Every year during the last 10 days of January, HUD's Point-in-Time Count or PIT Count is conducted throughout the United States to identify those who are homeless: both sheltered and unsheltered. This count is coordinated regionally, through a group of community organizations, collectively called the CoC or Continuum of Care. This count and another that will follow in early summer are vital as it informs the federal allocation of funding for those people and programs dealing with homelessness.
On Wednesday, January 26th, eleven volunteers, five of which were staff from DRHA; our ED and CEO, Larissa Deedrich; Deputy ED and CFO, Katya Urraco; Resident Service Coordinator, Wonda Graves; Housing Educator, Keowa Morrison; and me, Vera Vaden Marketing Manager, set out to count the City's unsheltered homeless population. I had the privilege of being the data person for my DRHA team. We piled into the warm van that would take us into the night, to count those who are often counted out. Our task was a sobering one but was made a little light by the comradery and a shared sense of goodwill that enabled our DRHA team to bond and team build.
Armed with bags containing items to keep all the people we encountered warm, we drove to the areas that were known to be home to our homeless population. Areas in our up-and-coming River District, the alleyways of familiar and new businesses downtown, and along our beautiful walking trails. We also checked parking lots, looking for lone cars where someone or a family might be settling down for the night. We did not encounter any homeless in the River District, downtown alleyways, or on the trails. Our group, choosing to have some optimism, hoped that all the truly unsheltered homeless people had found accommodations for this cold evening, and thus counted among those who were sheltered. Unfortunately, we did discover, in three separate parking lots, people sheltering in cars. We did not approach but merely observed and wished for quick solutions to whatever their situations were.