How Many People are Homeless in Acadiana?
If your first response was “There are people who are homeless in Acadiana!?!” you are not alone. Many people have a hard time believing that Acadiana has a population of people who are experiencing homelessness. And the next question you may ask is “Where are they?” Unlike many major cities, Acadiana’s homeless population does not generally congregate in visible locations (i.e. under bridges). Many people can go about their daily lives in Acadiana and never encounter a person that is homeless.
Of course, your first response might have been quite the opposite: Some people, especially those who live or work in the downtown areas throughout the region, know that there are people experiencing homelessness, even in this beautiful community we call Acadiana. Some of you may even know the name or sleeping location of a few people who are currently homeless.
Knowing how many people are experiencing homelessness in Acadiana is one of the critical steps in creating solutions. Each year, ARCH leads the community in a local Point in Time Count. This federal initiative involves surveying the entire population of people experiencing homelessness in order to gather data for one “point in time” (hence the name of the count). It is often referred to as the “Homeless Census” because it is similar to the U.S. Census process.
The Point in Time Count always occurs at the end of January. This year’s count will gather data on where people slept on the night of Jan. 22, 2018. In addition to gathering data about a person’s location, demographic data is collected. This information helps ARCH seek appropriate, adequate resources to end homelessness for everyone.
The good news is that the overall Point in Time Count numbers have been going down, indicating that fewer people are experiencing homelessness in Acadiana. (link to data on website).
In 2017, 300 people experiencing homelessness were identified. This is down from the 631 people that were identified as homeless in 2007. Of the 300 people identified in Jan. 2017, only 96 of those were unsheltered. It is fair to say, on any given night in Acadiana, approximately 100 people are sleeping outside or in other places not meant for human habitation (cars, sheds, etc.). This is too many. But is good to see the trend heading down.
The Point in Time Count is a snap-shot. It isn’t the complete picture, by any means, but it is invaluable in tracking trends and providing a baseline of information for the community.
But how exactly is all of this Point in Time information collected?
Accurate Point in Time Counts rely on volunteers to locate and survey each person who is currently homeless. This is very labor-intensive.
ARCH volunteers, wearing brightly colored vests and name tags (and sometimes boots and bug spray!), team up with outreach workers and individuals who are currently or formerly homeless to canvass locations where an individual who is homeless might be sleeping. These volunteers usually head out early in the morning to find people as they are waking up. In addition, teams of volunteers survey individuals as they arrive for services at local soup kitchens or other establishments that cater to the needs of those who may be experiencing homelessness.
This type of volunteering experience is quite unique. Volunteers often report a new “insiders” perspective after assisting with the Point In Time Count.
Are you interested in volunteering for the Point in Time Count in 2018? Or would you like more information? Further information and training will be provided in January. But sign up now for notifications. (link to email sign up)