By Sara O'Hara
”Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
On Wednesday, July 30, a coalition of agencies and volunteers will conduct the semi-annual Sheboygan Point-In-Time (PIT) count, with a focus on identifying people who are staying out in the places not meant for human habitation.
On the local level, point-in-time counts help communities plan services and programs to appropriately address local needs, measure progress in decreasing homelessness, and identify strengths and gaps in the current homelessness assistance system. Governments, nonprofits and key stakeholders at federal, state and local level use the information to make their plans to respond to the problem.
The PIT count provides a survey of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on a single night. It is intended to provide a snapshot of our community’s homeless population, and is one way to collectively understand the scope and breadth of homelessness. Results of the count will help establish the dimensions of the problem of homelessness in Sheboygan County and help policymakers and program administrators track progress toward the goal of ending homelessness.
This year’s survey has the specific purpose of identifying the veterans, youth households and youth who were in the foster care system. Volunteers look for people in the places where they may be hiding, although that is often in plain sight.
Imagine being homeless in our most recent winter. How many people do you imagine spent the night exposed to the elements in the dead of that frigid season? Do you remember how cold it was last January? In the last count, conducted at the end of January, searchers found three homeless at the warming shelter at the Salvation Army and one in the parking lot at Walmart. These people could find shelter for a few minutes from the sub-zero temperatures, but spent most of the night shivering in the open. Seventy-five others were sheltered at the Salvation Army, Safe Harbor or the Bridgeway Center. This last group were the lucky ones who had a warm place to sleep, if only for the night.
Let’s think about this “lucky” group. Can you picture them in your head? Was this in your picture? More than forty of the 75 were in families, and 28 of them were under 18. I imagine that you were thinking that these were grizzled old veterans of the street, right? On the contrary, a large number of them are just trying to get through each day, with the hope that they will improve their situation and be able to give their children a safe and stable place to live – so different from their own plight.
In the greatest and wealthiest country in the world, children should not have to sleep in cars and teens should not wonder how they will eat or sleep safely. It may be that the poor will always be with us, but we can work together to help some of these unfortunate individuals put a roof over their heads.
The Sheboygan PIT count in July will be part of a simultaneous count in counties across Wisconsin. The information gathered will be used by localities to plan their homeless strategies, but will also be compiled by a state agency to help plan statewide solutions.
You can help this coalition of advocates to complete the count on July 30. We need volunteers to cover specific zones and identify the homeless in those areas. Please contact Ruth Evans at Lakeshore CAP, by emailing her at email@example.com, calling her at 920-803-6991, or writing her at 2508 S. 8th Street, Sheboygan WI 53081.