Jenna Bryant coordinated this year’s PIT Count Coordinator for Project HOME's Outreach Coordination Center.
On Thursday, January 26, something most extraordinary occurred. No, I’m not referring to any extraterrestrial sightings, cosmic phenomenon, or unforeseen natural disasters, nor were there any celebrity visit or dramatic social accident (that I’m aware of). Instead, a most unique and uplifting public anomaly materialized as 188 volunteers representing over 52 Philadelphia-based social agencies gathered at 3:00 in the morning. Yep, you read that right, we're talkin' 3 AM!
Why were we gathering at such an unsightly time, you ask? To participate in the annual Point-In-Time Count. In an effort to get a full picture of the number of adults living unsheltered in our city, we divided up volunteers into 40 teams designated to cover a specific part of the city in order to count and survey those living on the streets. The data gathered provides crucial information regarding the extent of homelessness here in our own city of brotherly (and sisterly) love. Are we meeting our goals when it comes to ending homelessness? If not, are there any clues shared in the data that may help us understand why? And how can the demographic information acquired reshape services to better prevent and end homelessness in Philadelphia? You can read more about the count, including photos, here.
Although the main goal of this annual event is to gather such statistics, the count also provides continued opportunities for our friends living on the streets to connect with outreach workers and services that can help in the process of getting them into shelter and eventually housing. This year, for the first time ever, a veteran’s response team was on call specifically to work with any vet hoping to receive services (government funded services are readily available for homeless vets, you can find more information here). And indeed there was a former military veteran who was not only able to connect with the VA team during the count but was also able to be taken off the streets immediately.
So why do I believe this to be such an extraordinary phenomenon? In a time where our political framework is constantly shifting, especially concerning the wellbeing and dignity of the most vulnerable among us, it is most amazing that our city is able to gather (again, during frigid weather and difficult hours) in such numbers and over such a spectrum of providers, over the issue of homelessness. This event represents a collective, city-wide proclamation that the City of Philadelphia is unwilling to stand by idly as fathers, sisters, brothers, mothers, children, nieces, and nephews remain unsheltered. It’s an empowered statement of “we’re not going anywhere because we care about these people and we want to see change.”
More information regarding the numbers and information gathered to come later this Spring...