Is volunteerism fading in Jefferson County’s homelessness issue?

PORT TOWNSEND — While the magnitude of Jefferson County homelessness seems unchanged, community participation in solving it may be waning.

Struggling to fill a Continuum of Care coordinator position, Olympic Community Action Programs officials said they received only three applications this year, compared with 20 in 2004.

“From talking to other AmeriCorps programs around the country, we are finding that on a whole its a tough situation,” said Bonnie White, assistant director of OlyCAP community support service.

White said while community interest in the issue remains high, social services are having problems retaining long-term volunteers.

The full-time coordinator position, supported through the Volunteers in Service to America nonprofit organization, pays about $700-$800 a month, plus some insurance benefits, White said.

“Though there is a stipend involved and insurance and some benefits, it is mostly a long-term volunteering commitment,” White said.

What coordinator does

Coordinator’s duties, geared around housing and helping the homeless, also include conducting research, and distributing information to the public about homelessness.

Sylvia Arthur, who filled the position in a yearlong contract after Continuum of Care created it, is leaving to pursue a college education.

The coordinator also reports information to the state and manages volunteer groups in such tasks as point-in-time homeless count.

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