Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)
Every year, the Upstate Continuum of Care (CoC) leads a formal Point-in-Time Count, commonly referred to as the PIT Count. I currently serve as the PIT Count Coordinator for Pickens County.
The goal of this annual head count is to estimate how many people are experiencing homelessness on a designated night. Essentially, the PIT Count is a one-night census of everyone experiencing homelessness in our county, state and nation. The results of this data are used to develop the strategies and resources required to serve those experiencing homelessness and homelessness-related crises within our communities.
Can we accurately contact and count every neighbor experiencing homelessness on a specific night across our nation? No. But what we can do is capture as solid a representation of homelessness as possible. Then, the data collected can be compared from one year to the next and with one county to the next, providing a trajectory of the resources required. Ultimately, this data helps influence local, regional and national funding for affordable housing and other resources needed to empower those experiencing homelessness.
So, why does it matter to me if we count the number of neighbors experiencing homelessness in our county? The short answer is more money is required in the long term if we don’t provide necessary and preemptive resources to reduce poverty. If our community doesn’t provide a path of economic mobility for those earning independent living, those left in poverty increase the cost for me and you as taxpayers. How does poverty increase cost to the local community? Through the cost of welfare programs, uninsured medical expenses and crime. Additionally, there is a reduction in the development of a qualified workforce which is required to attract new business investments. All of these increase the load on taxpayers.
Beyond the economic motivation to track and prepare a plan is the human factor. We must not forget these are humans and our neighbors. As a community, we must acknowledge basic human needs and dignity at every socioeconomic level. In the end, providing our neighbors with necessary resources and empowering them to earn their way is simply the right thing to do.
So what do the PIT numbers tell us today? The Upstate Continuum of Care has recently released a pre-assessment of the formal, statewide report. This pre-assessment provides a comprehensive evaluation of the PIT data and external data from:
- Annual Homelessness Assessment Report
- US Census
- McKinney-Vento Homelessness Education Assistance Improvements Act
- Housing Inventory Count
- System Performance Measures
This report provides updates on the number of sheltered and unsheltered neighbors in our county, region and state. In short, the number of sheltered neighbors has slightly increased, and the number of unsheltered neighbors has increased significantly. To review the report, click here.
The following trends are outlined in the 2019 Upstate PIT Count:
- Unsheltered neighbors have increased from 336 (2018) to 506 (2019).
- The Upstate CoC had the highest PIT Count number of homeless within the state. We had 186 more than the next continuum.
- Four counties within the Upstate CoC are in the top ten for homeless neighbors: Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson and Greenwood Counties.
- Thirty-four percent of the state’s chronically homeless population is found within the Upstate CoC (321).
- Neighbors receiving shelter services are largely from the local area, particularly in the Upstate.
Based on these concerning assessments and more, we are advocating even more for the proper investment in resources required to stabilize a poverty crisis, assess next steps, transition to sustainable living and support individuals and families as they earn independence. We call this our cycle of HOPE: Stabilize, Transition, Support. We cannot afford to ignore the increases we see in homelessness. We must invest in strategies and resources that will eradicate poverty and homelessness one household at a time. The banks of this river are overflowing, and we cannot afford to continue adding to the flood. We must invest in strategies that reduce and ultimately eliminate poverty.
We will compile the PIT data with our own Mission Planning Assessment results, along with a few other external sources. These combined reports will provide a well-rounded assessment of our community’s needs and help us identify potential services to offer at The Salvation Army of Pickens County. We believe the solutions to poverty and poverty-related crises can be found when our community works together in unity. We commit ourselves to serve with Pickens County as we develop an intentional, efficient and sustainable strategic plan to move forward, and we hope you join us.
Please consider taking our online survey here. Your responses will help guide our Mission Planning Study.