The West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness is hosting a Point in Time Count in Berkeley County. I had the opportunity to participate in the Point in Time Count last year, working to help the homeless populations in our region. Jason Mansfield is the Street Outreach and Assessment Worker for Berkeley County and the main contact for this event.
The event is scheduled for February 2nd and February 3rd 2016. Volunteers may arrive at the Rescue Mission on February 2nd at any time from 3:30pm to 5:30pm and will need to be off the streets by 7:00pm. Volunteers may arrive at the Rescue Mission on February 3rd at any time from 6am to 2pm. Volunteers must be done by 4pm. Early hours and mealtimes are a priority.
The following information has been adapted from an email to previous volunteers of the Point in Time Count:
The task of a point in time count (PITC) is to count all of the homeless individuals in Berkeley County. This count provides a snapshot to the federal government to determine the relative need of communities all across the country. Every county in the United States is required to do some sort of count, and a county with such a vast need as our own is entirely dependent on volunteer assistance. Teams will be sent out to a specific region in the county. They will have a map of the region and get some insight on where to look in order to make contact with homeless individuals. Once a person is found, they will be surveyed and encouraged to come to the rescue mission for someplace warm to eat, receive medical examination if necessary, and seek help from other community services. Volunteers should dress very warmly and be prepared to spend time outside.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the federal funder for most of the area’s homeless services and requires this count in order to know where to send assistance dollars. The need is great here. HUD knows that, but they cannot divert funding to Martinsburg without the accurate and thorough count of our homeless neighbors. Further, the information gathered from these individuals will allow people like Jason to reach out to them and help them to begin putting back together the pieces of their lives. Time invested on this day for this count is more financially valuable than any other volunteer time for our homeless population. This is the biggest bang for your volunteer effort.
Volunteers will be surveying clients who are homeless, outside or in service locations like shelters, libraries, and meal sites. Volunteers will not be alone at any point. All volunteer teams are expected to be three individuals minimum.
There is a 30 minute training video that must be watched prior to surveying any clients. If you are interested in volunteering, you can watch the training in advance or just show up and we will train you when you arrive. Volunteers who do not watch it prior to the event are free to come and help out, as the training video will play on a loop in a separate room at the mission. Once a volunteer gets back to the point at which they came into the training, they are good to be sent out with a team. The training video includes detailed safety information. For both safety and confidentiality reasons, all volunteers must be at least 18 years of age.
“I am excited about the count this year. There are some really important developments for us strategically, and I am expecting a good number of willing volunteers to participate. With the time and effort of our volunteers, I feel confident that we will be able to canvas Berkeley County well and get good results.” -Jason Mansfield.
Many of our volunteers found that the experience of really gathering a story from a homeless person was a big event in their lives. The stories that they relayed to me where often relayed with tears. Volunteers sometimes do not find anyone in their area, and that is a cause for celebration. Other areas are more densely populated and volunteers find themselves surprised as they are introduced to a part of their town that they had never known existed.
Feel free to contact Jason if you need more information
Individuals interested in participating in other counties can contact Elizabeth Johnson about volunteering in Jefferson County at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cynthia Robertson about Morgan County at email@example.com.
(Photos by Nicholas Trietsch)