We were a group from different backgrounds with different beliefs and ways of living but we all had one mission, hit the streets and count how many people are sleeping outside or in a shelter.
We met at Horizon House on the near east side of Indianapolis and grabbed a stack of surveys, a few pencils and some clipboards along with a few snacks, socks and hats to pass out as we encountered the homeless.
We jumped into a van and drove to the Indianapolis Public Library where many of the homeless go to stay warm and dry during the day when the shelters are closed. A library employee started outreach to the homeless a few years ago to help connect social services and provide resources to the homeless. She is now retired but holds office hours every Thursday from 2pm-4pm in room 404. She has additional supplies like scarves, gloves, blankets, hygiene items and more all stashed in her filing cabinets and in totes stacked up against the wall.
We split up into teams to walk around the library and survey the homeless. We encountered many homeless people who were sleeping on the streets or in a local shelter or in their car, these people were surveyed and counted. We also encountered many who are not sleeping on the streets but are on a friend’s couch or have found somewhere temporary to stay during the inclement weeks during the winter, these people were not surveyed or counted as homeless.
We finished up at the library, checked back in at Horizon House and then hit the streets with more surveys and supplies to count more homeless. We were given a map with some pins of identified homeless camps. We drove around, hiked up embankments and under bridges to find the homeless. We encountered one couple under a bridge but they didn’t want to talk to us so we couldn’t get accurate information about them but we did do an observation. Others were more accomodating and answered our questions providing the much needed information to bring in funds to Indianapolis.
For me this experience was very educational and a good opportunity to get an inside look at the process.
This count we were responsible for conducting is called the Point In Time (PIT) count and there is a requirement to count the homeless all across the country on January 22nd. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides the funding for the housing and services for the homeless across the country. In order to allocate the funding HUD needs an accurate count of how many homeless there are in each state. There is some question as to just how accurate this process really is for getting the true number of the homeless. Last year the PIT count revealed there were 1,567 homeless individuals in Indianapolis. The belief is that this could possibly be doubled to get the true number of homeless individuals in Indianapolis.