Ardmore Homeless Coalition finishes survey of homeless population
The Ardmore Homeless Coalition has finalized its Point in Time survey of the Carter County homeless population and discovered over 100 people and more than a dozen families were experiencing some form of homelessness in January.
The Point in Time survey is an annual survey that provides a snapshot of the homeless population in the community. The survey was conducted by the Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma, Ardmore City Schools, Ardmore Salvation Army, Community Youth Services, the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma and KI BOIS in late January.
In order to get a better count of the homeless population in the county, there are four forms an organization may use depending on what type of non-profit they are. Organizations such as Community Youth Services and the Family Center of Southern Oklahoma fill out the form for shelter programs.
The second form is for organizations providing rent assistance or case management with a family who are at risk of homelessness.
The third form is for individuals who are street homeless and sleeping outside, and the fourth form is when surveyors came into contact with homeless individuals who don’t want to complete the survey or can’t complete the survey.
Despite the change this may have brought for other organizations, Ardmore City Schools district education liaison Sabra Emde said the way she counted at-risk families didn’t change from previous years and that COVID-19 opened up communication.
“With the ability to provide hotspots and Chromebooks to our students who are learning virtually, those who are in doubled-up situations or at risk situations, we were able to communicate with them through student email addresses,” Emde said. “Or a lot of times I will communicate with the parent on my personal cell phone. I would say the opportunity for communication has increased because of COVID."
Grace Center Executive Director Laura Akers said Ardmore Homeless Coalition created three goals for the Point in Time survey: to identify individuals experiencing homelessness, determine needs of homeless and housing services, and secure funding for support services.
Because the survey had to be conducted with the pandemic in mind, Akers said they were not able to execute a specific count in other Carter County cities and the numbers really represent a majority of Ardmore. Despite this, Akers said the data is still useful.
“The numbers you have before you are done on a limited scale,” Akers said. “However, the Ardmore Homeless Coalition is very proud that we are able to accomplish what we were able to accomplish in 2021 and give these early numbers in this data set to help us in determining the needs of the homeless and housing services in our community.”
It will be easier to make the argument that you need programs that align with the issues seen in the community, Akers said. She also wanted the numbers to be helpful for the conversations taking place with the Ardmore Homeless Coalition.
Emde said the Point in Time count is only a small piece of her McKinney-Vento-identified students, referring to federal assistance for students experiencing homelessness.
“My sole purpose in my position is to make certain students and families who are in McKinney-Vento homeless living situations are identified,“ Emde said. “They are provided with their rights under the law to immediately enroll and attend school as well their right to assistance to make sure the student has every opportunity to fully participate and succeed in their educational process.”
Akers said she hopes to continue doing the Point in Time count in the future and able to count areas that were excluded from this year’s count. The community is facing a worsening homelessness crisis, and the problem may continue to grow as they’re trying to make an impact, Akers said.
“What we need to do as a community through the Ardmore Homeless Coalition is not lose sight of what our goal is ahead of us, which is a difference for those that are experiencing homelessness as well as those that are on the verge of experiencing homelessness,” Akers said. “We continue our work because we know we are going have a lasting impact, and the work we do today is building for a better tomorrow. “