Homeless count gearing up

by: FILE PHOTO - Volunteers arrange clothing on a giveaway table at last year's Homeless Count.Volunteers are gearing up for the Point in Time Homeless Count, which will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Madras Christian Church at 115 S.E. C St.

Available, while supplies last, will be food bags, blankets, warm coats, pet food, sleeping bags, gloves, socks, scarves, hats and warm clothing.

A free hot meal will also be served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church.

“Donations of supplies were down this year,” said Madras Christian Church Pastor Walt Chamberlain, noting people can still donate items, especially tents and tarps, from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, at the church.

The event is expected to count Jefferson County residents who are living in a motel, vehicle, homeless shelter, doubling up with friends, camping, or in other temporary living situations.

“It’s a point-in-time snapshot of what homelessness looks like on one day in the county,” Chamberlain said.

“Usually, the truly homeless population is there waiting at the door when we open, and they want tents and tarps because they are sleeping outdoors,” said Ana Young with the NeighborImpact office in Madras.

Chamberlain said a one-hour training will be held at noon, Jan. 24, at the church for anyone interested in volunteering to serve food, hand out supplies, or be on an outreach team during the count.

“We never have enough volunteers to do as good a job as we could do,” he commented.

The one-day count is sponsored regionwide by NeighborImpact and the Homeless Leadership Coalition in Central Oregon.

Homeless people will be asked to answer a brief, confidential and anonymous survey about their situation to help organizations target resources and develop plans to deal with poverty and homelessness in Central Oregon.

In addition to services at the church, volunteer teams go out in the community to do surveys and try to find out where homeless people are camping.

“There are usually 15 to 20 volunteers that help, and this year the Central Oregon Veterans Outreach group will be involved and are bringing their own supplies to give out,” Chamberlain said.

NeighbborImpact compiles the data from the surveys, which can help counties apply for funds.

“It’s used in applying for federal and state funds to help the homeless, and creates a database for grant writing for Saving Grace, domestic violence programs, student homelessness, and other groups,” Chamberlain said.

Last year, 370 homeless people were counted in Jefferson County. The count has been done for around eight years, but Young said they are moving to an every other year count.

“We will do the one-day count next year, then every other year will be just a shelter count,” Young said.

The population the count is targeting usually knows about the event. “By word-of-mouth, a lot of the homeless know to come, at least for a hot meal and coffee,” Chamberlain said.




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