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2024 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count in Omaha features HUD staff support

On January 23, 2024, HUD Management Analyst Seth Martin was honored to take part in the nationwide effort to understand homelessness through the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count in Omaha. Alongside Equal Opportunity Specialist Erica Zettle, the two represented the heart and soul of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – committed to not just observing but actively engaging with the communities we serve.

Their team focused on the Keystone/Center area of Omaha, working from 5:30 to 11:00 that evening. While incredibly important, their efforts were a single thread in the broader tapestry of efforts being made in Douglas, Sarpy, and Pottawattamie counties, involving numerous teams each dedicated to different regions and meeting those experiencing unsheltered homelessness where they live daily.

The PIT Count is more than just a tally; it's a comprehensive snapshot of homelessness on a single night, providing invaluable data to shape policies and programs. In the Keystone/ Center area, they ventured through the less-visible parts of the city, where they encountered the realities of homelessness - from secluded underpasses to makeshift encampments in wooded areas. It was in these often-overlooked spaces that the count shows the nation just how dire homelessness can be.

For example, at one encampment, the sight of a small fire and two tents underscored the personal stories behind the statistics where the security and warmth of home is often a long forgotten memory. Teams distributed essentials - food, toiletries, and warm blankets - to those met along the route. These moments of interaction, though brief, were profound, humanizing the individuals behind the numbers.

This experience illuminated the varied and complex faces of homelessness, emphasizing the need for a multifaceted approach to support and solutions. It also highlighted the collective effort of volunteers and organizations across the state, all united in the goals of simultaneously quantifying and understanding and the root causes of homelessness.

Reflecting on the night, the PIT count stands as a poignant reminder of the ongoing challenges many face and the importance of community involvement in fostering change. This experience, shared and supported by the wider community, underscores our collective responsibility and capacity to bring about real change, reaffirming our commitment to a future where homelessness is not a chronic condition but a challenge we've overcome together.