Most nights of the year Philadelphia’s street homeless people are unnoticed, hidden beneath the city’s surface in underground concourses or sleeping in cars. However, in the frigid early morning hours of Thursday,Jan. 30, about 300 volunteers fanned out from Broad Street Ministries to canvass the streets of Philadelphia and count those who are unsheltered.
This is an annual event that has been going on for ten years. This is a nationwide effort to count the number of people sleeping on the streets on a given night in January. The program is called COUNTS (Coordinated Outreach for Unsheltered Needs Tally and Survey) and it is mandatory by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for all cities and outreach organizations that receives federal funding for homeless services.
The goal of the survey is to help with the planning and to find out more about who is living on the street and at what point an individual has come into contact with other government agencies.
Last January in Philadelphia when temperatures hovered around 50 degrees, 388 people were counted throughout the city. This year 173 surveys were collected with temperatures in the low teens, those still on the streets are the city’s most chronic and most vulnerable.
We hope that the information collected by the counters will help develop long-term strategies that could help bring the chronic and most vulnerable population out of the cold and inside.