Statistics have a reputation for being dull and abstract. Every student in math class has had that moment of grumbling to themselves, wondering when or if they are going to use what they have learned in the real world. It can often seem like demographics and population samples reduce people to numbers, but those numbers still tell a story.
For instance, our friend Darryl, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and Reserves, experienced homelessness for a time due to an increase in rent and a debilitating illness that caused him to miss work and eventually get laid off from his job. Read more about his story here.
Darryl isn’t a number on a report to us. He’s a person with hopes and regrets, achievements and failures, and struggles and triumphs…just like the rest of us. We value each person we work with and consider it an honor to use data in a way that helps share each person’s story with respect to their dignity.
First Stop’s Role in Ending Homelessness in Huntsville
Part of our mission at First Stop includes reporting demographic information about Huntsville’s homeless population to the city government and our partner organizations. This data provides a picture that lets us see who needs our help the most, and the best ways we can provide it to them.
Our Outreach Team visits Huntsville’s homeless camps 3-4 times each week offering on-site case management, assessing camp conditions, and delivering care packs of critically needed items. We know that many people experiencing homelessness have suffered a great deal of pain and abuse and may not trust agencies or authority figures. By reaching out and providing on-site care, we are able to build trust and relationships, allowing individuals to open up and tell us their stories.
Additionally, First Stop’s Outreach efforts put us in a unique position to gather statistical information about camp populations and the issues they face. Every year, we assist with collecting information for the annual Point-In-Time Report, a comprehensive demographic survey of the homeless population in Madison, Morgan, and Limestone Counties. This includes information regarding age, gender, ethnicity, veteran status, and whether they currently reside in a shelter. The PIT report keeps Huntsville’s homeless statistics up-to-date, which is vital for keeping the community informed.
Putting Statistics to Work
First Stop is proud to be part of Huntsville’s Continuum of Care (CoC), a partnership of agencies and community organizations coordinated by the City of Huntsville’s Community Development Department.
“The purpose of the CoC is to promote communitywide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness, quickly rehouse homeless individuals and families, promote access to and effective utilization of mainstream programs by homeless individuals and families, and optimize self-sufficiency among individuals and families experiencing homelessness.” – Official Website of the City of Huntsville
The data in PIT reports allow the Community Development Department to focus its efforts on the communities that are most affected by homelessness. By improving conditions of lower-income neighborhoods, over time they can reduce the number of people becoming homeless to begin with.
While it’s easy to think that something as dry and detached as a statistics report doesn’t apply to the real world, we’ve learned this data can make a big difference in people’s lives, like our friend Darryl. Through meeting people experiencing homelessness where they live and being willing to listen to them, First Stop is able to provide government and volunteer programs with the data they need, and then put those numbers to work in order to affect change throughout the entire community.