Point-in-Time Survey performed throughout county
Annual count used to find resources for homeless
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.”
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.
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.