The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, a statewide homelessness prevention group, will be counting the number of Connecticut’s homeless Tuesday evening.
Columbus House, an independent New Haven-based nonprofit affiliated with CCEH, and United Way of Greater New Haven, a social-justice nonprofit, are administering the survey — entitled a Point-in-Time Count — in Greater New Haven. Both organizations recruited volunteers to canvass the streets of New Haven in order to survey sheltered and unsheltered individuals who identify as homeless in the city and surrounding region.
“The Point-in-Time Count helps us find out how many people are homeless, either sheltered or unsheltered, at the time of the count,” Regional PIT Co-Chairwoman Lisbette De La Cruz said. “Obviously we’re not going to capture everyone, but it helps us know who’s out there and the demographic.”
De La Cruz said around 100 volunteers will be canvassing New Haven streets, including 20 paid Columbus House staff members who will serve as team leaders. CCEH provides its member organizations, such as Columbus House, with maps covering around three or four blocks they must canvass. De La Cruz said her 100-member contingent will be canvassing 38 of these maps tonight.
Jackie Janosko, a PIT organizer who works with CCEH, said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates that each Continuum of Care — a regional or local planning organization that coordinates housing and services funding for homeless families — counts sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals to estimate how many people could potentially be homeless at any given time in any region.
She added that the count occurs on a single night during the last 10 days of January so that the numbers reflect individuals who cannot find housing when it is coldest outside, suggesting that they are the most in need.
Many PIT organizers expressed hope that this year’s numbers will be lower than last year’s, indicating that state and local efforts have been effective in reducing chronic homelessness — long-term homelessness lasting at least one year, particularly among those with physical or mental disabilities. 2015 PIT results showed that overall homelessness in Connecticut had decreased by 10 percent from 2013.
Janosko noted that while New Haven has rates of homelessness comparable to other Connecticut cities such as Bridgeport and Hartford, last year’s PIT count saw the lowest number of unsheltered individuals statewide since the reports began.
“I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll see a decline again this year given all the efforts we’ve put out throughout the state,” Janosko said. “I suspect we’ll see the numbers continue to move downward.”
She added that 2015 also saw the lowest number of homeless veterans and chronically homeless individuals in PIT history.
Meredith Damboise, co-chair of the data and evaluation subcommittee of regional homelessness advocacy committee Greater New Haven Opening Doors, said Elm City affiliates have collaborated particularly well, which will hopefully be conveyed in this year’s results.
“A lot of providers came together and took group ownership over the Greater New Haven homeless population,” Damboise said.
Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project Co-Coordinator Aaron Troncoso ’17 said he thinks the PIT count is valuable as a metric for measuring local and national progress in combating and eradicating homelessness. He added that Yale students have volunteered in the past, and YHHAP will be sending a contingent to canvass tonight.
On Feb. 18, 2015, New Haven counted 567 people experiencing homelessness, including 111 children.