Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Homeless Point in Time County 2016

Every year, the U.S. HUD (the federal housing agency) holds a nation-wide count of homeless people.  Today, January 27, is the day.  In Union County, daytime and overnight counts are conducted.  Volunteers seek out people who are homeless in the urban centers - Elizabeth, Plainfield and Linden in particular.  Questionnaires are filled out.  People are offered packages of food, clothing and toiletries and also transportation to shelters or the county Division of Social Services (in Plainfield, at the Park-Madison office building)

I participate in the Plainfield overnight count.  This year we began at 3:30 AM, three groups in vans, accompanied by police officers.  Using police intelligence and others in the know, we visited locations likely frequented by people who are homeless.

 evidence of homeless overnight location by east bound downtown station

We found less people than in previous years, probably because the heavy snowfall drove more people into shelters.  We also looked along Park Ave in downtown and spoke to some people who were spending the night standing in doorways.  One said she was homeless for two years.
In the past, we found people at the downtown station, but not this year.
Union County Department of Human Services is to be commended.  We are the first county in New Jersey to implement Code Blue, when the temperature drops very low and the county assertively looks for homeless people and brings them to shelters.  I am told that Freeholder Angel Estrada was the champion of this initiative, which is now spreading across the state.
Freeholder Linda Carter, County Dept of Human Services Director Frank Guzzo and yours truly
The photo above shows some of the people who showed up at 3 AM for the Point in Time Count in Plainfield.  There was a good turnout  of HomeFirst employees , Plainfield police and county Sherriff's Office.
Eventually reports will be issued nation-wide documenting the people identified as experiencing homeless on January 27, their characteristics and the outcome of our interventions for the day.

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