Clark County prepares for Point-in-Time Count, Project Homeless Connect

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:40 PM PST
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CLARK COUNTY Wash. (KPTV) - The annual Clark County Project Homeless Connect event is set for Thursday, Jan. 26 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Church in Vancouver.

“It’s a one-day health and resource fair for people experiencing homelessness,” said Laura Ellsworth, the Strategic Partnerships and Advocacy Manager for Council for the Homeless. “The purpose is to provide services on sight for folks and also provide a way for them to get counted during our Point-in-Time Count. We will also provide hospitality and basic needs. Things like haircuts, foot care, shoes and socks, coats, and a hot meal.”

In a press release from the Council for the Homeless, the nonprofit states the event will offer housing information, vision exams and glasses, haircuts, help signing up for social service benefits and healthcare, employment resources, clothing, hygiene items, foot washing, a pet clinic and lunch. The organization says anyone throughout the county who is without a home is encouraged to attend.

Council for the Homeless also says interpreters will be at the event to assist people who speak American Sign Language, Chuukese, Spanish, and Russian. Shuttles to and from the event from locations around the county will be available throughout the day. Locations include shelters, Share House, Living Hope Church and encampments.

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Amerigroup of WA, Molina Healthcare and Trinity Lutheran Church Foundation are event sponsors. St. Joseph Catholic Church donates use of their facility, refreshments, volunteers and lunch.

“We are really excited because this is the first year we are back to normal after the pandemic,” said Ellsworth. “[The] last event we did before COVID hit was in January of 2020. So, it’s been a little bit. It’s really important because it gives people an opportunity to access services, access hospitality, and get counted. It helps our homeless crisis response system, allocate funding in the long run, so this annual count is sort of a way to determine trends over time. So it’s really important that we get this going again in full gear so we can really get a good picture.”

Ellsworth expects they will help around 200 people at Thursday’s event.

“We have 240 guests in 2020, which was our last normal year,” said Ellsworth. “We did not do this event in 2021. In 2022, we did a very scaled-down version, so we had 67 guests last year. We are hoping to get around 200 guests this year. The importance of this event is the sense of community this event brings and the hospitality; for people experiencing homelessness in our community to just know that our community cares about them and wants to serve them and wants to provide comfort and hospitality and services.”

Charles Hanset, the founder and president of Thrive2Survive, was at the church on Wednesday afternoon helping drop off Columbia coat donations. Thrive2Survive is organizing volunteers and logistics for the event.

“Getting a house assessment, getting your driver’s license, you’re talking to the DOL, getting a phone so you can call your parents, your family,” said Hanset. “Being able to get those vital resources in one spot, it expands and webs out through the community. We had a mother fleeing a domestic violence situation from another state and she landed here. At our last event she was able to get all those vital resources and now she has her own place, she’s got a job, and she’s doing amazing. That’s just a drop in the bucket of the stories we have.”

Terry White, one of the volunteers, was also helping drop off donations at the church.

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“There’s a million situations as to why people are on the streets,” said White. “Everybody can kind of guess and think what they want to think, but until you come down to volunteer or take the time to get to know the people, you’re never really going to know what you’re looking at. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve come across and especially seeing the lives of people who have been affected and give back afterword, it’s huge. It’s huge.”

Happening in conjunction with Project Homeless Connect is the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count. The count provides a one-night snapshot of what homelessness looks like in our community and contributes to state and national data and funding decisions and resources. During the last 10 days of January, agencies and volunteers from across Washington State will collect data to comply with Washington State Department of Commerce requirements. The PIT survey includes voluntary questions regarding last permanent zip code, demographics, and the circumstances that contributed homelessness. An important aspect of the count is to “de-duplicate” people who may be counted more than once that day in order to provide a more accurate count. Those staying in Clark County shelters and transitional housing will all be counted through the local Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).

“The Point in Time Count starts early in the morning,” said Ellsworth. “We have about 14 teams of people going out all across Clark County to go out and literally just find as many people as they can and count them. They will be telling folks about this event and encouraging them to come here to access services. The services are meant to be delivered on sight Thursday, so less of making a future appointment for services and more of a get what you need here at this event. So we will have a wide variety of homeless service providers that provide all sorts of things for folks. It’s a one-stop shop for people to go to get connected with services that are associated with trying to resolve their homelessness. The Point in Time Count is something that we get more efficient and better at every year. We tend to count more people every year. We also know that unsheltered homelessness has been increasing Expectations are that homelessness is continuing to increase in our community.”

Data from the Point-in-Time Count will be released in May 2023 after the data is de-duplicated and analyzed.