The Point-in-Time (PIT) count is an annual count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January.
Our highest priorities for EveryOne Counts remain adequately staffing safe and healthy Count activities for our volunteers, participants, and community experiencing homelessness that lead to accurate, reliable, and complete enumeration and demographic and survey data. On January 12, 2022, the Alameda County Continuum of Care HUD CoC Committee voted to reschedule the Point in Time Count until February 23, 2022, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has approved this request.
In the early morning hours of February 23rd, hundreds of people will fan out across Alameda County, traversing every neighborhood to count the number of unhoused people sleeping in tents and cars and in doorways. “This count counts more than any count before it,” said Chelsea Andrews, executive director of EveryOne Home, at Monday’s meeting... read more
As a nonprofit organization, BOSS intends to serve unhoused communities, people with mental disabilities, and formerly incarcerated people, all the while understanding and challenging the complex systems responsible for driving local and universal poverty.
With the annual "Point In Time" count taking place, it's a good opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of our unhoused neighbors and what they are going through.
Last November BOSS Bay Area hosted a movie screening and panelist discussion on The Invisible Class. The Invisible Class explores what it truly means to be homeless in America, challenging stereotypes and examining the systemic causes of mass homelessness in the wealthiest nation in the world. From coast to coast, the film is a day in the life of homelessness across America.
Previously American documentary films on homelessness tend to focus on small subsections of people. While this is definitely an important aspect of contemporary homelessness, it's also only a sliver of the overall situation of an ongoing machine that creates and perpetuates mass homelessness and has for 40 years. Mass homelessness isn’t the failure of the system, it’s the system functioning as it was designed - Josh Hayes
Weaving in unhoused peoples’ diverse experiences from various areas in the United States from a span of eight years, The Invisible Class portrays a day in the life of an American unhoused person. Ultimately, the film highlights the idea that people experience poverty differently, thus encouraging viewers to ponder the role of intersectionality in this community’s challenges. However, more importantly, homelessness is a systemic issue that implicates several factors, including lack of local and national government support, social welfare, and affordable and secure housing.
Several screening attendees shared anecdotes about their previous experiences living on the streets and received kindhearted comments from people who resonated with them. Additionally, some members expressed interest in hosting a screening at their respective workplace or organization.
Following the screening, a panelist comprising of Michelle Starratt from Alameda County Housing and Community Development, James E. Vann from Homeless Advocacy Working Group, and C'Mone Falls from Oakland’s Community Homeless Services tackled a series of questions posed by attendees.
The following responses outline the collective insights and knowledge of the three panelists:
1) Have there been any changes in the way agencies have delivered services to homeless people amidst the pandemic?
Although shelters began to limit the number of people in their facilities due to social distancing protocols, an influx of emergency funds, namely the Cares Act, from the federal government enabled rapid housing for the unhoused community. Two prominent programs sprung, including Homekey (previously Roomkey) and Homebase, providing temporary housing for acute unhoused people with or without COVID-19 symptoms through hotel leases funded by the state government. In Alameda County, about half of the 2000 people who partook in these programs gained permanent housing. Notably, the pandemic delivered systemwide coordination and collaboration between organizations and jurisdictions to collectively address urgent issues like homelessness.
2) What are your thoughts on the criminalization of mass homelessness, and how could we support the unhoused community with dignity and compassion?
Acts of criminalizing homelessness include raiding tents, shutting down encampments, writing tickets, and prohibiting people from sleeping in their vehicles and RVs. It is an awful act that perpetuates the cycle of poverty and causes further distress. Housing people is cheaper than placing them in prisons or hospitals, so efforts should be directed to housing expenses. It is essential to contact and involve behavioral health officials professionally trained to support people undergoing mental health crises and provide referrals to emergency housing. Finally, the narrative around homelessness needs to change because the issue is not a personal one; it is systemic. The high cost of living in the Bay Area, for instance, might not be financially feasible for even someone with a commendable job.
3) How does law enforcement interact with mobile crisis teams?
Law enforcement should work hand-in-hand with mobile crisis teams to help facilitate appropriate and humane actions in supporting unhoused people without sending them to prisons as the first line of action.
Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect and should not be excluded or discriminated against due to their struggles with addiction or other mental health issues. However, FEMA guidelines, among others, require the prioritization of people affected by COVID-19 or chronic substance abuse issues before people with other health or wellness challenges. While Alameda County has a behavioral health care system, there are not enough funds or resources to cover the costs of full-scale support. Currently, street outreach teams collaborate with the health care system to connect unhoused people and encampments with services available.
5) Could we mandate the use of empty lots for temporary tent villages or tiny homes?
There are 14 official cities in Alameda county, and their respective city councils govern the land. While these officials can facilitate these mandates, there is not enough vacant space. In addition, the state, namely, the California Department of Transportation, owns a majority of these properties. However, there is a current push and pull initiative for designating parks as campgrounds or encampments.
6) Could cities purchase additional vacant buildings to designate as affordable housing?
The California Homekey program is undergoing its second round, which requires a local government and development partner. This local government must match a significant sum investment. Furthermore, an ongoing operating subsidy is needed. Unfortunately, the local government cannot cover the difference between what a low-income tenant could pay for rent and the cost to operate the building. Nonetheless, as discussed in The Invisible Class, it would cost about $24K annually to house someone, significantly less than imprisoning someone, ranging from $35-40K in California.
7) What are the most pressing needs, and how could the housed person help?
To someone on the streets, a few kind words could go a long way. Practically speaking, basic survival needs include food, water, and blankets. While the obvious solution to homelessness is housing people, there are limited vacancies. Current immediate relief initiatives involve a concept named “accommodation now” alongside co-government encampments, where cities purchase motels, hotels, or unused buildings and lots. The idea is to provide safe shelter for unhoused people to feel secure and gain access to services and resources while reintegrating back into society. By December of 2021, an approved ordinance will expand the zoning and building requirements to enable alternative housing developments on public and private property. Meanwhile, near Lake Merritt, a community council overseeing a small development village pledges to foster a meaningful bond with the people who occupy the space.