The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires an annual count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people, to take place on a single night in January. Known as the Point-in-Time (PIT) Homeless Count, this effort generates valuable information about the changing trends, extent and nature of homelessness at the local, state and national levels.
For the state of Texas, January 26 was the designated PIT Homeless Count day. The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) and more than 1,000 volunteers, including President/CEO Karen Hughes and other Vogel Alcove staff, spread out across Dallas County to count our local, unsheltered homeless. Working in teams of three to five people, the volunteers followed routes created with geographic information system (GIS) mapping software, canvassing under bridges and in parks, cars, wooded areas, abandoned buildings and other areas where people may be seeking shelter.
For Karen Hughes, the personal conversations with the people they encountered were the most moving part of the evening.
“All of them had stories about their struggles, their challenges, their past mistakes,” she said. “But through it all, the resiliency of the human spirit showed through. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”
While the MDHA counts the unsheltered population, partner agencies like Dallas Life Foundation and The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center provide counts of the sheltered homeless.
The HUD definitions of “homelessness” include:
Vogel Alcove Director of Family Services Lynn Cearley, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, expressed concern for the unsheltered homeless individuals she met during the PIT Count.
“An image that will stay in my head a long time: On a cold night, a young man lying on a cement bench, barely able to nod yes or no to a few questions. It’s impossible not to worry about him,” she said.
Results of the PIT count will be shared with the community during the State of the Homeless address in March 2017. Given our commitment to serving homeless children and families, helping with the Dallas County PIT count naturally aligns with Vogel Alcove’s mission.