Last night, while the city lay under a thin blanket of snow, the homeless service provider Project HOME orchestrated one of the largest volunteering efforts of the year. It gathered over 300 hundred volunteers in the auditorium of the Congregation Rodeph Shalom on North Broad Street and sent them out across the city to help count the unsheltered population of Philadelphia.
The volunteers, who were made up of social workers, formerly homeless individuals and everyone in between, formed into teams and piled into vans to be taken off to their assigned zones.
Once at their destination, the groups fanned out across parks, side streets, vacant lots and bus stations. When they encountered a homeless person, a volunteer would add a tally to a sheet of paper and then attempt to get the individual to fill out a survey to get more specific information about their background and current situation. Sweatshirts and coupons for free pizza were offered as an incentive.
The one-night initiative is called the Point in Time (PIT) count, and it is required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for jurisdictions that receive federal funds for homeless assistance. Project HOME is contracted to handle the legwork.
Generocity.org has covered the homeless quite a bit lately (we covered counting homeless youth and LGBTQ homelessness this month) and has often referenced the PIT count without a firsthand understanding what it looked like on the ground.
We tagged along with some of the volunteers as they worked their way through the subway platforms, concourses and stairwells beneath Center City. Here’s what we saw:
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Images via Alex Vuocolo-30-
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