WENATCHEE — The number of people living on the street or sleeping on couches at the homes of family or friends is expected to be higher for this year’s national Point in Time homeless count Thursday.
The question is, will they all be counted? The survey affects how much government funding homeless shelters get.
Chelan and Douglas counties social service agencies have expanded their annual homeless count and resource fair this year to include a larger part of the community that could use some help. The fair runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Wenatchee Community Center, 504 S. Chelan Ave.
Several agencies, nonprofit organizations and Wenatchee Valley College will be at the fair to offer food, clothing, blankets, hygiene items, consultation and information about available resources. All information will be available in English and Spanish, said Ryan Johnson, spokesman for the Women’s Resource Center. The resource center has hosted the fair the past six years.
“The fair is open to anyone who needs any kind of resources,” said Tanya Bradford, event organizer. Bradford said the fair will be a “one-stop shop” for people to find out about services available from many agencies that can help them with housing, food stamps, medical aid, legal assistance, employment, mental health counseling, education and other services.
Job loss and other effects of a slow economy have forced many people into situations they never thought they would find themselves, said Bradford.
But the primary point of the fair is to count the homeless. That’s anybody who doesn’t have a safe or permanent living environment. It includes people who have temporarily moved in with other family members because they can no longer afford a dwelling of their own.
Bradford knows homeless numbers are going up because of the economic situation. She hopes people show up Thursday.
“This is not a time to be shy. This translates into dollars that can help people,” she said. “We’re hoping people will stand up and be counted.”
About 400 homeless people were counted in Chelan and Douglas counties combined last year, but Bradford said many were missed.
In addition to counting those homeless who attend the fair, teams of census takers will be going out Thursday evening to count people staying in homeless shelters, living in their vehicles, camping beneath bridges and hanging out on the streets. Johnson said counters will use information from police, fire department and people who formerly lived on the street to get an idea where to look and find as many homeless people as possible between 6 and 8 p.m. Thursday.
“We’ll be checking all the hot spots,” he said.
Cities and counties all over the nation will be counting their homeless Thursday as part of the 24-hour Point in Time census. The numbers are used to determine the amount of federal and state funding distributed to homeless shelters in each city and county.
Rick Steigmeyer: 664-7151