Registry Weeks are the organizing backbone of the 100,000 Homes Campaign. Communities use these weeks to engage volunteers and identify the most vulnerable homeless people on their streets. As the Los Angeles Director for the Campaign, participants tell me over and over what a powerful experience it is to engage their homeless neighbors and listen to their personal stories. Here in Los Angeles, the effect is particularly strong because Registry Weeks help connect people to a larger community working toward the goals laid out in Home for Good.
The registry Week process is based on a simple idea: communities should work to identify their most vulnerable or at-risk homeless residents and prioritize them for permanent housing. Medical research highlights several health and social conditions that make people more likely to die on the streets. We’ve created a survey tool, the Vulnerability Index, that screens for those conditions and helps communities identify the most vulnerable people in their midst.
After an extensive volunteer training, Registry Week volunteers comb the streets of their communities block by block to ask as many people as possible to complete the Vulnerability Index questionnaire. This process occurs early in the morning, usually between the hours of 4 and 7 a.m. to ensure that those surveyed are among the unsheltered homeless population. Some communities have also surveyed in shelters, but as a general rule, we find that the most vulnerable people tend to sleep outside.
Once volunteers return to local Registry Week headquarters with their completed surveys, additional volunteers begin entering results into our national database. As of today, this database contains close to 20,000 surveys with homeless people across the country. Roughly 43 percent of those surveyed have at least one condition that spikes their risk of death. Data entry is a critical task because communities can’t build their prioritized lists until each person surveyed is in the system. Once communities have a full, ordered list of the most vulnerable people on their streets, they can begin targeting their resources in a way that maximizes lives and public dollars saved.
Each Registry Week ends with an open community briefing and press conference. Think of it as a chance for the whole community to focus on homelessness for an afternoon. A Campaign staffer or a local partner leads the briefing and shares, among other things, the results of the surveying efforts. Community members are often moved by learning how many veterans are on their streets, or how many of their homeless neighbors are living with cancer. This information turns homelessness from an abstract problem to an urgent moral crisis. Often, people who have never worked with homeless people before become committed advocates after attending a Registry Week community briefing.
Finally, Registry Week ends and the work of housing begins. Communities are typically eager to put the data and resources gathered during Registry Week to use as they start housing their most vulnerable homeless residents. In some places, local leaders have even moved people into permanent housing within days of completing their surveying efforts. This is what the Campaign is about—connecting vulnerable people to the homes and support they need to thrive.
With several Registry Weeks planned throughout the summer, Los Angeles is facing an exciting moment in the history of local homelessness. I encourage you to visit homeforgoodla.org or 100khomes.org to find out how you can get involved in your local effort and make a difference in the lives of homeless people in your community.
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