Recounting the Count

There are few people that respond to the call of a panhandler or approach a homeless individual, much less engage in a personal survey in the dead of winter.  But that is exactly what happened on January 25, 2012, across the United States, with the Point in Time (PIT) survey.  Planned for the coldest night of the year, this annual volunteer-led effort sets out to provide a snapshot of exactly who experiences homelessness.  Within a 24-hour period, volunteers comb streets, alleys, fast-food restaurants, parks, and other urban or rural spaces to count and ask personal questions to unsheltered individuals.  Additionally, permanent supportive housing programs, transitional housing agencies, hypothermia units, and other service organizations conduct a count of their own.

Collecting data tracks progress and informs service providers, policymakers, the public, and other anti-poverty measures.  This data can lead to more accurate program and policy assessment, site-specific development, and greater funding to alleviate homelessness and underserved communities. Typically, a regional report is released in early May by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Nonetheless, there is controversy on how to count those living “doubled up” with friends and family members (people who have lost their job, house, or apartment for various reasons).  Such individuals are not considered homeless by the Department of Housing and Urban Development standards and are not addressed in the count.

In DC, over 200 volunteers set out at 930pm to predesignated city neighborhoods. In the 12 year history of PIT in DC, yesterday was the first non-hypothermic evening, raising questions as to whether or not the count would be as accurate with less individuals accounted for in the shelters and more out on the streets.  Regardless, volunteers remained diligent in canvassing, and any overlapping of individual surveys would be amended. Questions included age, history of mental illness, current physical disabilities, military status, length of homelessness, and sources of income.  In return for their participation, individuals received a gift card to McDonald’s and hand warmers.  

Our group set off in Golden Triangle, zigzagging from M to P, 19th to 23rd, and back again.  After a slow start, we encountered several individuals sleeping in Dupont Circle.  Responses were warm, wary, fatigued, and sometimes scattered.  More apparent was the general confusion brought on by the apparition of such a blatant group of outsiders, and our genuine interest in their stories.  Some chitchatted and cracked jokes with us while others asked for food or money.  Most quickly answered our questions, closed their eyes, and drifted back to their cold and hard slumber. 

 

Special thank you to the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, the entire Point in Time Coordinating Team, and dedicated volunteers.

Thanks: A DC Poem

For U.S.A. chagim
We love July Fourth
Memorial Day’s meaning
And Labor Day’s worth
Veteran’s Day’s solemn
MLK Day’s inspiring
Columbus Day is about an explorer not tiring
But of all of these days
When our offices rest,
We all should agree
That Thanksgiving’s the best.

It’s the food
It’s the family
It’s an ancestral vision
Even though most of us
Aren’t related to Pilgrims
So with belly’s a-swollen
With victuals digestible
Here are some of the figures
That we thank at our table

We’re thankful for donors,
Volunteers and teachers,
Subscribers, new members
And fitness goal reachers.
We’re thankful for films
For Authorial speakers
For treadmill addicts
Who wear-out their sneakers.
We’re thankful for Circles,
Scott, Dupont and Logan
Thanks for the ‘hood
Someone named “Borderstan

Of course we are thankful
for our partners, Federation.
For synagogue rabbis
And all congregations:
Like Bet Mish and Micah
DC Minyan and Adas
Wash-Hebrew and T.I.
With religious org status
Kesher, Sinai, Ohev
For the ‘gogue on Sixth Street
Rosh Pina and wherever more than
10 Jews can meet

Thank you Vince Gray
And to the government of DC
From our rep Jack Evans
To our local ANC.
For the folks on the Hill,
Boehner, Cantor and Reid,
It not just thanks
But a deal that you need.
Once the debt deal is done
Or before if you’re open,
Thanks, please give a vote
To Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Thanks for Obama,
And Mitt and Newt too,
We’ll see who’s most thankful
In Twenty, One-Two.
And Occupy K Street
And Tea Party Nation
And David Petraeus
And Alex Ovechkin.

Thanks to the Nats,
The Skins and the Caps
The Wizards get thanks
When the lockout gets scrapped.
So thanks to Rex Grossman,
Davey Johnson, Mike Rizzo
The Shanahan clan,
And bald Bruce Boudreau.

Thanks Michael Kaiser
A toast to Todd Gray
Thanks Reggie Love,
Who is going away.
Thanks City Paper and
The Post’s Reliable Source
Thanks weather-guy Bob Ryan
And Nat’s Slugger Mike Morse.

Thanks Wale, thanks Kojo
Thanks Hilda Solis
Thanks Justice Kagan
And the Metro Police.
Thanks Dr. Jill Biden,
And George Pelecanos,
Thanks Ezra Klein
Welcome home Wilson Ramos.

Give thanks for the thanks
That you know that you’re due.
Give thanks for the J
Cause we give thanks for you.

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