Every year during the last 10 days of January, communities across the country conduct Homeless Counts to identify the individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness. These counts are conducted by trained volunteers and count people on the streets, in  emergency shelters and transitional housing, and those who are living in places unfit for human habitation – such as in a park, vehicle, tent or encampment.

Together We Will USA is beginning 2017 with our first call to service – Find and Support your local Homeless Count.  Everyone deserves to be counted.

photo credit: David Wilson (flickr.com/davidwilson1949)

How does counting homeless persons help reduce and end homelessness?

These counts help the communities and agencies understand the size and scope of homelessness in their area. In order to make a difference in the lives of the homeless residents, it is important to know who is experiencing homelessness, and where they are living. These counts are the first step to helping homeless persons find permanent housing. The data from the counts helps the agencies allocate homeless services and resources where there is the greatest need.

When do these counts take place?

Homeless Counts are coordinated by public agencies funded by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Each regional jurisdiction organizes their own Homeless Count, but typically they take place in the late evening or early morning in order to identify the locations where homeless residents are finding overnight shelter. Each community’s Homeless Count takes place over a single night (and some larger regions coordinate multi-day counts to cover their territory), but they must take place within the last 10 days of January. 

How can I get involved?

The counts must be conducted by trained individuals, so be sure to contact your local organizers as soon as possible to attend a training event. 

Others ways you can help:

  • Donate gift cards for local coffee shops and eateries to support the volunteers 
  • Spread the word locally and on social media 
  • Financially support your local non-governmental organizations working to end homelessness
  • Donate requested items to local emergency shelters and supportive housing programs
  • Always contact the shelter or housing program prior to bringing in a donation to confirm that they are able to accept the donation at that time. Many organizations also have easy ways to send in donations through Amazon wishlists or relationships with local stores. 
  • Your local Homeless Count organizers might also be able to point you towards other volunteer opportunities occurring in the rest of the year, so be sure to follow to follow their social media to stay up to date!
How can I help support policies to end homelessness?
  • Support organizations that use a Housing First Model. This means that they provide stable, safe and secure housing to individuals as quickly as possible and then provide supportive services and community connections to help these individuals avoid re-experiencing homelessness
  • Speak up on social media against employment or treatment program requirements as gatekeepers to accessing stable housing. 

How can I find my local Homeless Count

The easiest way to find your local Homeless Count is to contact your local Homeless Services agency. If you’re not sure how to locate this agency you can contact your county government information line and they should be able to point you in the right direction. 
Another resource that is available is this list of Homeless Counts that have been compiled by TWW USA members. It’s very important that you contact the organizers of your local Homeless Count to verify the information listed, but you can use it as a jumping off point.