The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires communities that receive certain social services funding to conduct annual PIT Counts during a single night in January.
"We certainly want to make sure that our numbers are represented accurately because it does play a role in funds and things that come into our community to help in the social services realm," said Brooke Smith, CEO of United Way of Lebanon County.
United Way is working with local organizations to conduct the count, including Lebanon County Christian Ministries and the Lebanon County Coalition to End Homelessness.
"It really helps us to have a comprehensive understanding of this issue as it relates to our community," said Mike Ritter, co-chair of the Lebanon County Coalition to End Homelessness.
Volunteers will meet for a mandatory training at 7:30 p.m., then head out around 9 p.m. to locate people without shelter for the night.
"They’ll walk the Rail Trail. They’ll look at campsites, places where individuals experiencing homelessness might seek shelter outdoors," Smith said.
Counting the homeless population comes with some unique challenges, as people experiencing homelessness don't always shelter in places with a set address. Lebanon County Christian Ministries is tasked with finding the spots where people tend to shelter.
"It’s good for the volunteers to be able to pinpoint where they should check," said Andrea Gillhoolley, development manager of Lebanon County Christian Ministries.
In addition to counting the homeless, volunteers will try to collect their demographic data, like age and sex, as well as information like how long someone has been homeless.
"Even though it’s a snapshot in time, it helps us capture some of that information," Ritter said.
The 2020 Census will work with community organizations to conduct a separate count of unsheltered people on April 1, 2020. The organizers of Lebanon County's PIT Count said they were more than happy to share their methodology in order to ensure an accurate count.
Click here to sign up as a volunteer for the Lebanon County PIT Count on Jan. 22.