The annual count of the nation’s homeless population — officially known as the Point-in-Time Count — will occur Thursday, and service organizations and their volunteers will be out to survey homelessness on the North Olympic Peninsula.
During the pandemic, service organizations relied more on magnet events to draw unsheltered people to a single location such as a shelter and conduct interviews there. But this year, organizations will send volunteers to find unsheltered people where they are, according to Olympic Community Action Programs Senior Housing Manager Allison Arthur.
Arthur said a good number of people volunteered for what OlyCAP is calling its housing survey, which will also seek to connect people with services in addition to the point-in-time count.
“We are trying to get a feel for what’s really happening out there,” Arthur said Monday. “Also, we’re offering to reach out to somebody if they’re willing.”
The count is a requirement of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for certain organizations to be eligible for grants in HUD’s continuum of care programs aimed at ending homelessness.
Arthur said OlyCAP is using its survey as a way of finding out how many people are at risk of homelessness in addition to those living in transitional housing.
“There are people that we know that are couch surfing, who are staying with family,” Arthur said. “There are people who are maybe just not stably housed; they’re not homeless.”
In addition to the in-person survey, organizations also collect data from food banks and homeless shelters to determine the number of unhoused people in the county, Arthur said.
HUD requires those organizations to complete the count at least once every other year, but the state Department of Commerce does the count annually.
Data from the count will be available at the end of April, when the department sends the information to HUD, according to Brian Fullerton, data coordinator for the Department of Commerce.
Fullerton said the state collects data from every county in the state, but larger counties such as King and Pierce send their data directly to HUD.
A number of other organizations participate in then count, including law enforcement, but each county has a lead agency organizing the count.
OlyCAP is the lead agency in Jefferson County and Serenity House in Clallam County. Serenity House has set up a website — clallampitcount.org — with information about the count.
The PIT counts are an effort to determine the number of people living in what HUD calls transitional housing and includes both sheltered and unsheltered people.
Serenity House’s PIT Count Coordinator Morgan Bartholick previously said last year’s count coincided with snowy weather which likely resulted in an undercount.
Weather for Thursday is forecast as partly sunny, with a chance of rain overnight.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.