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While it now seems that the bulk of the impact of Hurricane Florence will avoid our region, earlier this week our community was preparing for catastrophic weather. Part of this preparation involved a highly successful collaboration to connect our neighbors left completely exposed to the elements by a lack of housing with access to safe shelter during the storm.

Image: NPR

Twice a year, Homeward leads the Point-in-Time (PIT) count, a one-day census of people experiencing homelessness in Greater Richmond. In July, data collected in the PIT count revealed that of the 577 people experiencing homelessness in our region, 185 people were unsheltered. Someone is considered unsheltered when they are sleeping on the streets, in an encampment, or in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g. a car or abandoned building).

The first step this week was to coordinate outreach workers to do welfare checks at locations where people were known to be living outdoors. In order to locate people living outdoors, the team relied on data from previous PIT counts and an online  outreach form that is open to the public. Next, a call was issued to emergency shelter providers to expand their capacity in preparation for Hurricane Florence. This call was answered by CARITAS, a local homeless service nonprofit. CARITAS opened 15 additional beds and expanded the length of time people could stay in some of their existing beds. Additionally, the City of Richmond opened two emergency shelters in response to the hurricane.

Lastly, we worked with partners across the region to communicate the efforts that were underway to get people connected to shelter. We heard from partners in law enforcement, at local congregations, as well as public offices that the coordinated deployment of outreach and communication helped workers make contact with dozens of people living outdoors. In fact, just this week there were 32 online requests for well-being checks submitted to our community’s coordinated outreach partners.

We are thankful for the hard work of our partners this week and every week. Because our community makes a collaborative effort to end homelessness throughout the year, we are able to mobilize a highly coordinated disaster response plan for our most vulnerable neighbors when the need arises.

Check out the below links to see media coverage on this week’s efforts:

https://www.wric.com/news/local-news/city-s-homeless-population-urged-to-seek-higher-ground/1437479724

https://ideastations.org/radio/news/richmond-ramps-homeless-outreach-ahead-hurricane

*Image:NPR

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