Clallam County count of homeless starts Thursday

Census to continue for a week

PORT ANGLES — Serenity House personnel will begin the annual count of homeless in Clallam County today.

Point in Time (PIT) count volunteers will collect data for one week, ending on March 3.

The effort to take a snapshot count of the number of homeless people — both those living without shelter and those with temporary shelter — is mandated by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The PIT count typically happens in January, but due to high levels of COVID-19 cases, it was pushed ahead, Serenity House personnel said.

“I kind of call it the homeless census because what it does is provide information to both HUD and the Department of Commerce, all the data about unhoused people in the area,” said Morgan Bartholick, Serenity House business development manager.

“That helps inform where money from the state and federal grants can go to support these folks,” he explained.

The census in 2021 counted 187 people as unsheltered homeless in Clallam County. These include people living on the street, in their cars, in abandoned buildings, or RV/boats with no electric or freshwater hookups.

Bartholick noted the number could actually be higher because some may not have been found.

“Especially with COVID-19, it’s been difficult to find people, and one of the things we know with the count is that it’s never going to be perfect,” he said.

“We are going to get as much of a picture of the county as we can, and we know we most likely are not getting the whole picture.”

Bartholick did not have last year’s numbers for homeless people living temporarily in shelters, such as in an emergency shelter or transitional housing.

Results for this year’s PIT count are expected by early April.

Many methods are used to collect information during the count.

“A lot of what will be done today will be on foot outreach,” Bartholick said.

Volunteers go out to meet people where they are as they survey all over Clallam County.

“Some methods we use are by going into different encampments or places where homeless people are known to gather as well as meeting people downtown, in Forks and Sequim,” he added.

Much of this work is done by volunteers from Serenity house as well as from several other organizations across the county.

“At the moment, I do not have a clear count of how many volunteers we have this year, because we also segment this out with other agencies and partners in the area like The Answer for Youth (TAFY), Peninsula Behavioral Health, Healthy Families, ReDiscovery, Mariposa House and Sarge’s Place,” Bartholick said.

He said there is no start-to-finish area; instead, volunteers use an outline of places to reach people in need.

“The previous coordinator had put a list together of previous locations and spots and segmented it out into the Sequim, Port Angeles and West End areas, and then we assigned people to those locations depending on who could do what in that area on that day,” Bartholick said.

“So there is no real starting point because people will start at their local offices and then move from there to go find people, and then the count starts,” he added.

Homelessness is often a sensitive topic, Bartholick said, so when conducting the census, volunteers have available two different forms.

“There are two forms they can fill out,” he said. “One is a standard form where they can provide their name and information, and then there is a different form” for people who don’t want to provide any identifying information.

Some common questions on the form ask where the person slept the previous night, how long it has been since the person had stable housing, and what kind of housing does the person need, i.e., for a single person, a mother with children or for a homeless minor.

These forms can help direct people to resources in the county that can provide assistance for them as well as provide HUD with a snapshot of the homelessness issues in the area and where state and federal funding will be best utilized, Bartholick said.

“Once all the information is gathered, it will be sent to the Homeless Management Information system, which we use to track trends, and sent to HUD,” Bartholick said.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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