Mar 26, 2012

Jake Maguire's picture Posted By Jake Maguire

Volunteers Survey Homeless Neighbors from Coast to Coast

The Campaign truly felt like a national movement in March, as communities from Alaska to Virginia held registry weeks to identify and survey their most vulnerable and chronically homeless neighbors. Registry weeks are a key part of this movement, because they help communities know every homeless person on the streets by name. We will never solve homelessness in America without accomplishing that pivotal goal.

Over 4,000 volunteers in nearly 60 communities throughout the U.S. have now engaged in the registry week process, conducting more than 30,000 interviews with homeless adults. This year, many more communities plan to renew their registries or conduct registry weeks for the first time!

Last week alone, three new communities completed registry weeks to identify their most vulnerable homeless neighbors. Juneau, Alaska; Dallas, Texas; and the Virginia Peninsula each hosted the local volunteer event that has become the starting place and life's blood of the Campaign in so many communities. They joined Mesa County, CO, which kicked off Colorado's statewide Campaign effort with its own registry week earlier in March.

(Photo credit: 50 Peninsula)

One of the Campaign’s central tenets is the strong belief that in order to solve the problem of homelessness in America, every community must identify each of its homeless neighbors by name. Registry week is an chance for community volunteers to do so by using the Vulnerability Index survey to gather information about those sleeping on their streets. This information helps local service providers match vulnerable people with medical and mental health services, but it also helps them expedite the permanent housing process. To get the information they need, volunteers walk the streets of their communities block by block between the hours of four and seven in the morning counting and surveying those they find. In the process, they put a name and a face to homelessness and lay the groundwork for ongoing local efforts to end it.

In Alaska, Colorado, Texas and Virginia, March volunteers hit the streets before dawn to make sure they found their homeless neighbors before they had moved on for the day. In Dallas, 85 volunteers surveyed almost 300 of their homeless neighbors in just three days. In Juneau, Alaska, where the tragic death of a homeless senior just two weeks ago has highlighted the urgency of finding permanent solutions, local volunteers endured rain and cold Alaskan temperatures to make sure they surveyed everyone they could find. And on the Virginia Peninsula, where volunteers gathered at 3am (a full hour earlier than usual), locally based Ferguson Enterprises pledged $250,000 to support local Campaign work!
“It’s pretty exciting to see registry weeks happening from coast to coast this week,” said the Campaign’s Western U.S. Field Organizer Mike Shore. “We’re witnessing a true movement among communities. People are tired of watching their neighbors die on the streets, and they’re ready to do something about it.”
You can learn more about each of March's registry weeks on Facebook by checking in with Juneau, Mesa CountyDallas and the Virginia Peninsula. And don’t forget, there’s plenty of time to sign up for the Santa Cruz registry week in May!