Today started with one of our guests—a world-champion passive-aggressive—walking past me and saying, we need a real security officer around here.
Welcome to the annual point-in-time count of unsheltered individuals.
The Day Center where I volunteer is one of the survey locations in Mesa County, and I had the opportunity to observe as well as collect a few surveys after the volunteer collectors left.
For a variety of reasons,* the methods result in an under-count. And there is no survey to collect the following information from my day at the front door.
- Why Buffy felt the need to read a five-page letter out loud.
- Why Thomas decided to mess with the survey-taker by slipping in and out of several accents, then into complete gibberish, and then revert to plain English to declare: I'm 41% Hungarian.
- Why Joanne subscribes to The Economist.
- Why Donnie is so tired of being outside.
- Why Ron came in this morning with a 20 oz. go-cup from a truck stop six miles away. (He feels safe leaving his camp out by the freeway and walking here each morning. He also knows when they have to dump excess coffee to keep it fresh and he can get a free cup.)
- Why I haven't seen James until this week. (Because he now has an indoor place to live on Orchard Mesa and doesn't come in as regularly.)
- Why Rick had all his campsite belongings on his back last Wednesday and did not today.
- Why one young man with a shopping cart was so jumpy and wouldn't give his name. (I let him
- Why Robert seems less optimistic than when I wrote about him last year.
- Why the number of people with therapy dogs seems to have increased this year.
*These counts are conducted on the same day across the country to estimate the level of homelessness in a community and to compare numbers with prior years.
This year the survey counted only "unsheltered" individuals who slept "outside or in any place not fit for human habitation" last night. If they consider themselves homeless but happened to sleep in a shelter or couch surfed or did not consider their car "not fit" or simply refused to participate, they would not be counted this year. However, the unsheltered data reported very easily becomes confused with the homeless data.
Other reasons including changing methodologies, volunteer skill at obtaining responses and the mobility of the homeless individuals who may not be found or appear at one of the collection points.