News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Agencies planning count of the homeless

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

By James Day

The annual “point in time” count of the homeless is coming up later this month and social service agencies are seeking volunteers to assist with this year’s count.

The Santiam Canyon count is part of a nationwide census that occurs in the last week of January. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) asks every community in the nation to count its homeless population. The census gathers information on the total number of individuals and households experiencing homelessness and key characteristics of those individuals and households.

“This annual census helps measure a community’s success when it comes to addressing homelessness and further understand challenges from one year to the next,” said Robert Marshall, program manager of the ARCHES Project, which works on homeless issues for the Mid-Valley Community Action Agency.

“Having the survey data in our area will hopefully assist in getting additional resources in our community to meet the needs of the people who are experiencing homelessness,” said Kimberly Dwyer, the service integration coordinator with Santiam Memorial Hospital.

“This could look like additional funds to ARCHES for rental/housing deposits, rental application fees, assistance getting identification (documents), mental health, and substance abuse services.”

Social service officials are particularly interested in securing a comprehensive look at the issue in the Santiam Canyon because of the housing disruption created by the 2020 wildfires.

The goal of the point in time count is to tally the numbers of homeless in the nation’s communities on a particular day. Organizers have no expectations that the numbers derived from the count will be precise. The count is just one of the tools that agencies use to analyze and work with the homeless population.

The PIT consists of an observational count and a survey of homeless individuals, the former to establish a sense of scale and the latter to estimate the number of individuals in various subcategories, such as homeless veterans or homeless youth.

The PIT also looks at an unsheltered count and a sheltered count. The sheltered count requires agencies to collect information from emergency shelters, transitional housing, and safe havens.

The unsheltered count is more challenging because it generally involves volunteers traveling to places where they expect people experiencing homelessness to be (under bridges, camping, etc).

“I think that it is important to stress that it is not just the visible homeless that we see in tents,” said Dwyer, whose agency is working to support ARCHES and other groups with the count.

“They are counting those who are couch surfing at friends/families’ homes … those that didn’t have a permanent address the night before.”

The PIT count is a collaborative effort of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, the Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance, homeless service providers, and volunteers in every community in Marion County.

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