a huge partner in that.”

In addition to funding, the county board agreed to take a more active and engaged role in the administrative work of the Continuum of Care for its homeless population.

cingram@hpenews.com | 336-888-3534 | @HPEcinde