The first survey of Silver Lake’s homeless population was administered over the weekend. Led by local nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), volunteers were trained to collect data that would help to identify the community’s most at-risk and get them off the streets.
This initiative, known as Silver Lake Connections, is part of a national effort led by the 100,000 Homes Campaign. The initiative's goal is to find permanent housing for the nation’s 100,000 most vulnerable homeless individuals by July 2013.
The survey helps to get a snapshot of the homeless individuals living in a community and their health conditions.
PATH will report the results from their survey at a community meeting on Nov. 2.
PATH chief development and communication officer Jeremy Sidell said volunteers were prepared for the possibility that not everyone would be willing to answer questions.
"We offer meal gift cards and meals – that’s the number one way to get people to speak with us," Sidell said.
The Vulnerability Index Survey is used to identify those who are most vulnerable to serious illness and death.
"This is not a survey about who is more in need,” said Jake Maguire, community director for 100,000 Homes. "The survey helps to identify people with health conditions associated with an increased vulnerability. Some things aren’t lethal indoors, but when combined with homelessness, they can be."
Some illnesses Maguire identified as deadly when coupled with homelessness were HIV/AIDS, kidney disease, liver disease, and the combination of chronic health conditions, mental health conditions and substance abuse.
Additionally, Maguire said that old age could be an elevated vulnerability factor.
"If you are over 60 and homeless, you have already outlived your life expectancy," said Maguire. "Finding people over 60 is rare -- it means you have someone quite vulnerable, who really needs to be given attention."
However, the surveying initiatives are only the first step in a larger operation to provide homes for the homeless.
"We can offer people the opportunity to get housed,” said Sidell. “Most of them don’t want to go into a shelter, but we offer permanent supportive housing."
Maguire said permanent housing combined with supportive services, from drawing up weekly budgets to accessing basic primary care, were the most effective methods in ending homelessness.
PATH already has 500 permanent supportive housing units built, Sidell said. One of those units is located across from PATH headquarters in Silver Lake.
In addition to the survey, the nonprofit is providing a full outreach team in the Silver Lake area.
"Homelessness is not something that if you just ignore it, it will go away," said Macguire. "It is really a public health emergency."