Sometimes it isn’t just problems that snowball. Sometimes it’s solutions — or at least the effort to provide solutions.
So it was Wednesday and Thursday at the First United Methodist Church on Poyntz Avenue, when several dozen of this community’s organizations that exist to help others collaborated to do just that in Everybody Counts. The occasion was the Point in Time snapshot of Manhattan’s homeless residents held in association with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Though a precise count may be impossible, Manhattan’s local homeless population numbers well into the hundreds; indeed, upwards of 200 students in the Manhattan-Ogden School District are considered homeless. Part of the problem in getting an accurate count is that not all homeless people want to come forward. As Patrick McLaughlin, associate pastor of missions and outreach at the First United Methodist Church, said, “We knew early on that there was a chance that the folks we’re trying to serve may not show up.”
Those who did show up — and they began lining up before the event actually began — benefited from a variety of services, not the least of which was a safe, warm, welcoming place to rest. Among other services offered were consultations with physicians, dental check-ups for children, crisis-counseling, registration for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), showers, food, information on nutrition, housing and more.
As a story in Wednesday’s Mercury noted, planning for this event began in the fall when the Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education heard a report on the district’s homeless students. The Rev. McLaughlin said that even as church members expressed their concern, social service agencies began working together on the concept for Everybody Counts, which will be held annually. “We dreamed the idea of bringing all the social service agencies into one location for a 24-hour period,” the Rev. McLaughlin said.
The response wasn’t just impressive, it was amazing. More than 60 volunteers from 40 organizations, churches and businesses participated. The turnout reflects the broad array of needs that homeless people and other area residents have. As Aaron Estabrook, who provides services for military veterans and their families, observed, “There’s no one path to finding yourself in a crisis. The spectrum is very large. It can affect anybody.”
No less important, however, the collaboration of so many social service agencies – many of which compete for the same limited philanthropic dollars — reflects the steadfast commitment of those involved directly in meeting people’s myriad needs.
Our community is blessed to have such caring people.