Annual Point-in-Time Count
During the 2019 annual Point-in-Time Count, administered by the Ministerial Association Temporary Shelter, staff and volunteers discovered a number of individuals living in places not meant for human habitation.
In past years, the organization has seen people living in tents in the woods or near abandoned buildings, inside rundown houses or in parked cars near large stores. Director of MATS Gary Brewster said his group of volunteers working the early morning shift for this year's count saw more homeless individuals than in the past 10 years he has participated.
"This was the best year we ever had with the count," he said. "What made it so good was not the number of people counted, but the quality and care that went into each visit. We had the opportunity to find out why some people had chosen not to come into MATS and to dispel myths and misinformation."
The PIT Count, which is mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development each year, gives the government organization a more accurate picture of the needs across the country and how they can distribute funding for agencies that provide services for the homeless.
"This count will help shelters, educators and other non-profits to know how to better meet needs," Brewster said. "In addition, it helps THDA and HUD to know what is going on in our state."
Volunteers try to collect as much information as possible from these individuals, including gender, age, race and length or frequency of homelessness. This year, volunteers were equipped with a new phone application which allowed them to record and submit the information in real time.
MATS also collects and records information from other agencies in Morristown. Data from CEASE, Abundant Hope Ministries, Breath of Life Ministries, Central Services and Hamblen County Schools helps give a more complete picture of the issues in our area.
This data also helps agencies see the numbers of those at risk of becoming homeless. In the Hamblen County school system, there are 27 students who are literally homeless; however, the number of students who are precariously housed is much larger, with 448 students living doubled or tripled up or without utilities.
For Brewster, the count is a reminder of just how important the work of these agencies is in the community.
"We see many successes from our shelter program, but I need to see with my own eyes what families, individuals and children have to endure without places like MATS, Central Services, Daily Bread and so many other generous and compassionate agencies," he said. "Morristown would have a totally different feel if we weren't reaching out to others. We live in a great area with wonderful people."