Volunteers conduct annual homeless census

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Volunteers joined forces with advocates at Olympic Community Action Programs to conduct the annual “Point In Time” count of homeless residents in the county on Jan. 23.

Each year, the state Department of Commerce requires communities seeking funds to conduct a one-day count to survey individuals experiencing homelessness.

The count in Jefferson County began on Jan. 23, with OlyCAP advocates and about 20 volunteers heading out to various locations in the county, such as the Port Townsend homeless shelter, the Tri-Area Community Center, the Quilcene Community Center and the Brinnon Community Center to do the survey. But the department of commerce allows rural counties to take the last 10 days of January to conduct the count.

“Because we are a rural county, we are taking our time this year to do outreach and so will continue to count at two food banks next week,” wrote Allison Arthur, senior housing manager at OlyCAP in an email response to The Leader.

The PIT survey requires volunteers to ask where a person stayed last night, how long the person has been homeless, if the person has income, if they have any disabling conditions and what circumstances led to homelessness.

In 2019, the count showed that the total number of people experiencing homelessness in Washington on the night of the count was 21,621, a decrease of 683, or about 3.1%, from the year before, according to the Department of Commerce. Total sheltered homeless individuals increased by 339, while the total unsheltered count dropped by 1,022, or 9.6%.

This year, OlyCAP’s goal was to increase the awareness of the count and get a more accurate number for Jefferson County. To help that happen, they created “Homeless Connect” stations at the shelter, and at community centers throughout the county.

According to Arthur, not many people showed up at the stations, but it was a good opportunity nonetheless.

“We laid the foundation for next year and made great connections in the community,” she said. “Pastor Scott Rosekrans of the church in Port Hadlock had volunteers make soup and that went over very well. Pane D’Amore donated bread, which was also given to a lunch provided to people experiencing homelessness who regularly have lunch in a park, provided by Rev. Richard Norberg.”

While the counting is set to end on Jan. 29, the final results won’t be available immediately, Arthur said.

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