Volunteers participate in national Point-in-Time count in the Fox Cities

Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 4:49 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2021 at 8:22 PM CST
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - Point-in-Time counts, held twice a year, provide a national snapshot on homelessness. Volunteers went throughout the Fox Cities late Wednesday into Thursday morning, assessing how many are without shelter.

They went by car and by foot to search across Outagamie, Calumet, and northern Winnebago counties to take part in the national count, which records how many sheltered and unsheltered people are experiencing homelessness.

“The best way to understand what’s going on for people in our community, especially those who are most vulnerable who are not in housing and are experiencing homelessness is to get out in the community and connect with them directly,” said Appleton Mayor Jake Woodford, who was one of the volunteers involved.

It was the mayor’s third time participating in the count.

“My perspective has definitely changed as a result of participating in these Point-in-Time counts,” said Woodford. “You know, just understanding what’s going on in our community and the different ways people experiencing homelessness are dealing with that, and it’s different from person to person.”

Pillars Executive Director Joe Mauthe and Woodford focused on the Appleton area, looking through cars, under viaducts, and other places where makeshift shelters might be found looking for signs of homelessness, and people they could potentially help.

“It gives us an opportunity to ensure that people are getting connected to the services first and foremost, to know who’s out there, to know who is in need of additional shelter services, get them connected to resources,” said Fox Cities Housing Coalition President Tara Prahl, who also works at Pillars.

“People experiencing homelessness experience it in all sorts of different ways,” said Woodford. “So as a community we need to make sure we have a variety of responses and a variety of resources available.”

The Fox Cities Housing Coalition is made up of representatives from a number of community organization – all working together to ensure everyone can access affordable, safe housing.

Prahl says the count also helps the many organizations involved determine what resources are needed most.

“I mean, knowing who’s out there and knowing the folks that need the most services and who are the most vulnerable is a message that needs to be shared wide,” said Prahl. “So we can provide the right services for these folks and get the right supports in our community and have more opportunities for them to be in a warm place, to be in a safe place.”

The preliminary number for unsheltered people this winter is nine so far compared to last year’s 21.

“We returned to somebody this morning and he’s at a hospital today, hopefully he’ll be getting connected to the shelter,” said Prahl. “It’s hopeful and it’s humbling, but it’s also disheartening. We just wish that each time that we wouldn’t find nine - that we wouldn’t find one.”

The counting will continue through Monday, and she anticipates the total will increase.

“It’s there and it’s too prominent. Nine is too many, 21 is too many,” said Prahl. “You could be walking past somebody or driving past somebody who maybe just spent the last 12 hours outside in nine degree weather.”

But the hope is the Point-in-Time counts will help lead to solid solutions

“You’re always so grateful for the community members and how they’ll rally behind an event like this to make sure that people in our community are being taken care of,” said Prahl.

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