Volunteers Sought for Annual Homeless Census

Photo courtesy of St. John Community Foundation Facebook Page.

CRUZ BAY — A local non-profit and the Department of Human Services are calling for volunteers to help conduct a census of St. John’s homeless. Organizers say they have a variety of tasks and duties as part of the point in time count, taking place on Fri. Jan. 27.

The Human Services official coordinating counts on three islands says the quality of information gathered depends on how many volunteers show up. Information collected in the PIT census is used by the territory to get resources from the federal government, particularly the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

St. John Community Foundation Director Celia Kalousek is encouraging those who have helped with previous projects to bring their willingness and enthusiasm to Friday’s service project. “The St. John Community has really pulled together over the past 4 years since we organized the first Project Homeless Connect on St. John. This event, designed to connect homeless persons with essential services, support, and quality of life resources, is starting place on the journey back to safety, stability, health, and hope. The collaborative efforts have resulted in assisting over 100 unduplicated people access vital services and successfully gotten 6 individuals off the streets of St. John!” Kalousek said.

Volunteers, as individual or in groups, form teams on the day of the census and fan out across designated areas to engage the homeless, both sheltered and unsheltered, said Human Services project coordinator Brenda Walwyn.

On St. John volunteers are needed to help serve breakfast and conduct interviews from 8 am until noon at Nazareth Lutheran Church. Other volunteers will help conduct surveys during lunch meal service at Our Lady of Mount Carmel from noon until 2 pm. Interviews will continue through the afternoon while other volunteers set up for pizza and an afternoon matinee movie.

Volunteers will also be needed to canvass the community for unsheltered homeless people from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay.

Interviewers are expected to survey established shelters and emergency shelters serving victims of domestic violence. Private homes making room for friends and families in need can expect visits on the day of the PIT count, Walwyn said.

Training is being offered locally through the community foundation. To volunteer, please call Celia at the St. John Community Foundation 693-9410.

Human Services spokesman Robert Ba-at said information gathered through the homeless count helps communities decide what resources are needed to help their particular populations. “The PIT Count provides an insight that helps VI Continuum of Care system to do many things that will help the unfortunate with services and to meet federal requirements for continued funding. We ask for the residents of the Virgin Islands to help us gather data to ensure that the homeless will be given the assistance they need,” Ba-at said.
Those who are interested in helping can also contact Brenda Walwyn at 340) 774-0930, ext. 4104.

Kalousek described the point-in-time count as a one-day, statistically reliable, unduplicated count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families in the country.

“Not only does it raise public awareness of the plight of homelessness, but it is a data source for reports used by Congress and the administration, as well as HUD, who uses PIT data to make informed funding decisions. The PIT data is useful to better understand the characteristics and needs of homeless people in our community. It is used for planning and program development efforts, and to measure progress toward eliminating homelessness and to ensure accountability of the programs addressing the issue in the territory,” she said.

For more information, visit the event post on St. John Community Foundation’s Facebook Page.