By JENNA BAILEY
Two weeks away from the Resource Connect 18 Annual Homeless Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, the Homelessness and Housing Alliance (HHA) met twice last week to continue preparations for this year’s count. The meetings took place Jan. 9 at Emerald Coast Technical College in DeFuniak Springs and Jan. 11 at the Port Ministries in Freeport.
At the meetings HHA members discussed volunteer and donation needs that are necessary to ensure the success of the event. The PIT count is a count of all people sheltered and unsheltered that are experiencing homelessness during a 24-hr period in Okaloosa and Walton counties. The count aims to help communities develop more effective plans and measure progress towards ending homelessness. At the event, individuals in the community that are experiencing homelessness will answer a 10-15 question survey and have the opportunity to explore the many services available to them at the event. Services available at this year’s PIT count include: food stamp applications, Veteran Affairs/Services (VA), mobile laundry, clothing/coats, health screenings, HIV testing, food vouchers, blessing bags and lunch.
Volunteers are needed to conduct the surveys at the PIT count locations on Friday, Jan. 26. Locations are the Fairgrounds in DeFuniak Springs (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.), The Port Ministries in Freeport (1 – 7 p.m.), and The First Baptist Church in Santa Rosa Beach (1 – 7 p.m.). Survey training takes about 30 minutes and HHA Project Director Dianne McManus has expressed that she is flexible on the times that she and volunteers can meet for training. HHA would also appreciate it if any local hairdressers or beauty schools would be willing to donate their time to provide haircuts. Another idea suggested at the meeting was for Walton County churches to volunteer to hold food drives and make announcements during their services regarding the Point-in-Time Count’s need for volunteers and donations.
In addition, there is a need for donations of blessing bags items and volunteers to assemble these bags of travel-size essentials. Blessing bag items requested are 1) Travel-Sized Toiletries: shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, wet wipes, toothpaste/floss/toothbrushes, combs, tampons/liners, chapstick. 2) Beverages: bottled water, juice boxes, instant coffee, tea bags. 3) Food: instant oatmeal packets, pop-top canned goods, fruit cups, granola bars, beef jerky, trail mix, tuna/cracker packs, raisins, peanuts 3) General Items: hand warmers, mini first-aid kits, hand sanitizer, gloves, beanies, socks, pre-paid phone cards and food gift cards. Donations of blankets would also be appreciated. These items can be dropped off at 4C BBQ in DeFuniak Springs and TJ’s Table in Freeport. For training volunteers can contact Dianne McManus by call or text at (850) 635-1095.