We can readily admit to a housing crisis that is ever more apparent in our community, our state and our nation as a whole. So what are we doing about it? Does everyone count?
Annually, Family Tree partners with agencies in the area to conduct a survey intended for folks experiencing a housing crisis in a nationwide event; Point In Time (PIT). The results reveal a broad snapshot of what homelessness may look like on any given day in every community and determine funding for housing agencies like Family Tree from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Three years ago, within my first week of employment with Family Tree, the annual PIT count was in full force. I remember feeling so excited – so eager to conduct outreach in an attempt to assist people and learn more about homelessness. My excitement quickly dissolved when I saw the painful reality of human suffering, unsanitary conditions and myself, without an answer. I swallowed the travesty of my blind perceptions. The expected satisfaction of helping people was flipped on its head and revealed an unwavering reality; there is much to do in ending homelessness.
As I prepare for this year’s count, I am reminded of when an elderly person I attempted to survey last year stated they had soiled themselves and did not want to participate because it was too cold. Or, the family of seven, mostly school-aged children, who were afraid to ask for help due to their cultural and spiritual beliefs. We were gratefully able to connect them to appropriate resources through our engagement with them during the 2018 PIT count.
I have felt helpless and frustrated in the face of homelessness when resources are lacking and barriers are treacherous. Homelessness is not linear or easily resolved; it’s messy and unpredictable. Yet, I feel so grateful when resolutions and resources become a milestone in someone’s life.
As a case manager with the Family Tree Homelessness Program, I see more than a person or family struggling to make ends meet. I see people who may benefit from kind words of empowerment, benefit from sharing their powerful story and I see people who can gain support in the form of community advocacy. I see fellow humans with basic needs and rights that are not being fully met.
As we jump to the present day, three years later, I am fully engaged in the annual PIT count planning, incentive collections (tangible support like socks and sandwiches) and administering of surveys. We constantly search for ways to increase reliable results for the very real issues that people are facing through improved and increased engagement. I hold a high respect for the dedication of Family Tree’s mission and how it involves the entire community in recognizing shelter as a human right. I have many ideas, concerns and questions about, and deep compassion for fellow humans. Family Tree has always supported this collective effort and I’m very proud to be a part of its growth. This annual nationwide event has been a consistent reminder that Everyone Counts!