9 months ago

Point in Time underscores need

by Carolyn Kell

Point in Time Count a snapshot of Wichita’s homeless population

United Way of the Plains Continuum of Care (CoC) recently released the results of the Point in Time (PIT) Homeless Count conducted in late January. The count showed two fewer people than last year, with 573 people reported as homeless.

The PIT is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by nearly 500 CoC groups around the country. The information is used to track progress toward the goal of ending homelessness and to inform Congress about the number of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. and the effectiveness of HUD’s programs and policies in decreasing those numbers.

There are several reasons the PIT doesn’t correlate closely with numbers served at IFM’s shelters, particularly the Emergency Winter Shelter, which saw 1015 unduplicated individuals over a five-month period, almost twice as many as the PIT reported.

The PIT is one single night and enumerates only people living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and people “who appear to be living in places not meant for human habitation.” This means that people who are couch surfing, staying with friends or family or staying in motels are not counted. While these people are not considered homeless by HUD definition, most of those arrangements are temporary, and we eventually see them in one of our shelters.
While Wichita’s CoC, including Inter-Faith Ministries, does its best to canvas the homeless population it can be difficult depending on weather, time of day and other factors to have an accurate count of a very transient population. Many people who are newly homeless are often still sleeping in cars and not aware of services, so they aren’t in the normal places where counts are taken.

Youth ages 18-24 are often afraid or unwilling to enter shelters or engage with traditional homelessness assistance programs. They congregate in different areas than older individuals, making them harder to find and therefore count.

“Young people are one of the main reasons IFM stepped up our outreach case management,” said Program Director Christen Sampamurthy. “We have a case manager whose primary job is to be on the streets, under the bridges, in the parks looking for and gaining the trust of those who may be unwilling to ask for help. It also helps after the Emergency Winter Shelter closes in maintaining contact with some of those clients over the summer.”

Program Center, 829 N Market, Wichita, KS 67214|(316) 264-9303