Each year, One Roof must conduct the Point in Time count — a mini-“census” of our homeless population. This count is impossible without your help, and it is vitally important to preventing and ending homelessness in Birmingham. Here are 10 reasons to volunteer.
1. You live in – and care about – Birmingham.
Cities with high rates of homelessness are generally not thought of as thriving, healthy cities. But how can you tell the health of your city if you don’t know the facts? How will you know if the state of homelessness is improving or getting worse? By volunteering for Point in Time, you can be part of the reason Birmingham can thrive, grow, and become a healthier, happier community for people to live. When you collect data about our homeless population, you ensure that the knowledge, plans, and resources are there to end homelessness in the most effective way possible.
2. You care about homelessness.
Many of us have known someone who is homeless, and this is because homelessness is something that can happen to anyone. It is difficult to see a loved one or friend struggle with homelessness and all the obstacles associated with it. And if you have personally experienced homelessness, you are aware of how many misperceptions there are about people facing homelessness. Volunteering for Point in Time is a smart volunteer opportunity that is not only educational, but it gives visibility to a population whose needs and very complex situations are often overlooked. By interviewing participants in the Point in Time survey, you allow someone to tell their story, acknowledge that there are often systemic problems that keep people homeless, and find out more about what you can do to prevent and end homelessness in the future.
3. You’re the adventurous type.
Point in Time is, in and of itself, a kind of adventure. Volunteers work in teams all over downtown Birmingham. Especially at night, volunteers conduct interviews on foot and actively search for participants. We’ve often heard volunteers report that this was certainly a unique experience — both for the places they’ve gone and the interviews they’ve conducted. A great deal of the Point in Time experience is brand new to those who volunteer with us. Both experienced and new volunteers tend to meet new people and learn new things about Birmingham and homelessness that they’ve never known before.
4. You’re a fan of urban exploring.
When conducting the night count during Point in Time, volunteers look for participants by walking the metro-Birmingham area in a grid. This ensures that we have an accurate idea of who and how many are homeless in our community, but it also means that if you like exploring, you will definitely see Birmingham in a way you haven’t seen it before! For volunteers who are on a street team, it is sometimes necessary for us to climb up under interstates and bridges, walk through parks, (structurally safe) abandoned buildings, and other places in order to conduct an interview.
If you’re worried about safety — don’t worry! We take every precaution to make sure volunteers are safe. You’ll never be alone and we have experienced team leaders to help when you’re unsure. (If you’re NOT into urban exploring, the day count might be more appropriate for you!)
5. You need to volunteer for a class or group.
In the past, many PIT volunteers were able to get documented volunteer hours for their time with our organization. What’s great about Point in Time is that it is a 24 hour count and you can register for the hours that work best for you! AmeriCorps members can receive service hours and we encourage university clubs, sororities, fraternities, churches, offices, and other groups to participate in Point in Time together. That way you can volunteer with your friends, meet any requirements requested by your affiliated group, and we always try to make your volunteer experience as convenient, safe, and pleasant as possible!
6. You like meeting new people.
Do you like learning about people, finding out their stories, or enjoy striking up conversations with people you’ve never met before? People from all walks of life become homeless. Because Point in Time is a collection of surveys, volunteers are meeting and talking to new people all day long! On top of that, One Roof does not discriminate (except for age – you must be at least 18 years old!) when it comes to recruiting volunteers for Point in Time. That means there are MANY different kinds of people with all kinds of different experiences and backgrounds for you to meet!
7. You care about social issues.
Homelessness is a very complicated issue where a circumstance (homelessness) is often mistaken for the identity of a person. Quite often there are prejudices against those who are homeless that can prevent them from leaving homelessness. Sometimes those prejudices are tied to issues of class, gender, race, ethnicity, or perhaps other social stigmas. All social issues are worth thinking about as they relate to homelessness; becoming a volunteer for Point in Time is one way to make sure you know why people are homeless and who is homeless. It’s also a way combat social justice issues that might concern you. By counting their voice, you give their circumstance visibility and make their needs known.
8. You’ve never experienced homelessness or spoken to someone who is homeless.
Perhaps you’ve never spoken with someone who is homeless before. Because of that, maybe you’re unsure why people become homeless. Conducting an interview during Point in Time acts as a structured conversation, and usually allows a very different perspective to take place than volunteers have had before. This is a unique opportunity to see homelessness in a new light and to learn more about the extent of the problem and why it happens.
9. You’re interested in or considering a career in social services.
Social services are incredibly important to preventing and ending homelessness. Mental illness, health conditions, and other complications have a staggering impact on the lives of many individuals — sometimes resulting in the inability to maintain a place to live. If you’re interested in social services, volunteering for Point in Time will increase your familiarity with homeless service providers in Birmingham, allow you to see what field work is actually like, and volunteer in a way that serves an issue that you’re passionate about.
10. You are frustrated, conflicted, or confused about the social services and resources being used in Birmingham.
PIT counts are just one way that we can cut down on the duplication of services in our community. By having a better idea of exactly who is homeless, understanding why they are homeless, how many are homeless, and what they need to leave homelessness, we can make sure that resources are used in the most effective way possible to reduce the rate of homelessness. This means assisting individuals so that they leave homelessness forever and make sure that people are not stuck in the a cycle of homelessness. It also means being smarter about how we help people in a way that positively changes their lives — permanently.
This e-mail is to invite you to register as a volunteer for our upcoming event, Point in Time, which will take place on the evening of January 22, 2013, and during the day onJanuary 23, 2013.
We hope you’ll join us. Click below to learn more and to register as a volunteer on our website: