When thinking about homelessness it’s generally understood that the reasons will derive from one’s inability to find affordable housing to fit their circumstances.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports that as of January 2014, there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States. Of that number, 216,197 are people in families, and 362,163 are individuals. About 15 percent of the homeless population – 84,291 – are considered “chronically homeless” individuals, and about nine percent of homeless people- 49,933 – are veterans.
According to the NHCHC, (National Health Care for the Homeless Council), all homelessness is characterized by extreme poverty coupled with a lack of stable housing. Children on their own or with their families, single adults, seniors, and veterans compose various demographic groups that may use different types of programs or services or have differing factors that contribute to their homelessness.
In order to effectively serve the individuals and families that experience homelessness, it is important for each community to know how many there are. To do this HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) requires that the Continuum of Cares across the U.S. conduct a point-in-time count annually. The point-in-time count is a day set aside, often offering some form of services, to survey and get an accurate and detailed count of those experiencing homelessness in that community.
A point-in-time count has never been conducted for Jackson County but that is changing this weekend.
Amanda Bernasconi, Founder and Chair of the Jackson County Homeless Prevention Alliance, sought the guidance of Jervis Jackson from the Lawton Housing Authority and Southwest Oklahoma Continuum of Care, on getting a proper point-in-time count for Jackson County. The members of the Homeless Prevention Alliance quickly jumped on board and are excited to collect the data that will help better access the homelessness in Jackson County and implement solutions and prevention plan.
“No matter if you live in the richest neighborhood or the poorest neighborhood, it affects you. Homelessness will affect you. It’ll affect your taxes, how your community looks; you want people to want to come to your community and live there,” said Bernasconi.
Saturday, Sept. 12, the Jackson County Homeless Prevention Alliance is partnering with the Love Feast of First United Methodist Church in Altus to host the first official Jackson County Homeless Count (Point in time count for the Continuum of Care). A free meal, toiletries, and 17 resource tables will be set up for those individuals, youth, and families that are experiencing a homeless situation. Homeless situations include living on the street or anywhere not meant for habitation, living in a motel, sleeping on someone’s couch, living in a shelter and anyone who does not have a permanent residence.
The doors will open at 11 a.m. at First United Methodist Church. For more information contact Amanda Bernasconi at (580) 482-2809.