Calls are going out from the EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless, for volunteers to take part in the annual count of the homeless on January 27-28.
“Point in Time” allows agencies that provide services to the homeless to get a handle on the overall population in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, and how to tailor those services to help move them out of homelessness.
“We actually dispersed teams out on the street and in areas where the homeless normally gather: Alfred Washburn Center, Salvation Army, places like that,” said Alison Griffith, the program’s coordinator.
Last year, more than 30 agencies participated and assisted more than 300 people. Then- coordinator Serene Keiek deployed about 100 volunteers to sites throughout EscaRosa.
“If you just take a look around, you can see we have homeless, said Keiek. “They’re just about on every corner and every shelter is full, every program is full. So, we do have homeless here. We do have probably more homeless, apparent homeless that you see in Escambia county. The invisible homeless is in Santa Rosa County.”
“Invisible homeless” more often than not, are those who are temporarily bunking with family and friends.
This year, it’s anticipated that up to 500 individuals will be at the “U-Count” service day. Griffith says they’ll collect some basic information from them.
“We find out if they’re veterans, we find out their age, race, sex,” Griffith said. If they have any disabilities, what their household dynamics are, and what their previous living situation is and try to find out how they actually ended up homeless.”
After the interviews, the information is placed into a database, which enables the coalition to track them when they come for services. Griffith says the volunteers, both individuals and groups are welcome to come out, will be doing a variety of jobs over the two-day period.
“They’ll actually go out with a team and help us to survey the volunteers,” said Griffith. “And at the U-Count Service Day I need volunteers from setting up and taking down; providing directions, helping escort our disabled clients. No previous training is necessary, just a willingness to help.”
Volunteers are also being sought to provide a number of personal services, such as haircuts, beard trims, and chair massages. The goal of the EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless is to prevent and eliminate homelessness in the two counties, but Griffith says 100% end to homelessness may not be possible.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get to a net-zero homeless population, but it is feasible to re-home individuals, give them job training,” said Griffith. “And maybe not get then into their own home, but get them in a group home or setting where they are off the streets.”
Anyone wishing to participate in Point in Time, set for January 27th and 28th, can call Alison Griffith at 439-3009, extension 104, or shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than January 10.