Those of you who follow this blog know that I’m not a fan of the annual homeless counts that will soon be conducted. The main problem is that they’re structured to exclude large categories of homeless people. So we get a tip-of-the-iceberg view of the crisis.
Still, they’re often the only source of figures we’ve got. And so long as the definitions and methods stay constant, we can see trends over time.
The counts are important for another reason. Communities must do them to receive funds under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care programs. These support new supportive housing development, expansion of single-room occupancy units and housing and services for homeless people with disabilities and their families.
A quick Google search indicates that numerous government agencies and nonprofits are looking for volunteers to help with this year’s counts. Here in the District, the Department of Mental Health has put out a call–not online, alas.
This year’s local homeless count will be especially important because the Fenty administration still hasn’t come up with funds to support homeless services past March 31. Knowing how many people are in shelters, transitional housing and on the streets while funds are flowing will give us one measure of how bad things will be if the administration–or the City Council–doesn’t come through.
So here’s an opportunity to make a difference on an urgent issue–and learn something in the process.
You’ll need to be ready and willing to go out to places where homeless people take refuge on January 27 between 9:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. Before then, you’ll need to participate in a training program. You’ll have three options for this–one daytime and two early evening.
You can sign up to help count in about a minute. Details about the training will follow.