Point in Time homeless census Thursday

By Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News

A count Thursday will aim to get an accurate snapshot of the number of homeless on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The annual Point in Time Homeless Count will be taken by Serenity House of Clallam County and Olympic Community Action Programs in East Jefferson County.

The nationwide annual Point in Time Count gathers community numbers of those without safe places to live.

The numbers help in getting state and federal funds for programs.

‘Need to know’

“Since the state has cut back as much as they did, we need them to know the situation here,” said Olympic Community Action Programs’ Kathy Morgan, who is organizing the homeless census in East Jefferson County.

Federal funds also are available for services for homeless veterans, Morgan said.

“I’m hoping to get a very accurate count, as close as I can, of not only all the homeless, but homeless vets especially,” she said.

Last week’s weather “drives home the point: Being homeless in Clallam County is dangerous at all times but life-threatening in the winter,” said Kathy Wahto, Serenity House executive director.

Clallam County

Staff members and volunteers will spread out across Clallam County to count the number of unsheltered people living on the streets, in parks and in other places.

They will also try to count those at high risk of becoming homeless and will work to connect those they meet to housing and services options.

“What we have learned since the first count in 2003 has helped the housing network create the housing options that are needed in our community and that help real people get off the street permanently,” Wahto said.

In the west end of the county, West End Outreach has coordinated efforts in Forks, Clallam Bay, LaPush and Neah Bay.

Clallam County’s effort has engaged as many as 100 agency and community volunteers in past years.

East Jefferson County

That compares sharply with the situation in East Jefferson County, where Morgan is organizing the homeless census with few resources.

OlyCAP has suffered ongoing funding cuts over the past few years and has only about 225 employees now, compared with more than 300 staff members five years ago.

Morgan — property manager, facilities supervisor and program manager of housing services — is undertaking the homeless census with four or five others in the agency.

“Last year, we had at least 10 people,” she said.

“We had people on the street doing counting.

“We don’t have that luxury this year,” she said.

On Thursday, staff members and any community members who volunteer will drop off questionnaires at shelters, food banks, schools, health departments and “all the places [homeless] go to and count there,” Morgan said.

Numbers counted

The 2011 Clallam County count identified and surveyed 592 people, with 282 in sheltering and transitional programs; 65 living in cars, abandoned homes, parks or otherwise unsheltered; and 245 people who were at high risk of homelessness and temporarily couch-surfing.

That number has been sharply reduced over the past five years, Wahto said.

The homeless count in 2006 was 1,055, and 177 people were surveyed who were on the street, living in cars, tents, campgrounds or abandoned buildings.

139 in 2011

OlyCAP counted 139 homeless in East Jefferson County in 2011, a drop from 187 in 2010.

The number of homeless people counted in Jefferson County was 203 in 2009.

The drop in the number was after a spike documented in 2008, when 316 homeless were counted in Jefferson County, up from 250 in 2007.

Before that, the number had slowly risen, with 187 counted in 2006 and 170 in 2005.

Expects rise

Morgan thinks the county may find a rise in homelessness this year.

Last year, the winter shelter at the American Legion Post hall at Water and Monroe streets had an average of 17 people per night and considered 23 a full house, Morgan said.

On Sunday, 39 people were provided a warm meal and a place to sleep.

Pam Tietz, executive director of the Peninsula Housing Authority and chairwoman of the County Homelessness Task Force, emphasized that the count will be centered around the Housing Resource Centers in Forks, Sequim and Port Angeles.

“So people can get some meaningful help that day around housing,” she said.

Centers are:

■ Port Angeles Point in Time Count Center, 535 E. First St., from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Surveyors will record information and have some winter survival items, including bus passes, available. To contact the center, phone 360-65-5041.

■ Sequim Point in Time Count Center, 203 N. Sequim Ave., No. 11 (accessible from Cedar Street) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. To contact the center, phone 360-477-4918.

■ In Forks, phone the West End Housing Resource Center, 91 Maple St., at 360-374-5011 anytime this week.

For more information about the count in Clallam County, phone 360-452-7224 or 360-565-5047.

To volunteer to help with the count in East Jefferson County or for more information, phone Morgan at 360-385-2571, ext. 6362.

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Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or leah.leach@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 24. 2012 5:22PM
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