Prosperous communities, like Gwinnett County, often present the illusion that homelessness could not possibly exist. However, a closer look reveals a sobering reality. Homelessness in Gwinnett is real and it is here!
How many people are currently homeless in Gwinnett County? How many of them are families, youth, seniors, or veterans? The answers to these questions may soon be answered as Gwinnett County prepares for the Point-In-Time (PIT) count on January 28 – January 31, 2019.
The PIT count aims to calculate the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness on any given night in Gwinnett County. The count records the number of individuals staying in shelters and transitional housing and estimates the number of individuals who are unsheltered — sleeping outdoors, in parks, on the street, in vehicles, abandoned buildings, under bridges, and other places not meant for human habitation.
The information learned from the count will provide us with a unique opportunity to understand not only the depth of Gwinnett’s homeless population, but also where they are located and what may have led them to becoming homeless. Ultimately, the count also provides an opportunity to plan services and programs to appropriately address local needs, measure progress in decreasing homelessness, and identify strengths and gaps in Gwinnett’s current homelessness assistance system.
Homelessness is a complex social problem with a variety of underlying economic and social factors such as poverty, lack of affordable housing, uncertain physical and mental health, addictions, and community and family breakdown. These factors, in varying combinations, contribute to duration, frequency, and type of homelessness. To be fully homeless is to live without shelter; however, many experience partial homelessness that can include uncertain, temporary, or sub-standard shelter.
Two all too-real examples of homelessness recently revealed themselves when contacting the Gwinnett Coalition’s Helpline in search of help:
He served his country and did three tours in Iraq. He experienced death, war and battle. He came home with an honorable discharge, post-traumatic stress disorder and few employment opportunities. One piece of bad luck followed another until he found himself sleeping in the alleyway of a shopping center. He just wants a job and the chance to get his life together again.
She is a woman of a certain age, a homemaker married for 30 years before her husband left her. The last thing she would ever do is to become a burden to her grown children who live in different states. They think Mom is doing OK, but Mom is not OK. You see, she lost her house eight months ago and has been sleeping in a car every night since and visiting libraries in the daytime hours trying her best to blend in.
Organizers from the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, in partnership with United Way’s HomeFirst Initiative, Partnership Against Domestic Violence, and Obria Medical Clinics, are inviting government, non-profit and faith-based organizations, businesses, community and advocacy groups, and private citizens to help fill more than 700 volunteer positions needed to conduct the Point-In-Time count.
Volunteers will work in teams to complete the visual count by visiting encampments, extended stay hotels, nonprofit service agencies, hospitals and clinics, and many other locations in every municipality in Gwinnett County, which is why volunteers are essential to conducting a robust and accurate count.
To volunteer, please visit the following link: SIGN-UP TO VOLUNTEER or contact Keith Fenton, the Gwinnett Coalition’s Chief Operating Officer at 770-995-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org