Everyone Counts: The Point In Time Count Connects Volunteers to the Homeless Community

Cherisse Webb talks about volunteering with the Point-in-Time Count in a new video produced by Seattle University's Project on Family Homelessness.
Cherisse Webb talks about volunteering with the Point-in-Time Count in a new video produced by Seattle University's Project on Family Homelessness.

By Catherine Hinrichsen, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness

The latest “State of Homelessness in America” report, released last week by the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), isn’t just about numbers. It’s about people – not only those who are homeless, but those who helped collect the data. When NAEH and others compile reports like this every year, it’s based partly on the information gathered one person at a time from Point-in-Time Count volunteers – people like Breanne, Cherisse, Felicia, Jerry, Kevin and Maria.

On a cold and rainy day this past January, these Snohomish County volunteers were among the many thousands nationwide who helped conduct a Point-in-Time Count of homelessness in their communities. Our Seattle University team visited two of the sites, in Everett and Lynnwood, and shared the stories of those volunteers in an earlier Firesteel blog post.

As a companion piece, our grad student, Judy Pansullo, created this video highlighting some of the volunteers who talked to us that day.

You’ll meet Kevin Marshall, Felicia Cain, Breanne Andrews, Cherisse Webb, Maria Bighaus and Jerry Gadek, and hear them talk about why they volunteer for this important advocacy effort.

In Snohomish County, volunteers like Kevin and Felicia conduct face-to-face interviews with people who are experiencing homelessness. Volunteers either go out into the community, or do the surveys at a central site such as those we visited: the Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Lynnwood, or the Salvation Army in Everett. Other volunteers, like Maria, Breanne and Cherisse, organize the whole event for their community, while in Everett, Jerry trains the volunteers on how to gather the important data they collect – and what to expect from the experience.

Video producer Judy Pansullo is a veteran documentary filmmaker who’s earning her master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership. In this video, she artfully blends volunteer interviews with photos that remind us of the reason why we all do this: the people in Washington state who need stable housing. The striking photos are by the acclaimed photojournalist Dan Lamont, one of our original Journalism Fellows.

Watch for the memorable “Finally Home” photo of Cory and Kaylee at the end of the video, illustrating a message on which we can all agree: Everyone in Washington should have access to a safe, healthy, affordable home.

Judy got some assistance that day from our other grad student, Perry Firth, from Community Counseling. I still marvel that Perry was able to go on this trip with us and do the Lynnwood interviews, then drive back for an evening class, then go out and participate in the One Night Count that night in Seattle.

But then, that’s the kind of dedication you would expect from the Point-in-Time Count volunteers – whether it’s those you’ll meet in the video, the 900 or so in King County, or the many thousands more across the country.

It’s because of these volunteers that we’re able to gather important data that creates a snapshot of homelessness in our communities and leads to important investments in housing and services.

Did you volunteer in a Point-in-Time Count this year? What was your takeaway? Please share your thoughts by posting a comment below.

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