Why Point in Time is Important

I was recently hired as the Community Outreach Coordinator for One Roof, whose mission is to equip and empower our community to prevent and end homelessness through advocacy, education, and coordination of services.  This is a mission that is permanently imprinted on my heart and mind and that I learned through two years of serving as an AmeriCorps member at One Roof through the YW’s AmeriCorps program.

As an AmeriCorps member I was responsible for coordinating Point-in-Time, an annual mini-census of everyone in our area currently impacted by homelessness.  I first heard about Point-in-Time during my interview for my AmeriCorps position with One Roof two and a half years ago.  The description of the event was odd to me – why do we count people who are homeless?  At the time, I was unfamiliar with the complexities of homelessness.   But when I experienced Point-in-Time for the first time, it became clear to me why this event is so very, very important to our community.

Point-in-Time, or PIT, takes place nationally in most communities across the United States.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development requires every community that receives funding to conduct a count like this.  The data collected during PIT has very practical uses.  It can be used to leverage funding for homeless and homeless prevention services because it documents need.   PIT data can be used to understand trends in homelessness, especially homelessness in specific geographic locations. We know that we can’t prevent and end homelessness in our area if we don’t understand it first.  Simply put, PIT helps us understand who is homeless, why they’re homeless, what services are missing, and what solutions can be made for a future where homelessness is a rare occurrence.

PIT data helps us come up with innovative solutions that serve the most people the most effectively.   It’s a tool for making Birmingham and the rest of central Alabama a healthier place to live, where the most vulnerable community members have somewhere to turn and where agencies are taking educated, thoughtful steps to empower people to improve their lives.  PIT is an event that educates.  It’s an event that engages so many members of our community and is truly a collaborative effort to lift up and honor the experiences of people who are currently homeless.

In 2013, a little over 100 volunteers helped us to find and interview anyone sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation – a population made up of domestic violence survivors, veterans, youth, families, and other people in crisis.  PIT gives community members the opportunity to reach out to someone experiencing homelessness in a way that doesn’t shy away from the truth of their situation.

While the data itself is important, what has become even more important to me is the fact that PIT is essentially a collection of interviews.  Each survey gives visibility and acknowledgement to the struggle that someone is currently facing in our community; and perhaps, more importantly, it highlights what that person needs to gain safe, decent, accessible, and affordable housing.   Each piece of paper demonstrates the desire of a community to reach out and tell someone who is experiencing homelessness, “You matter.  You count.”

This year, more than 120 volunteers will assist us with conducting our Point-in-Time interviews from 6:00 PM on January 22 until 5:59 PM on January 23.  We are very thankful for all the community members who have reached out to conduct interviews this year, including AmeriCorps members serving in the YWCA’s Building Communities, Bettering Lives program.  Although we have closed registration for this year’s Point-in-Time count, you can visit our blog for a list of reasons why you might want to join us for Point-in-Time in the future.  For anyone who would like to be involved with One Roof, we invite you to participate and learn more about our upcoming events, Cardboard Connect and Project Homeless Connect, or like us on Facebook.


Stacy Oliver is the Community Outreach Coordinator for One Roof and a former AmeriCorps member with the YWCA of Central Alabama’s Building Communities, Bettering Lives program.  

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