Annual census is key to getting funding for homeless programs

The Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative (BKRHC) has launched a county-wide effort to recruit 500 volunteers for the 2021 Point in Time Count, to be held on January 27.

The annual PIT Count provides a snapshot view of homelessness in Kern County. Results from the PIT Count are used to apply for federal and state grant funding and ensure the proper allocation of resources and energy to address homelessness in our communities.

“BKRHC relies on hundreds of volunteers to canvass communities across Kern County, so that every person experiencing homelessness is counted,” said Anna Laven, Ed.D., BKRHC executive director. “The data they gather plays a pivotal role in tracking our efforts to address homelessness and informing our planning efforts going forward.”

The PIT Count includes two major components. The PIT Count begins by counting all persons experiencing homelessness who are sheltered in emergency shelters, navigation centers and other temporary housing programs. This portion of the PIT Count is completed by homeless service providers. PIT Count volunteers’ primary task is to identify and count the number of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness, that is, those living on streets and alleys, in parks and encampments.

PIT Count volunteers are organized into teams of three or four people and dispatched to specific areas throughout Kern County. During past PIT Counts, volunteers have engaged with individuals experiencing homelessness to complete an in-depth questionnaire and gather demographic information.

In light of COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is anticipated to release final guidelines on the 2021 PIT Count methodology shortly. These guidelines will clarify whether the 2021 PIT Count will be a “headcount only” of the number of individuals observed experiencing homelessness.

Safety Precautions in light of COVID-19 Pandemic

In addition to official guidance from HUD, BKRHC is taking additional precautions in light of COVID-19 to protect the health and safety of all volunteers and individuals experiencing homelessness.

“Our top priority every year is protecting the health and safety of everyone involved in the PIT Count, both volunteers and individuals experiencing homelessness,” said Deborah Johnson, BKRHC Governing Board Chair and California Veterans Assistance Foundation executive director. “We are working diligently on additional protocols and procedures for our volunteers in light of COVID-19.”

BKRHC has invested in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all PIT Count volunteers and developed social distancing protocols for volunteer trainings.

Individuals can sign-up to volunteer online at www.2021PITCount.com. All volunteers, regardless of past PIT Count experience, must sign-up online and register for a mandatory 2-hour training session. Training sessions will be held in January 2021 in locations across Kern County. A full list of training locations is available in the PIT Count Volunteer registration form online.

For more information, interested individuals can visit www.2021PITCount.com or email PITCount@bkrhc.org.