Hope and Counting Those Experiencing Homelessness

counting homeless

Twice each year, outreach teams fan the city to find people sleeping in places not designed for habitation, such as on this porch of an abandoned Davenport house.

Twice a year, teams of volunteers spread out across the Quad Cities to count people experiencing homelessness that are living on the streets. A separate count is also completed for persons already living in shelters and enrolled in services.

Like the decennial census, federal and state officials use the count to help plan and implement services to benefit the local homeless population. The federal government defines a person as homeless when their “primary nighttime residence is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”

On July 26, in the span of two hours, our teams found 22 people living in “public and private spaces not designed for human beings.” Twenty-two people in only two hours is a lot of people.

Finding and Connecting to People with No Address

debris

Debris leads us to encampments.

Counting people experiencing homelessness differs from counting housed persons. Instead of completing a form that arrives in a mailbox, our count takes place in parks, parking lots, stairwells, abandoned buildings, and tents and encampments along creeks and waterways. Using tactics similar to those used in hiking, hunting, fishing, or looking for mushrooms in the early spring, we find people by quietly following trails of bottles and cans, food wrappers, human feces, condoms, expired prescription bottles, and used syringes.

During our interaction, we offer food, drink, a brief conversation, and referral cards. We offer shelter, a hot shower, a bottle of water, a few snacks, and our business cards. Most importantly, we offer a human connection and hope for a different future.

Team members leave each interaction also contemplating hope:

  • “I hope they will be OK.”
  • “I hope they come to the shelter.”
  • “If they come in, I hope we can help them.”
  • “I hope we can find the housing they need.”

And those hope-filled questions linger for weeks and months.

Counting Homeless: Hope for the Future

We are part of a growing community that believes a home is the foundation on which futures are born. We understand homelessness is a reversible circumstance—and not a personal characteristic. And, we understand the federal definition of homelessness falls distressingly short of addressing the solution to the problem—more housing.

There are thousands of Quad Cities residents and millions across the US who are “under-housed,” “near homeless,” and experiencing “housing instability” and “housing poverty.” Our future is interconnected with their futures. Their challenges are our challenges. Their hope has to be our hope.

Until every person has a home, we will continue to look for people in public and private spaces not designed for human living.

Christie Adamson, COO of Humility Homes and Services, Inc.

We appreciate KWQC’s local news coverage of the point-in-time survey: