OKLAHOMA CITY — Homeless service providers are preparing for the annual Point-In-Time (PIT) census, scheduled to take place in the early hours of darkness beginning Thursday.
Every year, trained volunteers gather around 3am during the coldest time of the year. The teams then spend a day conducting a systematic survey of who is affected by homelessness in Oklahoma City.
Keeping the PIT count is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) every two years so cities can continue to receive grants to address homelessness.
But Oklahoma City goes further, conducting the census each year to better assess the need and what changes are afoot in the causes and effects of homelessness.
The official number last year was 1,339, according to Taylor Self of the Homeless Alliance.
On Wednesday, the Free Press spoke to Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance since its inception in 2004. We asked what they expect to see in the census this year.
“We’ve anecdotally seen an increase in vulnerable homelessness, with many of these people telling our field staff this is the first time they’ve been homeless, which is quite unusual for Oklahoma City,” Straughan said.
“So this year we’re really focusing on the count in the vulnerable homeless survey,” Straughan continued. “We will have 19 teams of six people each covering the whole city.”
The Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance and the Oklahoma City Department of Homelessness conducted training for these volunteers Wednesday afternoon.
About 110 volunteers, made up mostly of people associated with various agencies, gathered to receive training from Jerod Shadid, program planner for the City of Oklahoma City’s homeless services, and Meghan Mueller, associate executive director of the Homeless Alliance.
The agencies and institutions representing many of the volunteers are:
- The Alliance of the Homeless
- The city of OKC
- City care OKC
- The city rescue mission
- salvation army
- The OKC Department of Veterans Affairs
- Arnall Family Foundation
- Tulsa Community Service Council
- Redirect Hub
- legal assistance
- Mental Health Association of Oklahoma
- Oklahoma Department of Mental Health & Drug Abuse Services
- OKC First Church of the Nazarene
- State University of Oklahoma
- pivot point
- Positive morning
- Sisu youth services
- The United Way of Central Oklahoma
- The University of Oklahoma
- Volunteers of America
A significant percentage of the volunteers have already worked on the count, but have been guided through the survey forms they will fill out for each person they interview to try to get the most accurate count possible.
They were also warned to be respectful of the people, many of whom will wake up in the middle of the night at the coldest time.
They were also trained to keep conflicts to a minimum as they would enter campsites of people used to defending themselves against those who might harm them.
However, they were reassured that in the many years of PIT counting, there had not been an incident in which a volunteer had ever been injured.
Back to speed
The pandemic caused a major disruption in early 2021. Concerns about the already brewing 2020 pandemic only began in late February.
The census for this year was taken at the end of January 2020 just before the lockdown.
In January 2022, volunteers worked to get back on track after a lost year.
Volunteers at Wednesday’s practice and management seemed confident about what needed to be done the next day during HUD’s mandated 24-hour period.
Founder, Publisher and Editor of Oklahoma City Free Press. Brett continues to contribute reports and photographs to this site while managing the business.