Every January, the Point in Time count looks to provide a snapshot of homelessness in Clark County and other communities across the country. This year, the single-day census of the homeless population will happen Thursday.
The Council for the Homeless heads the annual effort to survey every homeless person in the county. This year, the local nonprofit is aided by new volunteers from the community and from Clark College, Sea Mar Community Health Centers and the Lewis River Mobile Food Bank and other organizations.
That extra help could result in a more thorough count, says Dale Whitley, who oversees the homeless management information system. Or, it can just mean that more corners of the county will be checked during the count.
While the Point in Time is believed to undercount the homeless population, it still points to trends and demographic shifts. The 2019 Point in Time showed a 21 percent increase in homelessness from 2018, which included a 30 percent increase in unsheltered people.
During the January 2019 count, volunteers expressed frustration after they arrived to count people at established camps only to find city of Vancouver staff clearing those campsites, making it more difficult to find and survey homeless people who had been there.
This year, Council for the Homeless talked with Vancouver police Officer Tyler Chavers, who’s part of the city’s new homeless assistance response team, about police holding off on sweeping camps during the count.
The Vancouver Police Department agreed to not schedule cleanups a few days before the Point in Time and on the day of the count.
“We are well aware of the count and doing what we can to not disrupt it,” said police spokeswoman Kim Kapp.
It’s similar to the approach by the Portland Police Bureau, which generally does not disrupt camps within a week of the Point in Time count, according to Lt. Tina Jones, bureau spokeswoman.
On Thursday, volunteers and staff from social service agencies will survey people living outside in tents, cars or trailers with no running water. Those staying in homeless shelters or transitional housing will also be counted.
People will also be surveyed at Project Homeless Connect, a resource fair held at St. Joseph Catholic Church. At the fair, people without homes can have lunch, sign up for social services and get access to housing information, dental care, vision exams, haircuts, employment resources, clothing and other resources.
New this year is a pet care clinic at the Vancouver Navigation Center put on by the Humane Society for Southwest Washington and Orchard Hills Animal Hospital. The pets of people who are homeless can get wellness checkups, microchips and vaccinations.