Counting Hearts:  VOA Southeast and the 2024 Homeless Point in Time Count

Community, Compassion, and Counting Every Heart

How many people are currently homeless in the United States? How many of them are families, youth, or veterans? The answers to these questions and more can be answered by point-in-time counts.  VOA Southeast team members actively engaged in The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, an unduplicated count on a single night of the people in a community who are experiencing homelessness that includes both sheltered and unsheltered populations. This one-night effort, conducted nationwide, provides essential insights for understanding homelessness, planning interventions, and allocating resources. In this article, we share the unique perspectives from VOA Southeast team members involved in the PIT Count and delve into the impactful initiatives like Project Homeless Connect to equip those experiencing homelessness with resources and most of all compassion.   

2024 Point in Time Count Across the Region

January 25th marked a significant chapter in VOA Southeast’s dedication to providing comprehensive support for the most vulnerable in our community. Team members across our tri-state region participated in the HUD 2024 Point in Time Count.  In Alabama, Samantha Powell and Deborah Murph navigated through Toulminville to Georgetown, while Katrese Barker, Erin Garzelli, Nick Seawright, and Connie Blue covered the Birmingham area. In Georgia, Paul Salemi, James Giordanella, Joshua Giordanella, Anita Wall, Lynn Malone, Laura Hardie, Angelina Sanchez, Tanya Looby, Julianna Williams, Kathy Smith, Rhondalyn Johnson, Tanya Montgomery, and Dishon Jones combed through Warner Robins, Macon, and Columbus. The challenges for all were undeniable, but the rewards were immeasurable.

During their patrol, James Giordanella shared that him and his team encountered an individual experiencing homelessness since the age of 12 gathering trash in a local dumpster. His journey led him from Tampa, Florida to Georgia, where he had been grappling with mental health issues, resorting to drugs as a coping mechanism. For four years, he scraped together money for sporadic hotel stays and expressed hope that the survey’s results would contribute to the availability of resources in the area.

Team members worked diligently to locate individuals in need, collecting valuable information and providing resources such as blankets, personal care kits, and information on local agencies where individuals could seek support. The teams searched behind grocery stores, around overpasses, at fast-food restaurants, and around abandoned buildings. While challenging, this event was very rewarding and motivating to all of the team members who strive to end homelessness.

Project Homeless Connect

All those encountered during the Point in Time Count in South Alabama were provided information on Project Homeless Connect. Project Homeless Connect, held at The Grounds in Mobile, AL, on January 26, 2024, is a one-stop-shop opportunity for individuals experiencing homelessness to obtain the resources and the support they need to improve their lives. VOA Southeast is one of over 100 local service providers and organizations who participate and offers a range of vital services, from healthcare to housing assistance, all provided free of charge.

Free transportation was offered to all individuals in Mobile and Baldwin counties, ensuring accessibility to those in need. The event not only addressed immediate needs but also served as a catalyst for lasting change.

The Significance of the Point-in-Time Count

Chad Cheshire, Director of Homelessness and Prevention Services at VOA Southeast and Chairperson of the Board of Directors for Georgia Balance of State Continuum of Care, sheds light on the broader significance of the PIT Count. The survey, conducted at the end of this month, captures vital information about where individuals slept the night of the count, demographic factors, and veteran status.

HUD’s choice of the month of January ensures an accurate count, especially within shelters that are often at maximum capacity due to cold weather. These numbers help identify trends, influence future funding streams, and enable outreach to homeless populations.

Chad emphasizes that VOA staff plays a crucial role in conducting these counts, given their substantial presence and services for the homeless in their service areas. The dedication of VOA Southeast extends beyond immediate assistance; it’s about understanding the homeless population’s intricacies to drive positive change.

Building Bridges of Hope

As we reflect on the PIT Count and Project Homeless Connect, it’s evident that VOA Southeast’s commitment goes beyond numbers and statistics. It’s a commitment to the human spirit, to meeting individuals where they are, and to creating lasting change. Together, we build bridges of hope, one survey, and one connection at a time. Discover more about our unwavering commitment to ending homelessness by clicking here. Together, let’s continue this journey toward creating a community where everyone has a place to call home.

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