Point in Time: Counting the Homeless in Northwest Alabama

Feb 6, 2019

Alabama is taking part in a national effort to count the number of homeless in need of services.  The Homeless Care Council of Northwest Alabama is going over the numbers gathered from the Point in Time count conducted last week.    

Credit Homeless Care Council of Northwest Alabama

          The “Point in Time” count is done by organizations all across the country to help get an accurate count of the homeless. Those numbers are then given to the Department of Housing and Urban Development where they allocate funds for programs based on the need.

          “They divided the country up basically into what they call “continuums of care.””

          That’s Christa Martin. She is the executive director of the Homeless Care Council of Northwest Alabama. Dividing up the country leads to step two…

          “And put people in charge of pulling the funds and applying for the funds and the grants under HUD to go back to their communities.”

Martin says her’s is one of those groups working with Department of Housing and Urban Development.

          ‘The Homeless Care Council is actually the continuum of care for six counties in northwest Alabama and what we do is apply for HUD funding for other services. So those services can be collaborative applicants with us and we funnel the money to them.”

          Michael Browder is the acting deputy regional administrator for HUD. He says these counts happen in January simply because it’s easier to find the homeless…

          “Specifically that’s usually the time of year that is probably you’re going to find the number of people homeless and in particular, this time in the winter months when people are most likely to seek some kind of housing.”

          The Homeless Care Council of Northwest Alabama covers six counties, Lauderdale, Colbert, Lawrence, Franklin, Marion and Winston. Christa Martin says homelessness is a bigger problem in their area than many would expect…

          “In the six counties that we serve, it’s a pretty big problem. We see more of it in more of the bigger city areas, particularly in Colbert, Lauderdale and Franklin. We see more of it there in those areas than we do in other counties.”

She says they are expecting a more accurate count this year…

          “We had a total of 288 in 2018, but the tricky part is, that is only our sheltered count last year. We did not do a full unsheltered count last year.”

          They are doing so by not only gathering information at the shelters but also by sending volunteers out into the field to conduct surveys…

           “ So we have people set up in our communities where we know our homeless individuals congregate or visit, especially when it is cold. So we have volunteers out there who are going to be able to approach these people and give them this survey.”

          Once the numbers come in they will be able to present those to HUD and then apply for funds to help out their programs. Michael Browder says last year they paid out over two billion dollars nationwide…

          “HUD awarded approximately two billion dollars to renew support to thousands of local homeless assistance programs across the nation and the HUD continuum of care grants will provide critically needed support to 5800 local programs on the front lines of serving individuals and families facing homelessness.”

          He says Alabama got a slice of that two billion dollar pie…

          “That total to Alabama, let me take a quick look is 15,484,363”

When it comes to this year though, Martin says the amount they could receive is still up in the air and she isn’t sure how much they will get for her region…

          “to be perfectly honest I don’t right now. Because we have not heard, we applied in August of last year for this coming year and we have not heard how much that we expect to get.”

          Martin says they are tallying the numbers and should be ready to present them to HUD soon so they can continue to help the homeless in northwest Alabama…