Homeless LGBTQ+ Invited to Outreach Event at KCAVP

During the annual 24-hour count of homeless people in Kansas City, which starts at 3 p.m. Jan. 30, local advocates will host an outreach event to share information about resources and services that could benefit homeless LGBTQ+ people. The event will also provide them a safe and welcoming space to participate in the point-in-time (PIT) count.

The Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness, Our Spot KC and the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project (KCAVP) will host the event. Volunteers will be at KCAVP’s Westport location, 4050 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 135, Kansas City, Mo., on the following schedule:

• Jan. 30: 3 to 10 p.m.

• Jan. 31: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A small outreach team will be on the streets overnight (after 10 p.m.) to collect survey data and work to connect the most vulnerable people to resources.

Organizations that will participate in the event include:

Good Samaritan Project

Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness

Kansas City Anti-Violence Project

Kansas City Center for Inclusion

Kansas City, Mo., Health Department

KC CARE Health Center

Our Spot KC

reStart Inc.

SAVE Inc.

Synergy Services

Youth 4 Change KC

Attendees can get help in obtaining identification cards/birth certificates, lists of everyday resources, mental and sexual health information, HIV and STI screenings, employment and housing resources, food and rental assistance and more. Those who answer the survey will receive gift bags containing items such as gift cards for QuikTrip and McDonalds.

“The KCAVP event is intended to provide additional resources during the count for what we have identified as two overlapping and underserved populations,” said Marqueia Watson, program specialist for the Coalition to End Homelessness. “In addition, we created an event focused on these two groups to provide a safe and affirming space for them to be counted and get connected to resources. It is important that we are able to more accurately define the size of our local youth and LGBTQ+ populations experiencing homelessness so that we can do a better job of designating resources to meet their housing and supportive-services needs.”

According to Watson, Youth Street Outreach workers will be able to provide transportation to the KCAVP event on an as-needed basis.

Star Palmer, of Our Spot KC, said: “We worked very hard to ensure that when they walk through the door, they see people who get it – people who identify with the community and are nothing but respectful and affirming of them, so that they are able to bring and be their true authentic selves every step of the way. For those LGBTQ+ youth, adults and families in need of housing services – from unsheltered/homeless individuals to those who stay with friends and family or couch-surf – this LGBTQ+ PIT count is for you.”

What is a PIT count?

PIT stands for point-in-time. The count is an unduplicated, single-night snapshot of the homeless population in a community. The self-reported survey takes 7-10 minutes to complete, and it counts sheltered and unsheltered homeless people.

“Sheltered” includes people housed in emergency shelters, transitional housing and safe havens. “Unsheltered” spaces include streets, outdoor camps, churches, libraries and soup kitchens.

Organizations that reach out to our homeless neighbors receive a good deal of their funding from the government. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) formulates policy and hands out grants to mitigate homelessness in America’s cities.

In order to properly award funding, HUD needs regular assessments of the homeless population. These surveys are statutorily mandated, and the results are included in the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

Categories found on the PIT survey include households, adults, children, young adults, ethnicity, gender (male, female, transgender or gender nonconforming), race, duration of homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse, veteran status, HIV/AIDS, domestic abuse, unaccompanied youth, parenting youth, the children of parenting youth and the presence of a disability.

HUD relies on a Continuum of Care (CoC) framework to do the PIT surveying. A Continuum of Care is a regional or local planning body that coordinates housing and services for homeless families and individuals.

The Continuum of Care serving Jackson County (Mo.) and Wyandotte County (Kan.) is the Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness, 3200 Wayne Ave., Suite 202, Kansas City, Mo., CoC Number: MO-604. Several dozen local agencies that provide services to homeless people are members of the coalition.

High-risk populations

For certain groups, their representation among homeless people is a higher percentage than their proportion of the larger population. For example, 50 percent of the local homeless population is black, yet blacks make up only 25 percent of the overall local population. Nationally, 40 percent of the homeless population is black, while they make up only 13 percent of the total population. Finding out why these rates are high is key to bringing them closer to zero.

A disproportionate number of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Some estimates are as high as 40 percent. LGBTQ youth can be at greater risk for being crime victims, risky sexual behavior, substance abuse and mental health issues.

Instead of sending unknown workers into the field to interact with high-risk individuals, workers have found that communicating through recognized gatekeepers can yield better results. One of the reasons that vulnerable people often don’t ask for help is a lack of trust. People can be revictimized if they end up in the wrong situation.

Watson says that the best approach is to target everything to the hardest person to serve and build everything around that.

#CouchesDontCount is a hashtag that reminds us that couch-surfing – temporary overnight accommodations with friends or acquaintances – is no substitute for stable housing.

The ultimate goal of most homelessness mitigation efforts is for the people affected to achieve independence and stability. Addressing root causes of homelessness is what will finally end it. Meanwhile, people need daily assistance. In order to

provide short- and long-term aid, agencies need to know how many people are out there and what that population looks like, demographically – hence the PIT count.

Our Spot KC

One of the organizations that helped to plan the LGBTQ+ outreach event is Our Spot KC, which strives to provide safe, supportive, affirming and culturally informed services and resources to the Kansas City LGBTQ+ community.

Our Spot KC is led by queer people of color, and it plans programs and creates safe spaces for the community. Its events are intergenerational and diverse. Past events include:

• Q!-Nation: The Art of Pageantry

• Mask Off: LGBTQ+ Dance Party

• Freshman Orientation: Class is in Session

(an LGBTQ+ mini ball)

• Disturbia: Annual Youth Showcase and Mini Ball

• Freshman Orientation Reloaded

Future events could include a youth summit and working with BlaqOut, Kansas City’s black queer male same-gender loving organization.

A sister organization to Our Spot KC is Outskrts (no I in its name), a women-centered LBTQ+ group that held its first festival in July 2018. The festival included music, comedians, vendors, health services, drum circles, food trucks and kids’ activities.

There is also an Outskrts Radio Show in months that have a fifth Saturday, from 1 to 2 p.m. on KKFI 90.1 FM. Tune in to hear a perspective on things that flow outside the mainstream regarding health, wellness and LBTQ+ music.

For more information on the PIT count event, LGBTQ+ homelessness and QPOC-led events or to donate your time, talents or dollars, see below.

Contacts for PIT count event

OurSpotKC@gmail.com

Marqueia Watson, 816-924-7997, Ext. 4

Web

GKCCEH

GKCCEH Facebook

OSKC Facebook

OSKC Twitter

OSKC YouTube

Outskrts

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo

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