The weather right now drives home the point: being homeless in Clallam County is dangerous at all times, but life-threatening in the winter.
For the ninth year in a row, homeless providers and community volunteers will spread out across Clallam County this week to count the number of unsheltered people living on the streets, in parks and other places. They also will try to count those at high-risk of becoming homeless; and most importantly, they will work to connect those they meet to housing and services options.
The effort, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 26, is used to measure both sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families in the county, but the primary focus is identifying unsheltered homeless people and helping link them to resources and safe housing.
“What we have learned since the first count in 2003 has helped the housing network create the housing options that are needed in our community and that help real people get off the street permanently,” said Kathy Wahto, executive director of Serenity House of Clallam County. Serenity House has acted as lead agency for the count since 2003, working with other organizations across the county, including Salvation Army, West End Outreach, the food banks and the school districts.
The countywide effort has engaged as many as 100 agency and community volunteers in past years. In the west end of the county, West End Outreach has coordinated efforts in Forks, Clallam Bay, LaPush and Neah Bay. The West End has benefited strongly from the count and follow-up, with new housing resources for veterans like Sarge’s Place and quality new housing developed by Catholic Housing Services and the Peninsula Housing Authority.
The 2011 count identified and surveyed 592 people; 282 were in sheltering and transitional programs, 65 people were living in cars, abandoned homes, parks or otherwise unsheltered and 245 people were surveyed who were at high risk of homelessness and temporarily couch-surfing. That number has been reduced sharply over the past five years. The homeless count in 2006 was 1,055 and 177 people were surveyed who were on the street, living in cars, tents, campgrounds or abandoned buildings.
Pam Tietz, executive director of the Peninsula Housing Authority and chairman of the County Homelessness Task Force, acknowledged that the count is a snapshot instead of a complete count of everybody that day who might be in housing crisis in the county.
“The important thing is that we continue to measure ourselves against the benchmark and that we work to reach out to people to let them know that there are more resources than ever. This year the count is centered around the Housing Resource Centers in Forks, Sequim and Port Angeles. So people can get some meaningful help that day around housing.”
While volunteers will be canvassing the communities on Thursday, Point in Time centers also will be set up as follows:
• Sequim Point in Time Count Center, 203 N. Sequim Ave, #11 (on Cedar Street) from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Phone: 477-4918.
• Port Angeles Point in Time Count Center, 535 E. First St., from 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Surveyors will record information and have some winter survival items, including bus passes, available. Phone: 565-5041.