News

Clallam homeless totals hinting at continued decline

by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

If trends continue, organizers of Clallam County’s Jan. 26 Point in Time homeless count anticipate totals to go down.

 

“Street homelessness is going to be down because so much housing has opened up,” said Kathy Wahto, executive director of Serenity House of Clallam County.

 

Last year, more than 50 new housing resources opened in Forks and Port Angeles after the last point-in-time. Serenity House reports preliminary homeless numbers to the Department of Commerce by Feb. 8.

 

Wahto said the number of people at risk of homelessness, such as couch surfers and those living with friends, is getting bigger and bigger.

 

“From day one, we tried to count the at-risk,” she said, “It’s going to continue to be a big concern.”

To qualify as homeless, someone could be living on the street, in a car, in a tent, living between friends’ and family’s residences; the category could include people released from hospitals, prison and other institutions.

 

The Point in Time runs cooperatively with Clallam County’s Homeless Connect to link homeless people with housing resources. The efforts coincide with the Shelter Providers Network’s 10-year plan to end homelessness by 2016.

 

In 2011, 592 homeless individuals were identified in Clallam County, as opposed to 1,055 in 2006.

 

Wahto said the declining numbers were going great for years but with increasing risk factors like high unemployment rates, families might be at risk of losing jobs.

 

“You definitely have young families, even two-parent-income families, struggling to eke out a living,” Wahto said “Some, even with kids, are moving back in with parents. A lot of people are making it work by combining households.”

 

Clallam County’s survey is different from Seattle’s, Wahto said, because in an urban environment they do a head count at night.

 

“For us to do a head count it’s hard,” Wahto said. “People could be just about anywhere.”

 

People often ask Wahto and other staff members about the homeless totals.

 

“They want to know if the system is really failing a lot of people,” Wahto said.

 

“From a personal point of view, they are concerned. I know people always ask me in Sequim and Forks, ‘How many did we have? Did it calm down?’”

 

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