Hickory – Last year, more than 9,319 calls were placed to the United Way’s 2-1-1 community help line asking for information about low-cost housing while more than 12,000 calls were made about shelters, according to nc.211counts.org.

In Catawba County those numbers were 164 and 111, respectively and again only represent calls to 2-1-1 and not the total need.

To help understand the scope of the issue in Catawba County, the Housing Visions Continuum of Care group is preparing to conduct the annual Point in Time (PIT) count of homeless individuals on Jan. 30. The purpose is to collect data that identifies gaps in services as well as barriers that prevent individuals and families from becoming successfully housed.

During the count process, homeless individuals and families are also provided with some much-needed items which are collected from the community.

These items include batteries, flashlights, combs/brushes, ponchos, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, sleeping bags, gloves, first aid kits/band-aids, backpacks (gently used or new), socks and toboggans/knitted caps.

Items need to be received by Jan. 24 and can be dropped off at the Catawba County United Way located at 2760 Tate Blvd. in Hickory, 828-327-6851, or at Partners Behavioral Health Management at 1985 Tate Blvd. SE in Hickory, 828-323-8084.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires the PIT count for a community to be eligible for government funding used to address housing issues.

“The PIT count gives us an idea of what is going on in our community, what resources people are utilizing and where there are gaps,” Teena Willis, Housing Development Manager for Partners Behavioral Health Management said. “We’re also able to reach out to those who are homeless and may need services but don’t know where to go, how to access the services or even what is available to help them.”

Last year, 318 individuals were counted in Catawba County, Willis said. This is up from 283 homeless individuals from the previous year. This year’s count will be held at the Hickory Soup Kitchen, The Life House in Hickory and The Corner Table Soup Kitchen in Newton.

Tax deductible monetary donations to help with the PIT can be made to the Catawba County United Way. Include “homeless initiatives” in the memo section. One hundred percent of the donations go to the homeless initiatives through the Housing Visions Continuum of Care.

For more information contact Teena Willis at Partners Behavioral Health Management, [email protected], 828-323-8084 or Jennifer Clark at Family Care Center, [email protected] or call the Catawba County United Way at 828-327-6851.