(Photo courtesy of Flickr user U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, used via a Creative Commons license)
It’s that time of year again — the time when hundreds of volunteers storm U.S. cities conducting a census on the homeless, both sheltered and unsheltered.
In Philadelphia, the annual count — which happened last night — is coordinated by the Office of Supportive Housing and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in partnership with homeless service providers like Project HOME.
Last year, the census showed a three percent decrease in family homelessness mirrored by a three percent decrease in general homelessness (76 people). However, there was a dramatic 86 percent increase in unsheltered homelessness — apparently due to volunteers broadening the geographic scope of the census.
This year’s count spanned an even broader geography of the city than ever before. But volunteers were better equipped this year. According to Alicia Taylor, the city’s Communications Director for the Department of Children and Families, the 400 volunteers participating in the count were using tablets in lieu of now-antiquated clipboards.
Taylor said the money to purchase the tablets came from a $70,000 grant from HUD. The technology should help speed up the census process.
“We’ve actually been getting more requests as late as last night for more volunteers,” Taylor said yesterday. “Hopefully with the volume of volunteers, we’re hoping to wrap this up quicker than usual.”
Last night, volunteers were scheduled to amass at Rodeph Shalom Synagogue on Broad Street, splinter off into teams of four to six people and spread throughout the city to conduct the census until 3 a.m.
“Being able to accurately measure the problem through this annual count makes a real difference in our collaborative efforts to understand the scope of homelessness in our neighborhoods and to track our progress in reducing it,” said Jane C.W. Vincent, regional administrator of HUD’s mid-Atlantic region, in the city’s press release about the event.-30-
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