Each year, beginning January 26 and lasting a few days, officials in each state conduct a count of homeless persons, a Point in Time count that the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires of communities receiving funds from a federal homeless grants program.

That count began in Rhode Island today, and according to Russell Partridge, executive director of the Warm Center in Westerly, will continue over the next few days.

The Point in time count is considered important because it establishes the “the dimensions of the problem of homelessness and helps policymakers and program administrators track progress toward the goal of ending homeless.”

Teams of people will be on the streets throughout Rhode Island in search of unsheltered individuals and families, and those in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and “Safe Havens.” 

And while the idea of the count is to get an accurate picture of homelessness, some homeless try to avoid being found, according to Russell Partridge, executive director of the WARM Center in Westerly.

Last year, the Point in Time count, according to HUD data, identified 1,267 homeless persons. Patridge would not speculate on what this year’s count would find.

The trend over the last five years has been for an increasing homeless population. In 2016, the survey found 1,179 homeless. 

Nationwide, HUD says there are nearly 600,000 homeless individuals in the United States.

Other counts have shown that the actual number of homeless in Rhode Island nearly four times the Point in Time count. Crossroads in Rhode Island estimates there are 4,000 men, women and children who experience homelessness in Rhode Island. Kids Count reports that in 2021 there were 1,550 children from pre-school to high school seniors who were identified as homeless by Rhode Island schools. Kids Count reported 47 homeless children in Newport, and 83 in Middletown.

Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.