At five in the morning, we set out. In teams of two or three, we comb abandoned buildings, creek beds, and parks. Quiet tucked-away areas, dumpsters, and parking lots. After a while, we’ll spot it: a blue tarp, a full shopping cart, or a car filled with belongings. One of us marks it down and colors our map.
It’s called the Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, and it's an important event that happens once every two years. U.S. counties count people experiencing homelessness within their borders and report their findings to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
HUD uses these findings to estimate the homeless population in each city and determine how much federal funding to give to each state, county, and city to address those needs. So, it’s vital that counties provide an accurate count. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to cover all the ground when you don’t have enough volunteers, and due to a surge in COVID-19 omicron variant, Santa Clara County had trouble recruiting volunteers this year. That’s why SCS, along with three other organizations, stepped up to do the PIT Count for Sunnyvale.
…the PIT Count data helps us see for ourselves: How is the health of our city?
For SCS, there’s a lot on the line. The PIT Count determines the amount of funding we get from government grants related to homelessness prevention. But also, the PIT Count data helps us see for ourselves: How is the health of our city?
As I surveyed my own neighborhood for the PIT Count, I found myself peering into a part of the world I usually pretend not to see. People panhandling at busy intersections. Tent cities. Lines of RVs parked on the side of the street. To solve a problem, we must stop pretending it’s not there. And that heart-breaking truth is the key that will lead us to more answers. As a staff member of Sunnyvale Community Services, I am grateful to be part of the solution.
Marketing and Communications Specialist, Sunnyvale Community Services