Guest Article by Ruth Orozco
Once again the end of July signals the time for the bi-annual Point in Time Homeless Count performed by the local agencies supported by HUD funds. Agencies such as Lakeshore CAP, the Salvation Army, Safe Harbor and others who try to supply emergency assistance to those who are homeless, or who are at risk of homelessness are required to sponsor a semi-annual physical count of the individuals or families who are living on the street in our communities.
As HUD advances its efforts to end chronic homelessness by 2020, the Point in Time process yields a snap shot of the efforts on a local level. Community volunteers organized by the Sheboygan Housing Coalition patrol the streets where the homeless might congregate in order to offer them the services which each agency provides. The Point in Time isn’t just about people living on the street or under bridges however. It also counts the number of people and families already in shelters, and assesses the effectiveness of local programming designed to assist these individuals find permanent, sustainable housing options. The questions asked of these people assist us in pinpointing the areas of need that aren’t being met through local efforts.
The volunteers of the Point in Time process are trained briefly in what to expect in encountering the homeless. They are sent with supplies, and with knowledge of available assistance programs that may not have been known to those they encounter. The goal of getting a count of those living on the street is also accompanied by the goal of introducing them to programs that can assist them find more stable living arrangements.
Local programs serving the homeless or those at risk of homeless are Lakeshore CAP with homelessness prevention programs for those being evicted or otherwise about to lose their housing, the Rapid Re-Housing program for those who are literally homeless or living in shelters; The Salvation Army with its emergency shelter; Bridgeway and its transitional living program for single women heading households; and Safe Harbor assisting those homeless while fleeing domestic violence. Other local agencies have different programs assisting those experiencing homelessness; all are members or are in contact with the Sheboygan Housing Coalition which also includes the Sheboygan Housing Authority and other Sec. 8 subsidized housing providers.
Homelessness is a complex problem, and circumstances for each individual vary. Local programs are available on a continuum of service. Those who are ineligible for one agency’s program may find assistance in another’s.
The Point in Time process begins with a short training exercise at 10 p.m. before the count begins at 11 p.m. Before going into the community, volunteers are paired up with a team if they don’t have one. Volunteers are always appreciated and can reach the program by calling Lakeshore CAP at 920-803-6991 or by going to www.uwofsc.org/volunteer.