Homeless count includes families, newborns in cars

Katie Kowalski, news@ptleader.com
Posted 3/28/17

More than 200 people have been counted as homeless in Jefferson County this year, including families with newborns that are living in their cars.

“These families had jobs, but could not find …

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Homeless count includes families, newborns in cars

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More than 200 people have been counted as homeless in Jefferson County this year, including families with newborns that are living in their cars.

“These families had jobs, but could not find available rentals due to lack of housing,” said Kathy Morgan, housing director for Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), a social service agency that helps people with housing in both Jefferson and Clallam counties.

There were 229 people who were counted as homeless this year. Among them were 21 veterans and 34 children younger than 10 years old, said Morgan of the information gathered in the federal- and state-initiated point-in-time (PIT) count done annually to provide a snapshot of the number of homeless people.

Statewide, that number is climbing slightly again, Morgan said, because of the lack of available housing. People who are barely getting by, even with multiple jobs, can’t find a place to live, she said.

“Since the housing market has picked up, most landlords who were waiting out the recession [are] now selling their homes,” Morgan said. “This [has] left many families without housing because statewide, there is not enough affordable housing units.”

Currently, the Department of Commerce is tabulating all the numbers, Morgan said of the count.

“They will be using these numbers that have been collected statewide to show our legislators the need for more homeless rent assistance and more housing on the ground,” she said.

Morgan also said that the 2017 count showed fewer people were homeless than in 2016, when 282 people were counted as homeless, and in 2015, when 355 people were counted as homeless.

“And I feel we did a good job of counting this year,” said Morgan. “So maybe all the money that we have received for rent assistance is easing the numbers a bit, but honestly, those numbers [from this year], even being lower, are still unacceptable.”

HOMELESSNESS

People are defined as homeless if they live in a place deemed by the state to be unfit for human habitation, such as a place that lacks one of the following utilities: heat, water, septic or electricity. Anyone living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, cars, parks, garages, sidewalks or on the street should be included in the count.

In past years, the number counted in Jefferson County has fluctuated because of the number of volunteers who participated, Morgan said.

In 2006, there were 114 people counted in the PIT count. That dropped to 111 people in 2012, rose to 124 people in 2013 and then dropped to 97 in 2014. The highest count was in 2015, at 355 individuals and families, while last year, 282 people were counted.

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