Ellis County folks receive warm clothes from annual event

Annual PIT count gives snapshot of people experiencing homelessness in Ellis County

Kenya Menjivar
Waxahachie Daily Light

The Ellis County Homeless Coalition recently held its annual ‘"Let's Get Warm Giveaway Event” for the fourth year, as they also participated in their PIT count. 

The event began at 7 a.m. and went until 7 p.m Thursday, Jan. 28, at the First Baptist Church in Waxahachie.

Coats of every size and length hung around the church building, ready to be given a home.

The church was filled with coats, beanies and information for homeless people or anyone in need in the county to access.

“I actually started helping with this event last year. I’ve just really enjoyed the incredible (people) and seeing how they serve the homeless. It’s a great event to be able to just help them,” shared Rhonda Miller, Vice President of the Ellis County Homeless Coalition.

At about 12 p.m., the coalition had counted 17 people who dropped by the event. 

“We have showers in the restrooms, and they can take a hot shower. We have medical advice. We have a doctor that’s here, and he’s been giving medical advice,” Miller said. “We’re planning to have an officer talk about how he works with the homeless.”

Items and services were made available to people who walked in.

The church gym was filled with many volunteers ready to aid attendees. 

“I think my favorite thing is really just being able to meet the people and get the names and the faces of those that are homeless,” stated Miller. 

While some volunteers stayed back to aid in the gym, others went out throughout Ellis County to participate in the annual PIT (Point-In-Time) count.

The PIT count is a count of people experiencing homelessness. The count provides a snapshot of the homeless population, both sheltered and unsheltered, on a single night to help determine a greater understanding and, most importantly, data to plan local homeless assistance systems, public services, and public awareness, according to the coalition's website.

County resident Julie Burns was one of the volunteers assigned to the city of Midlothian.

“I actually was at the event last year with another agency, so I got to see the event, but I was a little more removed. So this year, I wanted to go out and help count,“ explained Burns. “This morning, I was out counting people in the Midlothian area, and as we might guess, there’s not a lot of visible homeless people in Midlothian. But we found one gentleman who is known in the Midlothian community, and we were able to give him some practical things, food and practical supplies,” shared Burns. “I think my favorite part is actually interacting. Getting to know those folks, looking them in the eye and acknowledging that they’re children of God and that they have worth and value and help them be seen.”

Burns shared that she would volunteer again as a counter for the following year if her plate wasn’t full.  

Veteran volunteer Melissa Rawlins helped out for her fourth year, leading the PIT count.

“The closer that I came to my creator Yaweh and the more that I started listening to his son Yeshua who dwells in my heart, the more I realized that my life is supposed to be about service,” said Rawlins.

In 2010, Rawlins began volunteering in any capacity she could. In 2014, she began volunteering in prison ministry. In 2017, she felt that she was called to aid with transitional housing for formerly incarcerated men.

She shared that Ellis County lacks in aid for homeless men compared to women, and she wants to help change that.

The next event the Ellis County Homeless Coalition will hold is its "Pie Palooza" this spring. Originally, the event was supposed to occur in the fall, but was delayed. "The goal of this day is to increase awareness of homelessness in Ellis County and have the public learn about the agencies that serve them," stated the coalition's website.

Stay updated with the Homeless Coalition by visiting https://elliscountyhomeless.com/ .