Thursday, September 7, 2006

Survey says.................

The surveys are in, and what an overwhelming response we had here in Larimer County! We are looking at 578 surveys to date, with all agencies and volunteers accounted for. This was all made possible by the outstanding volunteers and agency staffs, businesses, and dedicated reporters who participated in this effort – it couldn’t have been done without them.

United Way-211 deserves recognition as a key helper to this project. Their agency provided 300 t-shirts for incentive bags, hygiene items, and the idea to use the Food Bank for snack foods in the incentive bags. They also referred callers to survey locations on the day of the count. In addition, the Bolton family, formerly with Wingshadow, generously donated hundreds of travel size toiletries for the incentive bags.

Both Wal-Mart and Super Wal-Mart in Fort Collins contributed financially, totaling $150 in gift cards with which we were able to provide to our homeless volunteers a little something for their help, as well as the homeless families staying in the shelters. We also gave the King Soopers certificates from St. Joe's to our homeless helpers for their assistance with the outreach. Wild Oats contributed a generous amount of granola bars to supplement the food in our incentive bags. Finally, the generous workers in the shop at Dellenbach Subaru, came up with a cash pool, giving me $50, just the amount needed to ensure all the goodie bags had shampoo in them when we ran out.

On Monday, August 28th, 50 volunteers went into the community to do street outreach in Loveland and Fort Collins. We were unable to garner the volunteer force and/or interest to have outreach done in Estes Park, Berthoud, as well as the more remote parts of the County. It was anticipated that the homeless in the more remote areas of the County usually are not keen on being approached by governmental workers, volunteer or no. Despite this, we collected 154 surveys between the emergency shelters (Crossroads, Catholic Charities, the Open Door Mission, and Interfaith Hospitality Network) and outreach efforts. A very special thank you to Robin Ezequelle, Ricky Kidd, and John Cordova, who were able to arrange a pre-determined homeless gathering with little more than word of mouth, and conduct 49 surveys!

On Tuesday, August 29th, we had nearly 30 different agencies participate in the count, bringing in a whopping 424 surveys. These staff members all work so hard at providing vital services to our community members, and for them to take on the burden of the surveys was so awesome, just further proving their dedication to the public.

The Fort Collins Police Department and Larimer County Sheriff’s Department were invaluable to the process, specifically Officer Bud Bredehoft and Sergeant Gerry Baker.

Barriers to the process did present themselves.

If there are future endeavors of this magnitude, the following would be helpful:

* Regional trainings no closer than 6 weeks from the process. Region 2’s training was on July 28th, and had it been earlier, I could have had more time between my final training to my community and arranging all the logistics.

* Instead of pages of FAQ’s e-mailed out as a means of communication from the state coordinator, an e-mail noting specifically any deviations from procedure/gray areas would be helpful. (This is in reference to the DV agencies being told to turn their surveys into CCADV vs. their County Coordinators)

* Timing of the Count – because school just started prior to the Count, the homeless liaisons in our school districts were not connected to the process, despite repeated efforts to communicate. Perhaps a summer count that is just after school lets out instead of just before it starts?

* It was surprising to me the level of advocating and educating that was required for me to provide to the agencies; some of the more reluctant agencies are very much involved with our homeless population. I would definitely take that into consideration for planning purposes, and ask for some general talking points be developed at the state level (i.e. LCMH receives Super NOFA funding in a substantial amount, but as you know these funds barely made it to CO this year – therefore it would be in the agency’s best interest to participate.).

* Best practices for surveying at motels which are known to be occupied by homeless persons. We didn’t get a motel count done, simply because procedures are unknown and awkward at best.

* Fiscal resources with a quicker reimbursement turnaround. Counties outside of the metro area just don’t have the resources metro area providers do, and to hold up on mileage reimbursements and other expenses is a barrier to effective buy-in.

All in all, though, we have more than we could have hoped for – even if it is an undercount, it’s a better idea than we had before.

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