Volunteers needed for homeless survey

This editorial by SBCAN Board Member Emily Allen was published in the Santa Maria Times on Jan. 12, 2017: http://santamariatimes.com/news/opinion/editorial/commentary/looking-forward/volunteers-needed-for-homeless-survey/article_dfa18ba3-598b-5560-b0ad-f1295181da81.html and in the Lompoc Record on Jan. 12, 2017: http://lompocrecord.com/news/opinion/editorial/commentary/guest_commentary/volunteers-needed-for-homeless-survey/article_8ed32958-7888-57b7-9575-555f34a2dac2.html 

On Thursday, Jan. 26, hundreds of volunteers will help with the Point In Time Count of people experiencing homelessness in Santa Barbara County. Please join the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness (C3H) and Common Ground Santa Barbara County to assist with this important survey.

The Point In Time Count will be an unduplicated count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families across the United States.

The count provides a snapshot of who is homeless on a given night. This information will be used to plan local homeless assistance systems and to raise public awareness of homelessness.

The survey offers opportunities to provide people experiencing homelessness with information about shelter and services. It also provides volunteers with a first-hand chance to better understand the circumstances that lead to homelessness and the difficulties experienced by those currently lacking a home.

Volunteers need to donate just four hours to be trained and help count on the survey day. We are using a tool that is administered on a smart phone or tablet.

Join us to make a difference in the lives of homeless men, women and children throughout Santa Barbara County by taking part in the Point In Time Count. New volunteers will be paired with people who have prior survey experience.

“Plain and simple, we can't do this without volunteers. Santa Barbara County residents have proven they know everyone in this community counts," said Jeff Shaffer, C3H coordinator.

This year we are using a different methodology for the count. We are conducting the count in shelters and places where people experiencing homelessness are known to be. We are only doing the Point In Time Count and not the longer Vulnerability Index (VI) survey. This is because we are now using the VI survey year-round as we move to a coordinated entry system. This allows us to assess individuals experiencing homelessness and connect them to the appropriate interventions. All of this contributes to using resources more effectively.

This year-round street outreach is made possible in part by a new program of the United Way of Northern Santa Barbara County, the AmeriCorps Partnership for Veterans and People Experiencing Homelessness.

AmeriCorps members now serve with C3H, Common Ground Santa Barbara County, and many public and nonprofit agencies throughout the county.

Common Ground is dedicated to recruiting, training and educating volunteers to support the most vulnerable individuals and families experiencing homelessness as they seek access to needed housing and services. The volunteer effort is a special project of the United Way of Northern Santa Barbara County. The website is: www.commongroundsb.org.

C3H is a regional collaborative effort focused on reducing homelessness and the impacts of homelessness in Santa Barbara County. It brings together nonprofit homeless service providers, government agencies, community based organizations, foundations, faith communities, individuals and families who have experienced homelessness, and business and community leaders. The website is: www.c3homes.org.

SBC AmeriCorps is a program of the United Way of Northern Santa Barbara County administered by CaliforniaVolunteers and sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Its members engage in street outreach, housing placement, housing support and volunteer recruitment.

We hope you will join us for the Point In Time Count and throughout the year to help reduce homelessness and its impacts. To volunteer, sign up at www.commongroundsb.org.

Emily Allen is a member of Santa Barbara County Action Networks Board of Directors, and program director for Common Ground Santa Barbara County and SBC AmeriCorps. She can be reached at emily@sbcan.org. Looking Forward is a progressive look at local issues.

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Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN) works to promote social and economic justice, to preserve our environmental and agricultural resources, and to create sustainable communities.