Real Talk: Faces, Stories, and Compassion in Homelessness - Everyone Counts OC

Real Talk: Faces, Stories, and Compassion in Homelessness - Everyone Counts OC

 

In dark alleys and street corners, through populated areas and the secluded stretches of the beach, to train stations, we looked past the things that set us apart and saw the humanity that shone in each other's eyes. January 25th, I took part in this year's Everyone Counts OC 'Point In Time Count,' and I want to share the impact we made. Our communities support and compassion have allowed us to create a ripple effect of change in the lives of individuals experiencing homelessness. Through our communities generosity, we were able to hand-deliver not just hygiene kits, snacks, and resources, but also a glimmer of hope and a reminder that they are not alone.

Our engagement extended far beyond the tangible support we provided. It allowed us to make genuine connections and bridge the gap between us and our unsheltered neighbors. We listened empathetically to their stories, and at times, we even shared moments of laughter, witnessing the human soul within each person we encountered.

Escorted by Deputy Hicks from the Orange County Sheriff's Department, whose commitment to serving our community is truly inspiring, we ventured into the identified 'hot spots' with a shared mission in mind. Throughout the count, we focused on specific areas of San Clemente and Dana Point, spanning from 6:30 pm to 11:30 pm. The stark reality of the diverse cross-section of individuals without shelter is a powerful reminder that homelessness does not discriminate and can affect anyone, regardless of age, background, or circumstances.

Photo Credit: Point In Time Count Team Member: Jian Peng

Among the many faces we encountered, there were stories that touched my heart and reaffirmed the urgency of our mission. We met "Jason", a courageous, polite, 30-year-old with mental health challenges who had escaped a life of severe  domestic violence in Arizona, seeking refuge in California. "Donna", a 56-year-old woman battling schizophrenia and a physical disability, reminded us of the complex challenges faced by those with #mental health conditions who navigate the realities of homelessness. In "Miguel," a soft-spoken, gentle 40-year-old Navy veteran living with severe PTSD, we witnessed the lasting effects of trauma and the urgent need for support and understanding. And then there was "Jacob," a 45-year-old survivor of human trafficking from a nearby town of Mission Viejo, whose strength left a lasting impression.

Photo Credit: Point In Time Count Team Member: Jian Peng

What struck me most was the politeness, grace, and gratitude given by each person we encountered. Despite their circumstances, they greeted us with warmth and humanity, reminding us of the inherent dignity within every individual. Each interaction was a powerful display of the human spirit, and it reinforced our belief in the power of compassion and connection. By coming together, we have not only provided essential supplies and support, but we also are shattering stereotypes, raising awareness, and starting a dialogue about the complex issue of homelessness in our communities.

The Point-in-Time (PIT) count is an annual tally of sheltered and unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness on a single night in January, as required by HUD and conducted by Continuums of Care (CoCs).  2024’s PIT was for the night of January 22nd. It includes counts of people in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and Safe Havens annually, and unsheltered individuals every other year. The Housing Inventory Count (HIC) provides a point-in-time inventory of provider programs within a Continuum of Care and categorizes them into five program types, offering insights into the available resources for addressing homelessness. Both the PIT count and HIC data are submitted to HUD through the Homelessness Data Exchange (HDX), with training modules available for new users to maximize the use of the platform. For more information, please visit HUD Exchange - Point In Time and Housing Inventory Count.
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