Point-in-Time Sur­vey per­formed through­out county

An­nual count used to find re­sources for home­less

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

In an ef­fort to iden­tify the num­ber of both shel- tered and un­shel­tered home­less in­di­vid­u­als across Charles Coun- ty, the Charles County Pub­lic Li­brary (CCPL) re­cently part­nered with Life­Styles Inc., and com- mu­nity vol­un­teers to con­duct the an­nual Pointin-Time (PIT) Home­less Sur­vey.

Point-in-time is an undu­pli­cated count of per­sons ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less- ness in both un­shel­tered and shel­tered (in a home­less pro­gram) places on a sin­gle night. On Wednes- day, vol­un­teers con­duct- ed brief, con­ver­sa­tional sur­veys from noon to 8 p.m. with home­less in- di­vid­u­als who came into ei­ther the Wal­dorf West, La Plata, or Po­tomac branches of the li­brary, and those who live on the streets in the re­gion.

“It’s pow­er­ful to take 120 vol­un­teers and cover 400-plus square miles in one day and that’s what we did to­day,” said Life­Styles Inc. Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Sandy Wash­ing­ton. “We want to touch those lives of peo­ple that are out there. I know we have to get those sta­tis­tics in, but we want to leave them bet­ter off than they were when we found them. We want to leave them re­sources, get them con­nected and iden­tify re­sources that we are lack­ing in or­der to get those folks that want to come out of that tent, car or house that shouldn’t be

in­hab­ited and move them for­ward.”

“One of our goals is to po­si­tion the li­brary as an in­dis­pens­able com­muni- ty as­set,” said Janet Sala- zar, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of CCPL. “Early on we de­ter- mined that by in­creas­ing our com­mu­nity part­ner- ships, we can make a real dif­fer­ence in the lives of res­i­dents in our commu- nity. The li­brary will open up our meet­ing rooms for vol­un­teers to meet with peo­ple dur­ing the event and at the [Wal­dorf] West branch, in­di­vid­u­als will have a chance to take a shower if needed.”

The point-in-time count al­lows local com­mu­ni­ties and state pol­icy mak­ers to un­der­stand cur­rent prob­lems of home­less­ness, tar­get lim­ited fund­ing to ap­pro­pri­ate hous­ing and ser­vices and track progress. The an­nual Home­less Count is a re­quire­ment of the U.S. Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment (HUD) for the local Con- tin­uum of Care (CoC) fund­ing process.

At 8 a.m. Wed­nes­day, North Point High School culi­nary arts stu­dents hosted a big break­fast for the home­less. Stu­dents helped fill out point-in-time sur­veys of the home­less in­di­vid­u­als who at­tended and served them food. Wash­ing­ton said it was “neat” to have the stu­dents in­volved and giv­ing back.

Co­rae Young, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of Life­Styles Inc., went into many of the tent com­mu­ni­ties to get spe­cific de­mo­graphic in- for­ma­tion from home­less in­di­vid­u­als and busi­ness- es where home­less indi- vid­u­als fre­quent dur­ing the day. Young asked home­less in­di­vid­u­als 10 to 12 sur­vey ques­tions, then gave them a Pocket Guide re­source card, as well as Wal­mart, Wawa and Van- Go gift cards.

“Al­though we work with the home­less pop­u­la­tion, there are still al­ways more peo­ple that are out there. We have to learn how to get out of our doors and go to the peo­ple,” Young said.

Vol­un­teer Pamela Wat- son said she is a home­less in­di­vid­ual who lived in her car for three weeks. On Nov. 17, 2016, the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice found her and gave her con­tact in­for­ma­tion for local re­sources. She is now signed up for Safe Nights at Life­Styles Inc., where she sleeps through­out the night, but she was more than happy to use her time dur­ing the day to help oth- ers who are in worse liv­ing con­di­tions.

“I don’t have any­thing else to do dur­ing the day. So­cial Se­cu­rity won’t al­low me to work ex­tra and to keep from los­ing my ben­e­fits, all I do is ride the VanGo ev­ery day, all day. To­day I’m learn­ing about other peo­ple — their cir­cum­stances, and I don’t judge peo­ple by how they look on the out­side any­more. It’s all about who they are in the in­side that re­ally mat­ters,” Wat­son said.

Tammy Ry­nan, a mem­ber of Mar­bury Bap­tist Church, has vol­un­teered at her church dur­ing Safe Nights for many years. She said be­ing able to vol­un­teer her time dur­ing the Point-in-Time Sur­vey has been an ex­pe­ri­ence she will never for­get.

“No hu­man be­ing should live like this — no­body should be hun­gry, live in the woods, no­body should be sick and not have health­care,” Ry­nan said. “I’ve never ac­tu­ally gone out to the woods to see how these peo­ple live when they are not in our church dur­ing Safe Nights. It’s heart­break­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, I haven’t given a lot of thought to what hap­pens when they leave the church and go to a place like the woods or their car. Life­Styles goes be­yond to help and they truly care about these folks.”

Capt. Stephen Sal­vas of the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice brought along the Com­mu­nity Ori­ented Polic­ing Ser­vice Unit — com­mu­nity po­lice of­fi­cers Paul Sady, Ian Bier and Stephen Du­ley — as an ad­di­tional re­source for the vol­un­teers. Sady said his com­mu­nity polic­ing unit has knowl­edge of home­less camps be­cause they al­ways see those in­di­vid­u­als com­ing and go­ing from their tents at the nearby shop­ping cen­ters.

“We’re here to sup­port and help as much as we can,” Sal­vas said. “The av­er­age per­son wakes up in a warm home, warm bed, and not think­ing there are peo­ple sleep­ing in their car or tents some­where else. This work is not easy, so we have as­signed cer­tain polic­ing units to cer­tain teams to help with the count.”

“I hope peo­ple re­al­ize that the num­bers we count to­day and [sub­mit] will de­ter­mine fu­ture fund­ing for many of these agen­cies. If we have high num­bers, that may mean ad­di­tional re­sources to sup­port us,” Young said. “The fed­eral gov­ern­ment wants us to start look­ing at how do we end home­less­ness and ide­ally that’s our ul­ti­mate goal, too. But we want to paint an ac­cu­rate pic­ture of what’s hap­pen­ing out here, too.”

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

Co­rae Young, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of Life­Styles Inc., and vol­un­teer Pamela Wat­son com­plete a Pointin-Time sur­vey with a gen­tle­man liv­ing in the woods of La Plata on Jan. 25.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

On Jan. 25, Co­rae Young, Life­Styles Inc. as­sis­tant di­rec­tor, and vol­un­teers Tammy Ry­nan and Pamela Wat­son found a home­less in­di­vid­ual they have never met who has been liv­ing in his car in La Plata. They gave him a Pocket Guide re­source card and gift cards.

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