Area volunteers hitting the streets to count the homeless
Sunday, January 22, 2006
WENATCHEE -- For the first time on Thursday, volunteers will be combing the streets of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee trying to come up with an accurate tally of homeless people.
The effort, occurring across the nation Thursday, is important because it will affect how much money homeless programs get next year, said Phoebe Nelson, executive director of the Women's Resource Center.
Nelson, who is coordinating the local count, said state and federal funds for the two-county area could exceed $100,000.
A 2005 mandate from state lawmakers requires all counties to create a plan to cut its homeless population in half by 2015.
This will be the first year local volunteers have attempted a street count, and the third year a count has been done, Nelson said.
Last year's Jan. 26 count polled only regional shelters and the Salvation Army, she said.
It counted 231 homeless people in Chelan and Douglas counties -- a number that many, including Nelson and other social service agency officials, have criticized as too low.
"This year we will expect to see an increase," Nelson said. "You get better (at counting) as you go along."
On Thursday, volunteers will be asking homeless people about their prior living situations, families and what led to their current state, Nelson said.
She said homeless people will be located through tips from local law enforcement, public utility district workers, U.S. Forest Service workers and other homeless persons.
At least 20 volunteers from Bruce Transitional Housing and elsewhere will set up locations with free food and clothing on Thursday and will walk the streets looking for homeless people, Nelson said. They also will count the number of people staying in emergency shelters on Thursday night, she said.
No police officers or other law enforcement officials will be present when the count is done, Nelson said.
"We really don't want this to be intrusive or threatening to homeless people," she said.
Because of winter conditions, this year's street count won't extend past Wenatchee and East Wenatchee, Nelson said.
"I think the biggest challenge we face is the rural nature of this area and the fact that we have really vast distances between communities," she said. "So we know that our count won't be reaching everyone."
MORE LIKE THIS
Friday, May 24
BNI Wenatchee Valley Friday
Smitty's Pancake House, 7 a.m.
Monday, May 27
Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking - Toastmasters Meeting
First United Methodist Church, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 28
Chelan County PUD Auditorium, 327 N. Wenatchee Ave., 7 a.m.
Tuesday, May 28
Alzheimer's Association Caregiver Support Group
Lake Chelan Community Hospital, 1:30 p.m.