While most Penn students were holed away studying, pledging or sleeping, more than 250 volunteers packed into vans on North Broad Street and drove around to count and find homeless people living in the city.
Before the array of gray-shirted volunteers got to work, Mayor Jim Kenney and President Barack Obama's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough arrived to thank them for their work.
“Working with the city and working with [the City] Council, the most important thing I have learned is that homeless people are human beings,” Kenney, a former Fels Institute of Government instructor, said. “They have served our country, and they have had problems and issues that have affected their conditions that have brought them to where they are, but they are also human beings and they are important to us.”
Kenney is one of the only mayors in recent years to attend the count, which was part of a national initiative called Point in Time, required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in order to create a census of homeless individuals.
The goal of Point in Time is to try to find out why these individuals are currently homeless and why they are not utilizing shelters and other city services. This information will assist service providers, city officials and federal agencies to provide a more detailed understanding of the current homeless population to provide better services.
From 2010 to 2015, the number of homeless in Philadelphia found in the Point in Time count decreased from 6,084 homeless people to 5,998. Unfortunately, from 2014 to 2015, the number of homeless increased from 5,738 to 5,998, due to the fact that in 2015 the count covered a broader geographic area. This year Point in Time covered every ZIP code in Philadelphia. The number for Wednesday's count will not be released for a few months.
On the national level, in 2015, HUD found that there was an 11 percent decrease in the unsheltered homeless population since 2010, which is when President Barack Obama launched Opening Doors, the first comprehensive-strategy to prevent and end homelessness in the U.S. Between 2010 and January 2015, veteran homelessness declined 36 percent, family homelessness declined 19 percent and chronic homelessness declined 22 percent.
In Philadelphia, Point in Time is organized by Project HOME, a nonprofit organization that empowers individuals to end the cycle of poverty and homelessness in the city. Myron Page, a recovery coach for Project HOME, said Point in Time is crucial for Philadelphia to be called the "City of Brotherly Love."
“We assess what they are going through, whether it's drugs and alcohol or mental health issues. It is about taking the time to help them through the whole process of recovery and being a new family for them,” Page said.
On the local level, Point in Time helps communities plan services and accurately address the needs of the local individuals, measure progress in decreasing the number of homeless and identify strengths and weaknesses in the community’s effort.
Before McDonough joined the volunteers in the count, he shared a special message from Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama thanking the volunteers and staff for their work.
“Our coordinated efforts have proven that if you work hard and work together it is possible to end homelessness for families, youth, people with disabilities and our veterans who have given so much to keep our country safe and free,” read McDonough. “Your commitment to putting comfort, opportunity and security within the reach of those who need it represents the best of America and will help us build a future free of the heartbreak of poverty.”Comments powered by Disqus
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