This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
How many people are currently homeless in the United States? How many of them are families, youth, or veterans? Each year, volunteers from around the country reach out on a single day to the homeless in our communities as part of the Point in Time count. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to conduct annual counts of people living in emergency shelter or transitional housing. Additionally, every other year, HUD requires communities to conduct counts of people who have no shelter. Since 2005 Carson City has conducted both sheltered and unsheltered counts annually to gain a better understanding of homelessness in our community.
Carson City Health and Human Services is leading the effort to conduct the count in Carson City, with help from FISH, local veterans groups, Ron Wood Family Resource Center, the Carson City Sheriff’s Office, the Carson City School District, and the Salvation Army. Volunteers will go out into the community to identify those who are homeless and provide socks, gloves, and hygiene kits during the count. FISH will be open to offer a hot meal and a shower, and will have coats and blankets available to help those in need. Volunteers also will interview as many of the homeless people as possible to better understand what services are needed in our community.
Point-in-time counts are important because they establish the dimensions of the problem of homelessness and help policymakers and program administrators track progress toward the goal of ending homelessness. Collecting data on homelessness and tracking progress can increase public awareness and help obtain funding and resources to address needs.
In Carson City last year, 70 people were counted in the street count as unsheltered, 33 of whom had been homeless for more than a year or homeless at least 4 times in the past three years. In 2014, of 300 people who were living in motels or transitional housing, 106 had been in a motel for more than a year.
For many who are homeless, the loss of their home has been triggered by the loss of a job. Although the economy in Carson City is improving, many people remain unemployed or underemployed, and homelessness remains a weighty issue in our community. The Point in Time count is an important opportunity for service providers to interact with the homeless and learn about ways to improve services, connect people with resources, and provide care to those in need.
To learn more about the Point in Time Count, visit www.endhomelessness.org. To learn more about other Health Department programs and services, visit www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CCHHS.