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Volunteers band together for annual homeless count
Although the final results will not be released until this spring, the initial reaction is that the numbers could mirror 2012
One Night Homeless Count volunteer Amy Searcy conducts a survey at The Oasis.
February 04, 2013
For the eighth straight year, local volunteers and community leaders banded together to collect data regarding the current state of homelessness in Crook County.
The One-Night Homeless Count took place late last month in communities throughout Central Oregon, and the information gathered will help agencies combat homelessness going forward.
“We use it to make the case or help us make decisions about prioritizing services where gaps may be and how we can address them,” said Brenda Comini, one of the Homeless Count coordinators.
Volunteers conducted surveys in a variety of locations throughout Prineville where homeless people often turn for services including St. Vincent de Paul, The Oasis, and the Crook County Commission on Children and Families facility. The voluntary surveys counted people who live in weekly motels, shelters, or transitional housing as well as people who are camping, sleeping in cars, or staying at another family’s home.
Volunteer Amy Searcy, for example, spent about four to five hours at The Oasis conducting surveys and providing people blankets and other supplies.
“I just sat down and talked to about 10 different people and just got their story,” she said. “It was a neat experience.”
Searcy had never volunteered before, and was astounded by what she saw and heard.
“I think it would surprise a lot of people,” she remarked. “It was really eye-opening.”
“We are talking to folks about whether they are living in a stable environment that they are confident they will be able to live in for the short term,” Comini explained. “For instance, if we go to a rental unit and start visiting with the person there, we ask them how long they have lived there and if they foresee that they will be there for the near future.”
The 2012 Homeless Count identified 278 people without a stable residence in Crook County, 49 more than the previous year. Official data from the 2013 event will not be released until mid-spring, although Comini suggested the numbers might match 2012.
“I think, anecdotally, people (volunteers) believe it is about the same,” she said.
However, the data seems to differ from the previous year in certain ways. For example, Comini noticed an increase in single-person homelessness versus homeless families.
Once agencies organize the data, they will utilize the information to make decisions on how to combat the homelessness problems that face the community.
“Some of it goes into formulas that help contribute to how funding is delivered around the state, including here in Central Oregon,” Comini said.
So far, Crook County has made some modest gains, but local leaders continue to struggle with the issue, particularly as the community is still recovering from the recession.
“One of the struggles for a community our size is there are always a lot of different needs, but not necessarily critical mass for any targeted need to be able to sustain efforts just for that (need),” Comini said.
Community leaders have worked to establish an emergency shelter for the homeless and continue to operate food banks and provide utility and rental assistance for struggling residents.
“The bottom line is you have to be able to set it up as a business model that can be sustained over time.”