Long before we heard of Osama Bin Laden, years before 9/11, this man was living on the streets. He is still living on the streets of Glendale. And though last night’s news kept many of us up later than planned, nearly 50 staff and volunteers showed up at 4 a.m. to find and interview people like the man we met today. Our goal: to learn who is homeless and what is their risk for dying on the streets. We are using the Vulnerability Index created by Common Ground and based on research done by Dr. Jim O’Connell, et al. This information will be our basis for prioritizing who we place in housing.
Today was our first day of Registry Week, the initial step of the 100,000 Homes campaign to house 100,000 chronically homeless people by July 2013.
We left the cozy warmth of the First Baptist Church and ventured into the chilly dark. Our group of nine people – “Team Frog” – headed down the street, looking in bushes and cars. Officer Matt found our first person indoors, in a public building. Alfred and David went in to interview him, and I waited outside the building while the rest of the group headed across the street to a church campus where other people were known to sleep. One refused, another said come back later. Around the corner we found another man, sleeping on a couch. The entire interview was conducted with the man under blankets. This will be challenge because we won’t be able to identify him by sight later.
While I waited, I considered the street and it’s different noises at that hour. Men have told me about their experiences on the street, but for a woman I imagine the experience is qualitatively different. My worst fears were confirmed later in the morning when one of our group learned that the woman they interviewed was recently raped.
We made our way around tidy residential and commercial blocks. As the darkness began to lift, we split our group into two to cover more ground. My group walked down a neatly kept alley. David peeked around a driveway and could see a sleeping bag. We walked up and saw four people sleeping in the corner of the parking lot. Two men willingly participated in the survey, a third man was irritated and didn’t want to be bothered. The fourth person was a woman who regularly uses services at PATH Achieve. She made an appointment for a survey later at the library.
We met up with our other half and made it back to the church just after 6 a.m., having a sense of accomplishment. The other teams were gathering and starting the debriefing process – 35 contacts and 21 people agreed to an interview. 60% response on the first day! Encouraged, we’re looking forward to coming back for more.
Thanks to Team Frog: Alfred, Matt, Rd, Shakeh, Ted, Peter, David & Linda. For more about Registry Week, keep reading below!