County, Serenity House receive $50,000 from state

Serenity House staff has been doing the work, but now they get paid. For the past two years Serenity has tracked and recorded data related to homelessness in Clallam County as part of its and the Homelessness Task Force’s mission to keep people in housing or provide them with means to find a home.

The Washington State Homeless Management Information System is a statewide database that compiles numbers, counts and characteristics of the homeless population. Homeless aid providers have been required to collect the numbers in order to maintain a data-driven project, which is why all counties will be receiving $20,000 from the state to continue the data collecting efforts.

“It’s kind of nice to get paid for what you have been required to do for two years, but I’m really pleased with this system either way,” Serenity House executive director Kathy Wahto said. “Having a fact-driven response and assessment of need is much more reliable than depending on anecdotal evidence.”

The state also awarded the county $30,000 to begin participating in a new pilot program designed to create a transition from the current platform of data entry to one a bit more sophisticated.

“One major failing of the current data platform is that while it collects data, it does not facilitate reports or a collection of results,” Wahto said. “This new system will be easier to use overall and will have data-driven reports we can bring to the county commissioners and to the public to show what the task force is doing in preventative work.”

Rather than only responding to homelessness, the task force is trying to create proactive programs to stop people from taking that step to life without a home, such as Serenity House’s housing resource centers in Port Angeles and Sequim.

“The public always hopes that when their dollars are going into a system, they will see results,” Wahto said. “The state and national movement to end homelessness is beginning to produce data-driven results and a data-driven direction of what actually works on the ground.”

In February 2007, for the first time in more than 20 years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported the number of people experiencing homelessness, both sheltered and unsheltered, across the country. In Washington state alone, there were 22,045 individuals counted as homeless during a single night in January 2007 and that over the course of a year, the total number in the state was estimated to be 40,000 to 50,000 or more.

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