Doing What Counts
Jenna Bryant is the PIT Count Coordinator for Project HOME's Outreach Coordination Center.
When I took the position of Coordinator for the 2017 Philly COUNTS under Project HOME’s Outreach Coordination Center, I came loaded with questions. Not only was I curious about the details of my job responsibilities but I also wanted to know WHY. Why have this count in the first place? Where does this fit in with the rest of our city’s Outreach efforts and more importantly, how can this help end homelessness in Philadelphia?
For the past several years, Philadelphia has engaged in the federally mandated Point-in-Time (PIT) count. In the huge undertaking we locally call Philly COUNTS, hundreds of service providers and volunteers gather on a single night in January in a collective effort to count and survey those living on the streets in our city. After some snacking and serious coffee consumption, we head out on the streets in teams, each team in a different “zone.”
Team members, along with their team leader, walk or drive through their zones while looking for unsheltered individuals. These people are counted and asked if they would like to participate in a survey that collects information concerning their age, the amount of time they’ve been on the streets, and what they believe has kept them from getting housing. This process can have an enormous impact: These surveys provide crucial feedback for our city about where services are working, where they’re not, and what else needs to be done to bridge the gap to affordable housing.
This year is no different. In the early hours of Thursday, January 26, 2017, hundreds of us will gather at 2 am. (did I mention there will be coffee?) to once again visit those living unsheltered in our city. This information will be shared with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine how our nation’s efforts to end homelessness can be improved (check out the 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress from last year’s PIT Count).
We will also use the insight gathered to help our city tweak and restructure our own plan to end homelessness in Philadelphia. And in this time when our national leaders will soon be made up of Wall Street veterans and petroleum industry CEOs, we must do everything in our power to magnify the voices of those who are most vulnerable.
So my question now is: Whose voice are you magnifying?
Want to be involved in this year’s PhillyCOUNTS? Register online by December 30 at http://bit.ly/phillycounts2017. We are currently in need of experienced outreach workers and those able to use their vehicle the night of the count, January 26.
Did you know Philadelphia also organizes a city-wide youth count? To find out more information about volunteering for the youth count, contact Valerie at Vjohnson@valleyyouthhouse.org.