JPS team members pitch in for Point in Time Count

February 12th, 2019

About one person in every eight who participated in the 2019 Fort Worth Point in Time Count -- more than 60 of the approximately 500 volunteers who donated their labor to the project -- is a team member at the JPS Health Network.

Joel Hunt, Director of the Care Connections Outreach at JPS Health Network in Fort Worth, Texas

Joel Hunt, Director of Care Connections Outreach at JPS Health  Network, looks for people living beneath an overpass in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I think that’s a really remarkable fact and it says so much about how deeply the people at JPS care about Fort Worth and its residents,” said Joel Hunt, Director of Care Connections Outreach at the health network. “It’s a really tough job – but it’s an important one, so I’m really grateful to everyone who stepped up to help with the count this year.”

Interestingly, Hunt said, a large portion of the JPS team members who pitched in with the count were people who don’t work in jobs where they have regular, direct interaction with patients. By participating in the count, it was a chance for them to more directly see the difference they’re making in the lives of people in need, Hunt said. Meanwhile, they were helping JPS organize resources to help people experiencing homelessness get the resources they need.

Scott Rule, Vice President and Chief of Staff at JPS, worked until 1 a.m. and encountered 50 people living on the streets during the 2019 count. He said he participates every year he’s available because it’s important to stay on top of community needs and to help people be connected with services that can improve their lives.

“As a Continuum of Care Board member, hospital administrator and neighbor, I recognize the impact homelessness has on individuals, our institution and our community resources,” Rule said. “The count provides awareness of the extent and trends of homelessness.  This important data can then be used for the request and allocation of resources.  The count also provides another opportunity for the homeless community to become aware and engaged with the services available.”

The Point in Time Count is held each year during the last 10 days of January in cities across the United States. Teams of volunteers comb places where people without homes live not only to count them but also to compile important statistical information about them and their needs. While Hunt said the count is very unscientific – with the number of people experiencing homelessness on the streets varying widely due to factors including the weather -- he said it’s important to collect the information which is used to determine what federal resources the community will get to fight homelessness and how those resources will be deployed.

In the Fort Worth area, the count is organized by the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition. Teams of volunteers assembled starting at about 7 p.m. the night of the count to work out the arrangement of groups and what territory those groups would cover. Then the volunteers searched under bridges and in back alleys for as many homeless people they could find until sometime between midnight and 2 a.m. When they found people, volunteers called up an app on their smartphone that gave them a list of questions to ask while marking the spot of the encounter on a map. Sometimes the street-side conversations provide a great deal of helpful information…but not always.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” Hunt said. “But every connection we can make and every bit of information we can gather helps us to serve people experiencing homelessness over the next year.”

Results from the latest count have not yet been released. But in 2018 the count in Fort Worth totaled 1,787 people, up from 1,594 the year before.

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