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‘A snapshot of homelessness’: how Denton County’s Point-in-Time count results help the homeless

‘A snapshot of homelessness’: how Denton County’s Point-in-Time count results help the homeless

By Lizzy Spangler

‘A snapshot of homelessness’: how Denton County’s Point-in-Time count results help the homeless
February 07
18:10 2018

Denton County conducted their annual Point-in-Time count on Jan. 25, a “census of people experiencing literal homelessness,” according to the Denton County Homeless Coalition’s website.

The count is required under federal law and aims to provide a snapshot of the number of homeless people in a given area, taken at the same time each year.

“It really illuminates the extent and nature of homelessness in Denton County,” said Katie Chapman,  chair of the 2018 Point-in-Time count planning committee. “That’s very difficult to do on a one-on-one basis, so because we’re kind of scanning the entire county, or as much of it as we can.”

While this count is not a complete survey of Denton County, it can be used to cultivate awareness about homelessness and advocate for more resources and funding to improve the state of homelessness in Denton County.

Creating Awareness

Tierra Bishop, grants coordinator for the nonprofit social service agency Christian Community Action and a 2018 PIT survey volunteer, said she was able to interview participants of the survey and found it enlightening.

“I know there is homelessness in Denton County, but hearing these stories first-hand actually humanizes the phenomenon and thereby makes them more relatable,” Bishop said. “Hearing these experiences from people reminded me that they really aren’t so different from you or me and that they deserve compassion and understanding.”

The survey was expansive, asking questions regarding potential veteran status, homelessness and job status. Those who participated in the survey were also able to self-report whether or not they had a physical or mental disability.

The PIT count can help identify particular trends and potential successes in ending homelessness. In the 2017 PIT count, the reported number of homeless children had risen to 34, up from 29 in 2016 and 20 in 2015, according to the survey results from the Denton County Homeless Coalition.

“It is important to note that this is a snapshot of homelessness in Denton County and not an in-depth analysis,” Chapman said. “So, while it does definitely give us a lot of information to work with as far as trends and needs and location and just general demographic information, it is a snapshot.” 

Directing Resources

When the results of these surveys come out, they can also be used to apply for funding or grants for programs to help improve homelessness in Denton County.

“One of the questions identifies whether the participant is chronically homeless or not,” said Hope Nordon, co-chair of the 2018 PIT survey planning committee. “In those instances, we can see there are this number of people that are chronically homeless, but we only have two programs for people that are chronically homeless.”

The survey results also provide insight into what resources may be needed to address specific issues with regards to homelessness in Denton County.

“We can go into it knowing what we have,” Nordon said. “And then coming out, seeing that we’re not quite meeting those needs or we’re not going in the right direction and seeing what we need going forward.”

Applying for Funding

Nordon, who manages a permanent supportive housing program and has to re-apply for grants each year, must prove a need for the funding. She does so through PIT survey data.

Survey results can drive home the importance of initiatives concerning chronic homelessness as well, specifically with veterans.

“There are quite a few initiatives around Denton County right now to help combat that, specifically for veteran homelessness,” Chapman said. “I think last year, when we got the results of how many veterans were experiencing homelessness, I do think that that helped drive home those programs, even if it didn’t directly create them.”

The 2018 Denton Point-in-Time survey results won’t be released until later this spring when they are shared with the community, according to the Denton County Homeless Coalition.

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Lizzy Spangler

Lizzy Spangler

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