I am thankful for the 600 community and corporate volunteers who gave up a day to help connect people in crisis to services as part of our 4th Annual Project Homeless Connect.

As the regional planning and coordinating agency for homeless services, Homeward has three core lines of business: identifying needs and trends, educating the community for system change, and serving as a catalyst for change. My personal role in preventing and ending homelessness usually involves high level conversations about the intersections of homeless services with other community systems such as criminal justice or affordable housing, interpreting regional data, engaging in strategic planning, and making presentations on best practice programs. I use my gifts of making connections, analysis, and strategic conversations to make a difference in my community. I really enjoy working with Homeward and it’s exciting to see the impact of these data-driven community connections.

I spent most of last week in Atlanta at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conference and wanted to share a few highlights.

1. HUD is paying more and more attention to data. In the Richmond region, we’ve been involved in the Homelessness Pulse project, in which HUD originally asked nine communities to report (on a quarterly basis) on the clients they served. This project is being expanded to include all communities that receive HUD funds.

Today Homeward is releasing the full data from our 4th summer survey of people experiencing homelessness. In July 2010, we measured 891 people experiencing homelessness. While this number represents a 16% decrease from last summer’s survey, we know there are still too many people in crisis in our community. For example, tonight over 140 children will sleep in a shelter. If you would like to learn more about the July survey results, click here.

On Tuesday, my oldest daughter got on the school bus for the first time. She went off to kindergarten smiling, waving, and ready to learn to read, write, and “do science.” This week I have enjoyed sharing the first-day-of-school stories and experiences with my friends. Seeing a son or daughter get on the bus ready to succeed is a proud moment for any parent. I felt a sense of achievement—for her and for me.

Recently, I’ve been working with the Richmond City Jail to look at the overlap between homelessness and jail incarceration. Locally, we know that around 70% of adults who experience homelessness report that they have been in jail or prison. We have also found that about 1/3 of people who are homeless report that they were homeless the last time they were incarcerated – and 50% indicate that they were homeless upon release. It’s probably no surprise that people don’t expand their support networks and find housing while they are in jail or prison.



Yes, we can end homelessness





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