Martha’s Village and Kitchen helps thousands of homeless and impoverished members of our community each year. Whether they are residents of our transitional housing program or public lunch attendees, each have a unique story of how they have come to need our services. Although Martha’s is proud of the people we reach and lives we help to change, the reality is homelessness and poverty are larger problems than what we see come into our building. The significant amount of unsheltered homeless in the Coachella Valley is seen everywhere. Many don’t know of where to go for help, and if they do, most likely they cannot find the means to get there. The annual Homeless Point-in-Time Count helps us to better understand trends in homelessness, the needs of the homeless and how we can help them.
What is the Homeless PIT Count?
Every year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires Continuum of Care (CoC) programs to conduct the Homeless Point-in-Time Count. The goal of the CoC program is to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness and provide services needed to transition them into permanent housing and long-term stability. Martha’s Village and Kitchen follows the Continuum of Care model, offering transitional housing and programs aimed toward improving the homeless with knowledge and skills needed to maintain permanent housing and live self-sufficiently.
The Homeless Point-in-Time Count (PIT) occurs each year on a single day in January. Homeless service providers and volunteers from the community team up to survey the homeless in their local regions. This year, the PIT Count will take place on Tuesday, January 26, 2016. Martha’s Village and Kitchen has been designated as the deployment site for volunteers surveying the unsheltered homeless in the city of Indio. Volunteers often consist of neighborhood groups, city/county employees, non-profit organizations, college students, community service clubs, faith-based institutions, social service providers, and more. Participation in the PIT Count is not only required to receive HUD funding, but gives organizations a better idea of how to allocate those resources and provide the most effective services for the community.
Preparation for this year’s PIT Count is well underway. Martha’s is working alongside the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), Indio Police Department, City of Indio, ABC Recovery Center, Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, FIND Food Bank and various other organizations to coordinate the count. Volunteers will arrive at Martha’s the morning of the count for training, meet their team and learn the locations they will survey. An Indio police officer will accompany each team and team leaders to their locations where they will survey the unsheltered homeless. Most locations usually consist of public parks such as Miles Park and North/South Jackson Park, bypass bridges and surrounding areas.
The Survey and Count Procedures
The survey created by Riverside County DPSS is designed to gather a variety of information about the homeless. The interview will begin with basic demographic questions such as age and ethnicity and will move toward more insightful questions such as where they slept the night before, how long they have been homeless and if they suffer from any disabilities. An observational survey tool will also be provided by the county for situations where the homeless locations are inaccessible. This year’s count will have a significant focus on Veterans. If the teams encounter a Veteran in their count, the Veteran will be offered assistance and transportation off the streets to Veteran Affairs and/or Housing Authority locations.
The Quality of Life Team from the Indio Police Department frequently interact with the homeless on the streets and inform them of the upcoming count and population survey. The unsheltered homeless are generally favorable toward participating and anticipate the day of the count. Incentivized “goodie bags” are distributed in exchange for their participation. This year, the incentives will include items such as toothbrushes, hygiene products, beanies, socks, water, dog food and informational inserts for local and county-wide homeless services, service providers and contact information.
For more information on the 2016 Homeless Point-in-Time Count, download the flyer (see above) or visit www.RiversideHomelessCounts.com to register as a volunteer for your local count.