Training for Point in Time count today in Port Townsend

Volunteers to learn from homeless advocates

PORT TOWNSEND — Olympic Community Action Programs will host a free training for volunteers today as the organization prepares for the annual Point in Time count for those experiencing homelessness.

The training will be from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the OlyCAP conference room, 731 W. Park Ave. in Port Townsend.

Volunteers will join OlyCAP staff Jan. 23 at four venues and other community gathering places for the nationwide count, which is required by the state Department of Commerce.

“We’re trying something a little different this year,” said Allison Arthur, OlyCAP’s senior housing manager. “Not only will volunteers be going to food banks, libraries and campsites looking for those who are experiencing homelessness to count, we’ll also host events to offer people time to get information and a hot cup of soup, coffee or a blanket.”

The four venues will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 23. They are:

• Brinnon Community Center, 306144 U.S. Highway 101 in Brinnon

• Quilcene Community Center, 294952 U.S. Highway 101 in Quilcene

• Tri-Area Community Center, 10 West Valley Road in Chimacum

• Port Townsend Winter Shelter in the basement of the Marvin G. Shields American Legion Hall, 209 Monroe St. in Port Townsend.

Arthur said rural counties such as Jefferson County have the last 10 days of January to perform the count.

Information gathered will include where someone stayed the previous night, how long they’ve been homeless, if they have any income or disabling conditions, and what circumstances led to homelessness, Arthur said.

The training tonight will include breakout practice sessions led by Jud Hayes, a navigator with the Port Townsend Police Department, and homeless advocates Barbara Morey and Ben Casserd.

Volunteers who go into the field will be provided a background check for the first time this year, and they will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Volunteer hours also are being counted to show the level of community support for the count, Arthur said.

Housing Director Kathy Morgan said the face of homelessness has changed since she started with OlyCAP almost a decade ago.

“It’s not as easy to tell who is homeless,” Morgan said. “It could be the cashier where you buy coffee. You just never know these days.

“Incomes are not keeping up with the price of housing. Even your neighbor could be at risk, and you wouldn’t know it. These are the people we see today, not just sitting on by the side of the road, flying signs asking for help.”

Bags of supplies with socks, snacks and information are being assembled by a team led by advocate Coco Heath and Gretchen Wambach of Bayside Housing Services.

Those who have extra hand warmers or new socks or boxed snacks can donate at the OlyCAP office, 823 Commerce Loop, Port Townsend, no later than 4:30 p.m. Friday.

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

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