Point In Time

The non profits who provide care to the homeless in this reigon are required to conduct a point in time survey that is used to gain a census and provide a needs assessment for the homeless population. Many of our programs were involved in the conduction of this survey, but I had the unique opportunity of helping conduct these surveys on the street with outreach staff and medical students. Each street team was assigned three different areas of the city to scan and survey. Each client we encountered was asked to answer about twenty questions about their medical, social and psychological history. The days allotted to this survey also happened to be some of the coldest days this winter. Because of the cold, many of our typically street homeless sought refuge with family or friends, abandoned buildings, restuaruants, churches, libraries, warming stations and subway stations. We are limited in our abilities to seek clients when they are inside for privacy reasons and in regards to the standards of the facilities being utilized. Seeking homeless on the streets was a personal challenge for many of us in our little team. It felt as though each party became the ‘other.’ As we inquired about their lives, asking about their homelessness, their family lives and criminal backgrounds, it felt as though we were creating barriers between us “the providers” and them “the receivers.” In no other experience have I had to ask these questions of someone when they are not seeking care or help. Though this survey will help sculpt the types of service provided to the population, it is hard to remember that when you are asking these questions and being asked. I am grateful for this experience not only because it will hopefully help our clients receive more and better services, but also because it provided for me, a reminder that the only genuine way to approach service is to see those you serve as equals, working together to create better circumstances.

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