LANDOVER — The Prince George’s County Department of Social Services participated in the nationwide Point-In-Time (PIT) count to capture a snapshot of homeless individuals who are sheltered and unsheltered throughout the county on Jan. 23.
“Point-In-Time is a one-day snapshot of people who experience homelessness in a community,” said Renee Ensor Pope, assistant director for community services.
“It allows us to look at the characteristics of the demographics on an annual basis so that we can make corrections in the alignment between assets and resources and the needs of the community so as there are shifts in characteristics related to the individuals that we identify, we’re able to make sure we’re providing services in the proper way and meeting the proper need,” Pope said.
Through the one-day PIT count, the Department of Social Services will be able to determine where people are staying, how long these people have been homeless and strategies for prevention work.
In partnership with Prince George’s County’s Continuum of Care Program and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the count took place all day from 6 a.m. to midnight with about 120 resident and business volunteers who traveled the county to count and interview homeless individuals.
“The snapshot from the PIT count provides an important look at our homeless at one point in time; allowing the county to monitor demographics and needs of those experiencing housing instability continuously and to realign our programs and services to ensure that homelessness in this county is rare, brief and one-time only,” said Director of the Department of Social Services Gloria Brown Burnett.
The PIT will allow the Department of Social Services to identify and immediately assist unsheltered residents found living on the street during the day of the count, plan and make necessary adjustments to the homeless system of care based on the changing needs of persons experiencing homelessness.
It will also evaluate the progress made toward the goals outlined in the county’s Ten Year Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, meet federal requirements for continued funding and document the need for new funding and prioritize new services based on the quantitative and qualitative data collected.
“It is a one-day, one-time count. It certainly shouldn’t be used by itself as a sole indicator of what the status of homelessness is in our community,” Pope said. “Lots of factors impact a Point-In-Time count. Weather impacts it, location impacts it, a number of things impact it.”
The results of this year’s count have not been released yet. Data and analytics work will take place over the next month and a half and the results will come out afterward in a mass report.
However, according to the 2017 PIT count, there were 525 homeless individuals throughout Prince George’s County, a total of seven percent of the population. Of that number, 88 of them were unsheltered, and 437 were sheltered.
The majority of them, 269 people, were adults over the age of 24 although the number of homeless youth was only 64 people and most of them were sheltered. Most of the homeless people, 271, were women, and the number of homeless men was 252.
Of the county total, 35 of them were chronically homeless in 2017, and 128 of them suffered from either a severe mental illness, a substance abuse disorder, HIV/AIDS or were victims of domestic violence.
Compared to Maryland’s other counties, Prince George’s County ranked fourth behind Baltimore City where there was disproportionately more homeless people at 2,669 people, Montgomery County at 894 people and Baltimore County and 609 homeless people.
In total, Maryland contained 7,427 homeless people throughout the state in 2017, a decrease of 1,145 people from 2015. Statewide, most of them were adults over the age of 24, over half of those affected were men and nearly two-thirds of the homeless people were African Americans.
On the plus side, the 2017 report showed that the number of homeless individuals in Prince George’s County is decreasing. In 2015, 625 people were homeless throughout the county, and in 2013 there were 686 homeless people. The county has also seen a large decrease in the chronically homeless which totaled 76 people in 2013.
The PIT count occurs nationwide on the same day, spearheaded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They require that every Continuum of Care conduct a PIT count of those experiencing homelessness in a jurisdiction and it serves as a basis for the department’s annual funding allocations.
“We participate in the annual count as a national effort on one day so that all communities across the country are counting individuals in the same way and it’s a massive outreach effort,” Pope said. “We provide that information to the federal government. It is one of the drivers to tell HUD where they are seeing upticks in homelessness, where they are seeing decreases, what the community trends are across the country, it helps them prepare a budget, it helps them do quite a number of things.”
Although the Department of Social Services participates in the one-day PIT county, the county does outreach to the homeless population every day, but the PIT count allows them to work at an increased level with more volunteers than usual.
“Street outreach runs through cycles and patterns throughout the county, but this gives us a day where we can be out en masse everywhere, and we use the assets and resources of residents and businesses who want to volunteer and a number of people,” Pope said.
“It gives us a chance to elevate and provide exposure to this around homelessness and help us make sure that we are providing services in the right way.”