Jefferson County uses week to conduct homeless count

PORT TOWNSEND – Jefferson County’s point-in-time homeless count was wrapping up Thursday night with more than 20 volunteers helping to locate and survey those without homes.

The count was taken over a week in an attempt to locate and survey Jefferson County’s homeless from east to west, said deForest Walker, Olympic Community Action Program housing resources manager.

“Surveys were distributed around and do not require signing,” Walker said Thursday afternoon at the new Port Townsend homeless shelter at the American Legion Hall, 209 Monroe St.

The winter freeze has driven up use at the Port Townsend homeless shelter.

“We’ve seen about 40 different people since we opened Dec. 10,” said Walker.

One night this month, 18 homeless people came in out of freezing temperatures.

Walker said of those using the shelter, 48 percent of them are military veterans.

People are considered homeless who have no home or who live somewhere that is below national standards.

Walker said while the urban concentration of homeless people can be counted in a day, the outskirts of Port Townsend are where real challenge lies, all the way to the county’s remote, rural West End at the Pacific Coast.

The survey asks questions to obtain demographic information that will reveal the ages of the county’s homeless people, such as how many are seniors or children, and to see how many are families.

It also asks about their living arrangements, whether they live in their vehicle, a shelter, or are camping out.

“The largest growing group is children among the homeless,” Walker said.

Agencies involved in the county include the state Department of Social and Health Services, domestic violence providers, public health officials, recovery programs, food banks, police, the Sheriff’s Office and the county jail.

Walker said the final report on the count would be complete by April, with numbers available in March.

In 2006, 187 were counted. In 2005, 142 were homeless.

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