Wednesday, January 29, 2020 was a bit of a blustery and cold one in Las Vegas. But that didn’t stop the annual Homeless Census from taking place. Afterall, nearly 3000 individuals in Las Vegas sleep unsheltered each night, regardless of the conditions. For some it may be their first night unsheltered. For others, they have been sleeping on the streets for decades. And so, each year, rain or shine, organizations around the country come together in their respective communities to participate in the Point in Time Count in order to try and accurately identify the number of individuals experiencing homelessness.
According to Help Home Home, Southern Nevada’s regional plan to end homelessness, an annual Homeless Census is a requirement of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of all Continuums of Care throughout the country. Any member of the community can volunteer to participate in the count. Volunteers are assigned a meet up spot, where instructions are given and “tracts” (specified city blocks) are divided amongst small groups that are deployed into the community to canvas neighborhoods and count those individuals and families who are living unsheltered or in other places not meant for human habitation, like parks, cars or abandoned buildings.
FirstMed Health and Wellness has provided volunteers each year over the past few years, and once again got involved for the 2020 count. “As part of our commitment to the community, we asked all new FirstMed team members to volunteer for the Urban Count as schedules would allow,” reported Angela Roundtree, FirstMed Health and Wellness Director of Human Resources. “We were pleased to have ten employees volunteer to participate in the count.”
The count is an extremely important event as accurately counting and recording each person that is homeless provides the means to secure funding to prevent and end homeless in our community. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2018 Point in Time homelessness count, Las Vegas ranks seventh among the list of large U.S. cities with the highest rate of homelessness at 272 per 100,000 people.
But as the FirstMed team members found out, these aren’t just numbers, they are people. “I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the urban count. People experience homelessness for many different reasons. Everyone’s battles are so different, yet so similar. It was definitely a humbling experience,” said Raya, office manager. The same sentiment was express by Holly, FirstMed billing employee, “What an experience that was. I can’t imagine how people are able to live out of their car. I wanted to help them more. A very humbling experience for sure. Sign me up for next year.”
FirstMed Health and Wellness is a community health center that provides primary and behavioral health care services as well as wrap around supportive services to patients that qualify for Medicare, Medicaid, or who are uninsured, underinsured or undocumented. FirstMed Health and Wellness has three clinics in Las Vegas to better serve our community.