Finding the Tip of the Iceberg
Jessica Schafer is the Client Advocate and Office Manager at ECHO. ECHO served 3200 households in 2011 by providing emergency rental assistance and lodging, case management, a food pantry, transportation, community meals, and seasonal services. Visit www.echojanesville.org for more information.
Since 2005, the Rock County Homeless Intervention Task Force (HITF) has conducted 24-hour counts of the homeless population on the last Wednesday in January and July. A Point-In-Time (PIT) count is a statistically reliable, unduplicated count of homeless persons for a 24-hour period. This count includes persons that are homeless who are living in emergency shelters, motel voucher programs, transitional housing, domestic violence shelters, or are unsheltered living on the streets or any other place not meant for human habitation.
PIT is conducted all over the United States with an immediate goal of providing emergency shelter and a long-term goal of eliminating homelessness. The information gathered is utilized for a number of reports that have a significant impact on the amount of funding that Rock County receives each year to combat homelessness from Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
At the last count on January 25, 2012, 289 persons were counted as being homeless in Rock County; 57 of those were unsheltered, while the rest were being sheltered. In Wisconsin, there were 6000 persons counted as homeless; 581 of those were unsheltered. These individuals are not always there during the count, but we can see the evidence of their campfires, sleeping bags or clothes tucked away. For example, evidence is often found under bridge abutments by the Rock River and Turtle Creek.
This next PIT street count will be held on Wednesday, July 25. Volunteers will be sent out in groups with members from HITF who have experience working with the homeless population. The groups will be on the streets by midnight looking for homeless individuals and families throughout Rock County. Volunteers will comb parks, trails, rest areas, and 24 hour establishments. HITF members will also call hospitals, motels and campgrounds to see if there is anyone there who is homeless. If anyone knows of any places where there may be an individual or family who is homeless and needs assistance, please let us know by Wednesday.
Any homeless person who is found is given a homeless care package, which contains personal care items and non-perishable food, along with a laminated card that lists all of the agencies in Rock County who serve the homeless population. Homeless individuals who are willing to get help will be lodged Wednesday night by ECHO, and their needs will be assessed the next day to see how we can get them into stable housing which includes case management. HITF is very grateful to the many volunteers and donors who have assisted with previous PIT counts. Please consider coming out to ECHO next Wednesday and helping your community help those in need. For more information, please contact me at 608-754-5333 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Jessica Schafer, ECHO