On Jan. 23, 13 Niagara University social work students participated in the national Point-In-Time count of people experiencing homelessness. Due in large part to their efforts, this year’s local PIT was one of the most successful in identifying unsheltered individuals in recent years.
To prepare for the event, the students, all members of a class taught by Dr. Kevin Blair, participated in outreach activities to sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons, coordinated by Niagara University’s IMPACT office in partnership with the Homeless Alliance of Western New York (HAWNY), the Magdalene Project and the Kenmore Alliance Church. Activities included going to local “hot spots” such as bus stations and boarding houses to provide water, food, toiletries, warm clothing and other supplies, while checking whether the individuals needed additional resources or referrals. The students also visited churches to assist in providing lunch and supplies, and helped with the City of Buffalo’s Code Blue process.
Prior to their street outreach, the students completed a three-part training to provide them with the necessary background and safety measures they would need. The trainings focused on trauma-informed care, street outreach best practices and safety tips, and homeless management information systems.
On the day of the PIT, the students went to a number of agencies and “street sites” throughout Niagara County, including Heart, Love & Soul and the Salvation Army, to conduct the PIT, which is required of all continuums of care by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to receive funding. Local reports can also provide vital information about the extent of homelessness in the community, as well as where progress is being made and where more needs to be done. Due to the increased number of homeless individuals identified by this year’s PIT, Niagara County could be eligible to receive additional funding for the critical services and resources needed to serve them.
“This is an excellent representation of IMPACT providing students a project that enhances their career skills and advances their knowledge base,” said Patricia Wrobel, executive director of the Niagara University Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement. “Dr. Blair's social work students were very diligent in their work, resulting in the highest count ever obtained for Niagara County through the Point-In-Time efforts.”