By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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The information, announced Monday, was collected during the annual Point in Time Count in late January.
“Probably the most amazing thing that occurred this year was this sharp reduction in the number of people who are literally homeless in the county,” said Kathy Wahto, executive director of director of Serenity House of Clallam County, in a briefing to the three county commissioners.
“From the benchmark year of 2006, street homelessness, literal homelessness — people in cars, camps, not in shelters — has de-creased by 81 percent in the county.
“We’re also seeing some really sharp declines in the number of people using emergency shelter.”
Volunteers counted 38 people who were living on the streets in January’s census, down from 200 in 2006 and 79 last year.
Total homelessness, which includes people living in shelters or transitional housing or are considered at risk of being homelessness, has dropped from 1,055 in 2006 to 405 this year.
This year’s homeless census found 78 people living in shelters and 150 in transitional housing.
Commissioners Mike Chapman called the numbers “encouraging.”
Data from the nationwide Point in Time Count are used to help local agencies draw state and federal funds for programs for the homeless.
Local housing advocates use 2006 as the benchmark because it was the first year in a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Clallam County.
“The goal is just a benchmark, but it’s a legitimate benchmark,” Wahto said.
This year’s Point in Time Count differed from past counts because it was taken over an entire week rather than one day.
The county’s Homelessness Task Force tracks the 10-year plan and oversees its funding.
“You can see the numbers are pretty startling,” said Pam Tietz, executive director of the Port Angeles-based Peninsula Housing Authority.
“We’ve made great progress, but I think it’s really about collaboration and regional partnerships.”
Tietz and Wahto are working with the Homelessness Task Force and shelter providers to develop a work plan to prioritize the last three years of the ambitious goal to end homelessness by 2016.
In February, more than 100 volunteers provided services and basic needs to 470 homeless or at risk people at the fourth Homeless Connect event in Port Angeles.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.