News from BSO

Homeless Count Survey will help quality of life for many

Homelessness is a nationwide crisis that affects Broward County. Through my experiences in law enforcement, I have found that many people are just one paycheck away from being homeless. Anybody can become homeless, but it is not a permanent condition.

When we see someone on the street asking for money, our initial reaction is to offer help, but giving a person spare change doesn't result in aiding that person off of the streets.

Every year, the county participates in the Homeless Point-In-Time (PIT) Count Survey, which is the first step in improving the quality of life for these individuals. Through the efforts of the PIT survey, people experiencing homelessness have a better chance of receiving meals, housing, job opportunities and treatment for substance abuse and/or mental illness. This year, the PIT survey is conducted over three days to maximize the potential of reaching everyone. However, volunteers are still needed to administer the survey in all communities.

If you've often thought about volunteering but didn't know where to start, I encourage you to get involved in this important event.

This year, the Broward County Homeless Initiative Partnership, the Broward Regional Health Planning Council, Inc., the Broward Sheriff's Office, the TaskForce Fore Ending Homelessness, Inc., 2-1-1 Broward, Nova Southeastern University and Hands on Broward are joining forces to assist in the Homeless PIT Count Survey, which will take place on Tuesday, Jan.21, through Thursday, Jan. 23. All volunteers will require a short training session, and you can decide which day you'd like to attend (from January 13 – 17).

The more people experiencing homeless that are surveyed during the PIT count, the more funding Broward County receives to help these individuals get back on their feet and provide for themselves. The data collected from each survey supplies non-profit organizations with the information they need to determine who needs services and what type of services.

The results and turnaround from the survey are immediate: housing placement — the first step in creating self-sufficiency and independence — will begin before Jan. 30.

The PIT survey coincides with BSO's commitment to the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). We have dedicated $350,000 of Law Enforcement Trust Funds to HMIS, as well as time, resources and training to educate our deputies.

HMIS is an integral part of how law enforcement and non-profits now communicate and share information to better assist those who are experiencing homelessness. When a deputy interacts with an individual experiencing homelessness, HMIS is a crucial tool in directing that person to the proper care. We've found that arresting the homeless doesn't address the issues of homelessness; if anything, it adds to the problems that the individuals are facing.

The PIT survey and HMIS are critical steps in reaching the goal of ending all homelessness by 2020, but we cannot reach this goal without the involvement and dedication of volunteers. By volunteering for the PIT survey, you are helping our community get one step closer to ending the cycle of homelessness.

BSO deputies and civilian employees will be volunteering during the PIT count not only to survey, but also to offer food, water, clothing and other necessities. The deputies assisting are CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) trained, which means they learn how to gain a trusting relationship with the homeless, especially those with mental illnesses. When we all work together, we can truly make a difference and help these individuals to rebuild and reclaim their lives.

As Sheriff, I believe that homeless people aren't problem people; they are people with problems, problems that can be corrected with help, understanding and guidance from our community. By volunteering, you can be part of the solution.

A person in need today can become the person you turn to tomorrow.

Scott Israel is sheriff of Broward County. For more information on how you can volunteer, please email Sander Schrantz: sander@handsonbroward.org or visithttp://www.browardpointintime.org.

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