January is upon us, and that means the 2015 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count is right around the corner. This year, in addition to their annual sheltered count, communities are required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to conduct an unsheltered count of people sleeping in places unfit for human habitation, such as on the street or in a park.
As part of their preparation, communities around the country are training volunteers to conduct unsheltered counts. Unsheltered counts are generally conducted on a single night in January, which means that communities must rely on volunteers to find and count as many unsheltered homeless people as possible. Volunteers are critical to the unsheltered count process, as many communities wouldn’t be able to conduct unsheltered counts without them.
Counting unsheltered homeless people is a daunting task. Not only are many unsheltered homeless people hard to find, but members of some homeless subpopulations, like homeless youth and LGBTQ individuals, congregate in different areas than larger populations and may try to avoid being identified as homelessness. Locating them requires different strategies.
Fast forward to December 31, 2015, to a the White House Press Room where President Obama is holding a press conference announcing that we have effectively ended homelessness among veterans in our country. This may seem improbable – it is in fact only 360 days away – but we learned in 2014 that it is completely possible.
2015 will be a “nose to the grindstone” year for ending veteran homelessness. There is so much money and so much know-how out in the field right now; we know what works to get veterans permanently housed, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has provided (and will continue to provide) ample funds to make it happen. There are communities that have already accomplished the goal of ending homelessness among chronic veterans – Houston and Phoenix to name a couple – and as communities across the country fan out for their annual Point-in-Time Counts, I have no doubt that we will be hearing from many, many more.
But we’ll also begin hearing from communities that have effectively ended veteran homelessness. Binghamton, NY has already made the announcement, and New Orleans is queued up to announce it this week (much more on that later in a few days).