Friday, January 26, 2007

One Night Count

Have you ever wondered how cities estimate homeless populations? If municipalities provide social services for homeless individuals, it is important to collect data to support proper resource allocation. In addition, King County has embarked on a 10 year plan to end homelessness - how do they plan to measure outcomes from their efforts? With a census, of course!

Last night was Seattle's One Night Count. The One Night Count is the primary data collection assessment for unsheltered homeless individuals, and is conducted in late January around the country. SF and I participated in a team that walked 30 block area of Seattle's University district between 2 and 5 AM this morning. 735 volunteers joined us in King County and tallied 2,140 people trying to survive without housing or shelter. Given the weather, the organizers estimate that another 6,000 homeless men, women and children resided in one of several transitional housing or homeless shelters in the area. Read the press release for more specifics, and also for some touching stories.

Once the caffeine overcame the delirium associated with waking at 1:30 AM after only a few hours of sleep, our cognitive functioning seemed quite normal. I am glad, however that it was easy to find parking in the U District. Parallel parking might have pushed my limits of spatial reasoning.

What was participating in the count like? Think of it this way. An alley we walked down could have been someone's living room. Some stoops we inspected were clearly once bedrooms. Vans with condensation inside and food on the dash are studio apartments. It makes me wonder how many folks I have incidentally woken with loud talk after a night out, or in the nervous energy following late night studies.

Will I transfer the 5 tallies on that waterproof paper into my memory as evidence of my concern? Or can I position those marks in the foundation of my motivation to work for justice?

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