Volunteers still needed for Sacramento’s homeless Point-In-Time count

Volunteers Steve Graham and Celeste Ingrid interview an unhoused resident as part of the PIT count on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (Photo by Andrew Nixon/CapRadio)

Keyshawn Davis

Sacramento Steps Forward still needs about 100 volunteers for its upcoming two-day Point-In-Time count, which documents the number of people who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Sacramento later this month. 

The organization relies on at least 700 volunteers to do this work, said Lisa Bates, CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward.

From 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesday Jan. 24 and Thursday Jan. 25, PIT volunteers will be deployed to help count people who are homeless across Sacramento County. The main deployment site will be at the Alumni Center at Sacramento State. Other surrounding cities involved in the count include Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove, Citrus Heights and Folsom.

Bates said there are a lot of benefits to conducting a Point-In-Time count, including for the volunteers.

“First and foremost, the opportunity for the community to participate in collecting really rich information around people experiencing homelessness and having a chance to also interact with someone who is unsheltered and [in] a different way than they may normally do in their day-to-day lives,” Bates said. 

The collected data is then used to inform community members, funders, and the state and federal government about trends in homelessness, she said.

Volunteers must be 18 years or older and have a smartphone to download an app that tracks location. Volunteers also need to have transportation available. They must complete a virtual training, which will help volunteers understand how to do the count, expectations in terms of how they conduct themselves, and how to use and navigate the app. Volunteers will typically be in groups of four, and will visually count unhoused individuals and tag their locations. 

“And then if folks are willing and OK, then we ask that volunteers … to engage in a quick 5-minute survey to collect some additional information about the person who’s experiencing unsheltered homelessness,” Bates said.

The last PIT count was conducted in 2022, where an estimated 9,278 people were experiencing homelessness in the Sacramento region. 

With that estimation of unhoused individuals, the Sacramento Coalition to End Homelessness death report found that there were over 200 unhoused-related deaths in Sacramento in 2022. SCRH Executive Director Bob Erlenbusch said homeless deaths have shifted in the last two years between seasons.

“For about seven years, the homeless deaths pretty much spread out evenly across the four seasons, which was one of the findings that we kept pushing — that you need to create year-round shelter,” Erlenbusch said. “If you focus on wintertime, that’s great, but 75% of homeless people die in the three other seasons. So you need year-round safe places to be.” 

PIT count volunteer Nancy Conk interviews Mark Dias, who is experiencing homelessness on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (Photo by Andrew Nixon/CapRadio)

Bates said it’s important for volunteers to understand that they are approaching people in their homes and how to be respectful about engaging with people. Bates said she’s grateful for those who volunteer for the PIT count.

“We really appreciate the overwhelming support,” she said, “that we are getting from the community to step up and help with this pretty significant event that’s going to do some really important data for us all to consider, as we are doing all the hard work to really address homelessness and make our community a better place for everyone.”

This story is part of the Solving Sacramento journalism collaborative. Solving Sacramento is supported by funding from the James Irvine Foundation and James B. McClatchy Foundation. Our partners include California Groundbreakers, Capital Public Radio, Outword, Russian America Media, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and Univision 19.

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