Counter Story | Point- In -Time
Countering KOATs Angela Brauer’s ABQs Homeless Rates Down: WE CAN ALL GO DOWNTOWN By T. Moose
Judging from Angela Brauer’s story for KOAT last night, all is well: Albuquerque’s homeless rate is down and we can all go home. There have been a series of these feel-good snippets in the local media recently.
Another prime example is the puffed-up reportage about the mayor’s “There’s A Better Way” program that is set to eradicate the city of people flying signs, aka panhandlers. It is easy to become disheartened by the sheer magnitude of the extreme poverty in our city, so good news pieces provide a necessary contrast to the everyday misery. However, when these pieces white-wash the facts, the very real danger arises that city residents and policy makers alike start thinking the job is done.
Unfortunately, the job is nowhere near being done. The KOAT piece refers to the Point-In-Time (PIT) count for 2015 that was released in April of this year. The PIT count is conducted every other January and provides a snapshot of how many people experienced homelessness on Monday night, January 26, 2015. This provides a snapshot of how many people experienced homelessness at a single point in time and is an opportunity to collect some basic demographic information about who experiences homelessness in our community.
You can read the full Report HERE What the KOAT story failed to mention is that the 2015 count was 116 people higher than the 2013 count.
The report goes on to say:
One possible reason that the 2015 PIT count was higher is, of course, that homelessness has increased over the last two years. Although the number of Rapid ReHousing and Permanent Supportive Housing beds has increased since 2013, it is possible that the number of people experiencing homelessness has grown at a faster pace. New Mexico is still recovering from the economic recession, and many people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness have significant barriers to obtaining employment, especially employment with high enough wages to pay for housing.
The report then goes on to list other factors to consider when comparing the PIT counts.
This description of the PIT count is key.
The HUD definition is far narrower than the DOE definition. Consequently, the PIT does not include people doubling up or staying in motels even though the city habitually provides some clearly unhoused people with a motel voucher for a maximum of seven days.
The count is conducted on one night only. Therefore, if someone had been sleeping out in the open all of January but had happened to make use of an invitation to double up with someone on January 26 (the night of this year’s PIT count), that person would not have been included in the count. Further, as Jodie Jepson, deputy director of Heading Home, said in an interview about this year’s PIT count:
“You can’t count them if you can’t find them” (ABQJournal January 28, 2015).
Numerous people live in the many open areas around the city and, for various specific and valid reasons, prefer not to engage with the formal shelter programs. If PIT volunteers do not coincidentally come across these residents, they, too, are excluded from the counts.
Jepson admits in the same ABQJournal interview that the PIT counts tend to be undercounts. In each of the published PIT reports since 2007, the Coalition to End Homelessness—the agency that coordinates the local PIT counts—carefully explains that the PIT by its very nature, despite the coordinators’ best efforts, will under-represent the number of unhoused people.
There are other data sources that helps to sketch a fuller picture:
On June 25 this year, the director of the APS Title 1 Homeless Program stated in an interview I had conducted with him that at least 3760 pupils and their siblings were enrolled in the program but estimated that the figure would be far closer to 4000 once the final reports for the school year had been submitted.
In July 2013, the housing voucher program for the Albuquerque Housing Authority (AHA) had a waiting list of 2785 eligible households. At the April 20, 2015 Albuquerque City Council meeting (Watch HERE) the AHA director reported that the waiting list for the Authority was closed and that there was a three years waiting period for approved applicants.
According to its website, Heading Home has housed “about 440” chronically homeless individuals since 2011. Yet, in the same period, at least 206 homeless people have died on the street or because of their homeless condition.
Albuquerque Homeless Persons’ Memorial Vigil Remembers 61 lives that were lost because of homelessness. pic.twitter.com/TOXYBI6uYN
— Tim Holcomb (@timholcombkrqe) December 19, 2014
The figures for this year’s Homeless Persons’ Memorial Vigil is still being collated, bearing in mind that the Memorial Vigil numbers, again, only include people that are known and that are being counted
Statistics can be deployed in various ways. Where the unhoused situation in Albuquerque is concerned, it would behoove the media, city administrators, and policy makers to err on the side of “There is still a ton of work to be done” rather than settle for easy PR moments.
Dear KOAT Angela Brauer:
Please update your report, it lacks necessary information to the extent provides the public an entire different reality. There are good people working in many various ways to help our people who live without shelter from homeless service organizations to grassroots groups advocates.
A working group is not publicly or privately funded. It is sustained by its members and the help of the community at large.
Email a working group if you would like to participate in addressing homelessness.
Follow the movement:
A working group in Albuquerque has submitted several proposals the City of Albuquerque under the administration of Mayor Richard Berry and City Council Representatives to address homelessness and the people suffering from it.
All proposals consider humanity first, however, all contain relief for the city administration is addressing homelessness and also saves taxpayer’s money for other improvements in the City of Albuquerque