The Point In Time Count (PITC) of the homeless surveys were conducted this morning in Ocean Beach. As my alarm went off at 6am, I thought to myself, “what am I doing up at this hour? why did I commit to reporting Part 2 of 2 in this series on the Point-In-Time-Count?” It suddenly didn’t seem like my brightest idea to date. Yet, after what I witnessed today it was well worth the early wake up call.
By the time I arrived at the First Baptist Church at 7:30am where the surveys would be conducted, I was freezing and wishing I had worn my toe socks.
Glyn Franks, President of Second Chances, Inc. greeted me with a broad smile and warm welcome. He and several energetic and upbeat volunteers were preparing the weekly Saturday morning breakfast for those without resources for food. What I observed the people of Second Chances offering with such compassion, kindness, and non-judgment is a heartwarming story in itself, For now, allow me to simply express my thanks and appreciation to all who selflessly gave their time and talents to nourish and nurture others.
As people began to arrive for breakfast, there was a quiet calm in the air. Oh yes, it was cold this morning, yet I heard no complaints. There was quiet chatter amongst the folks while they patiently waited to either serve or eat. As more and more folks arrived I began seeing familiar faces, people I’ve seen around town in passing. Seeing so many gather in the cold for a meal jarred the rose colored glasses from my eyes. I began to realize the magnitude of the homeless population in OB. And these were only the ones who got up early today to come and eat perhaps their only meal of the day.
Once people had a chance to eat, Tim Sandiford, Regional Volunteer Coordinator, PITC, was ready and waiting with the 15 minute surveys, offering any participant a $10 gift card to Subway or Jack in the Box as a way of saying thank you. While participation was strictly voluntary, not many in attendance passed up the opportunity.
While I wouldn’t dream of revealing any personal responses from those that participated, I can speak on the categories covered and questions posed…and, of course, my life’s lesson from it all.
Once the participant was informed of their right to skip or refuse to answer any question(s) that made them uncomfortable or upset, that they could stop the interview at any time without consequence, and how their information would be used, they signed on the dotted line and the interview began. They started by asking for basic personal information such as name, social security number, gender, family status, ethnicity, race, military service, etc ~ all that factual stuff which can be utilized by the ‘database gurus’ for statistical purposes and eventual program funding. (can’t say I know how Statisticians do what they do … I took Statistics three different times in college and still don’t get it)
Next, there were a few questions specific to their experience of being homeless in San Diego. Questions such as how long they’ve been homeless here, where were they before coming to San Diego, have they been a crime victim while homeless in San Diego…stuff like that.
The questions that really intrigued me, though, were the ones that gave a voice to the individuals experiencing homelessness. Each person surveyed had an opportunity to reveal what led up to them becoming homeless? What, if any, services they’ve accessed in the past 6 months? What services they need right now? and what services would they need to no longer be homeless?
Okay, stop right here, I’ve got to say it … This is a BRILLIANT idea here, folks! Ask the people who are actually homeless what they need. Not only for today’s survival but also looking forward to what they would need to no longer be homeless (if that’s even a goal for them). As I see it, the PITC surveys don’t put the cart before the horse. Data from these surveys will serve to discover the real needs of the people in this area who are experiencing homelessness BEFORE funding programs in this area. Someone is thinking solutions here (collective gasp!)! All kidding aside, this really is a good idea. well thought out with easy application. Is this person available in 2012?
These survey questions did not appear to be just another exercise in futility posed by yet another agency gathering statistics in order to fund their own agendas. It became apparent that someone spent a lot of time developing these questions and really thought about their intended audience. I could easily imagine how, when used correctly, these results held the power to actually change lives.
I’m feeling really good about what I saw in OB this morning. Another instance of people doing something instead of the all too familiar albeit fruitless bitchathons. Here were very nice people working together toward a common goal ~ one that benefits us all. I am once again encouraged by seeing Obceans come out into the community and make a difference in the lives of others. My hat is off to you all ~ both those that live indoors and those that do not.
To quote Tim from part 1 of 2 in this series, start asking yourself ‘what do I have to offer?’ Here’s an easy one we can all offer. All this week you can encourage anyone you know currently experiencing homelessness to take part in a PITC survey. A simple mention of the no-strings-attached $10 gift card may encourage their participation. The more results collected, the greater the potential to get the tangible and much needed assistance directly to our (larger than I ever imagined) homeless population.
Surveys are being conducted all this week by PITC volunteers and are open to anyone currently experiencing homelessness. Another scheduled opportunity to complete the survey in Ocean Beach is Saturday, February 5, at the First Baptist Church on Santa Monica (just east of Sunset Cliffs Blvd) during the Second Chance breakfast at 8am. Yep, that’s REAL early, yet oh so worth the effort.
Results of the Point-In-Time-Count that took place last night are expected in about a week. As to when the results of the surveys are expected and to whom results will be available, I am uncertain. Any inquires regarding the survey results should be directed to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.
For more information on PITC visit the Regional Task Force on the Homeless at www.rtfhsd.org
This article was updated with photos on January 31, 2011.