Homeless count nets 100

Members and volunteers of the CNMI Homeless Coalition have their photo taken in front of the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. (Kimberly A. Bautista)

Members and volunteers of the CNMI Homeless Coalition have their photo taken in front of the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. (Kimberly A. Bautista)

A partial count of the number of homeless in the CNMI has resulted in a count of 100.

According to CNMI Homeless Coalition chair Vivian Sablan, they prepared about 500 surveys but only 100 were filled out. As of now, the coalition is basing the number of homeless on the surveys that got responses.

“We counted a hundred homeless,” Sablan said.

The group, considered the newest coalition in the CNMI, did its first homeless count last Saturday, April 8, 2017, called Point-In-Time Homeless Count. The coalition expected only 100 volunteers for the count but got more than enough, according to Sablan.

“The count was overwhelming. We had over a hundred volunteers and this was the result of our networking and our partnership with government agencies and the CNMI CARE group,” she said.

CARE is a group formed to assist people rebuild in the wake of Typhoon Soudelor in August 2015.

Volunteers visited the villages they were assigned to to count the homeless and those at-risk of becoming homeless.

“We started at 5am, scoping the beaches and we also separated the hundred plus and we concentrated most of them in villages where you would find the most substandard houses.” Sablan said.

Volunteers were required to attend an orientation the day before the count at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe. The orientation briefed volunteers on how the surveys are to be conducted and other safety hazards that could potentially happen during the count.

The coalition was started back in December. It received technical assistance from the federal Housing and Urban Development and the Northern Marianas Housing Corp.

The count was initially supposed to start in January but because the coalition was only formed in December, the group was only able to do the actual counting before the deadline, May 1.

According to Sablan, the count focused more on substandard housing, rather than literally the unsheltered homeless.

“The homeless, we know where a lot of them are. A lot of our counts today consisted of the substandard housing by HUD’s definition.”

HUD’s definition of substandard housing is simple: “No power, no water, no windows, no doors, no roof, no ceiling. If a person lacks a combination or at least one of those, they can qualify for the count,” said Sablan.

An exact number of the CNMI’s homeless is a requirement for a grant that the coalition and NMHC are planning to submit this September called the Continuum of Care grant.

“…It is to help in providing more services in terms of housing and stabilizing families, getting them into more standard housing opportunities,” Sablan explained.

Sablan deemed the count to be successful, especially since it is the first one that has been done on island and it was organized in such a short amount of time.

“…It was really overwhelming but everyone just came together. Usually it takes months of planning but with everybody’s assistance, we pulled through.”

The count consisted of three different types of surveys. The first was for the unsheltered homeless. This survey was for families who live in substandard houses and the literal homeless.

The second survey was for the sheltered homeless. This survey is to count the homeless who live in shelters provided by the government.

The last survey is for the homeless who are already receiving services from non-profit organizations like the Salvation Army.

The first two surveys were done last Saturday at the same time. The Salvation Army will conduct the last survey within the following week.

Nida Palconit, Hard Rock Café’s operations manager, was one of the volunteers for the homeless count.

“I saw this count on Facebook and I wanted to join outreach programs …The one thing I miss most is helping out people,” Palconit said.

According to Palconit, they went house to house and surveyed people who were affected by Typhoon Soudelor. Palconit also mentioned that there were struggles along the way.

“It was somewhat difficult. There were abstractions like the road was narrow and we had to walk, and dogs.”

It was, however, a rewarding experience and she wouldn’t mind doing it again. “If there was a next count, I will join again. “

Palconit said this count should be done regularly as it could greatly impact the community.


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