How 58 Personal Questions Changed Many Lives

February 12, 2015

Last month (January 29-31), the Urban Ministry Center had the privilege of helping lead our community’s largest effort to identify chronically homeless and unsheltered individuals.  With the help of more than 250 volunteers assigned to 29 teams spread throughout the county, we combined the annual “Point in Time,” during which our community literally counts the number of people sleeping outside, with a new effort called “Registry Week.”  Through “Registry Week,” we worked to identify every chronically homeless individual and complete a lengthy survey called the “VI-SPDAT” with individuals, a crucial first step in prioritizing people towards permanent supportive housing.  “Registry Week” is part of the Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg effort to end chronic homelessness in 2016.

An early morning survey uptown

An early morning survey uptown

Those we interviewed were skeptical about our commitment to end chronic homelessness.  A rumor quickly spread through our soup kitchen line that we were actually getting ready to start a “FEMA Camp” in which all identified individuals would be forced to go.  While at first such a rumor struck me as so preposterous it was humorous, I was quickly saddened when I realized that the possibility of being forced into a camp seemed more likely than the reality that we would actually work to connect all chronically homeless individuals with housing.

Underneath people’s skepticism was hope, however.  I know this because hundreds of individuals agreed to answer 58 very personal survey questions.  Not only did this provide us with great data to prioritize people for housing, it also provided for a very meaningful volunteer experience.  One of the gifts of helping lead the effort is that we heard story after story of how volunteers were moved, challenged, or had a perspective changed from their experience.  Below is just one of those stories from volunteer Tricia Sistrunk on her blog, Humans Without Homes.  Thank you to all who helped make “Registry Week” a success!

 Why Help The Chronically Homeless?

January 31, 2015

Yesterday morning I went back out with my team to find more camps and survey more homeless people. Today, I went back to the mundanity of my day, with one exception — I can’t stop thinking about the folks I met and each time I do I feel a little jab in my chest. One woman in particular keeps popping into my head.  She sat in her tent bundled up under the covers trying to stay warm while I crouched down by the doorway to interview her, my hands shaking from the cold. As I watched my kids play basketball and talked to my friends about their weekend, I thought of her. As I put away clean dishes and folded laundry, I thought of her. As I ate dinner with my family, I thought of her, and as I sit here tonight under my covers typing this, I’m thinking of her still in her tent bundled up trying to stay warm. My life keeps moving forward, while she’s out there trying to survive.  Read More. . .