Submitted by Thurston County
Countywide count includes homeless resource events in Olympia and Yelm.
Volunteers are needed to help with the annual homeless census in Thurston County on Thursday, January 23. Along with the call for volunteers to help with census and survey activities, this year’s census also needs volunteers for two homeless resource fair events where families and individuals struggling with homelessness can get hot meals, warm clothing and coats, other survival commodities, and where they can connect with social services. The homeless resource fair events in Olympia and Yelm and the other census activities are part of an annual nationwide “point in time” census that determines who is homeless, why and what resources are needed to help people get back to independence.
The annual Thurston County Homeless Census is coordinated by the City of Olympia, which has a contract with Thurston County to do the census. The results of the census are used to help guide federal, state and local funding decisions for local shelters, transitional housing, and related supportive services. The Thurston County HOME Consortium oversees the annual census and uses the data to help make recommendations for the multi-jurisdictional administration of the county’s housing programs. The consortium is comprised of elected officials from Bucoda, Olympia, Lacey, Rainier, Tenino, Tumwater, Yelm, and Thurston County and is an advisory board to the Thurston County Board of Commissioners.
“Over the past several years we have invested millions of dollars in community-based programs and projects that have helped hundreds of homeless families and individuals get back into housing and resume their lives,” said Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela, who also is a member of the HOME Consortium. “Unfortunately, the results of our annual homeless census reveal that each year new people fall into homelessness due to job loss, unmet health needs and other challenges. We need the best possible data to ensure that our limited funding goes to proven programs and best practices.”
The results and data from the county’s annual homeless census also serve as a critical checkpoint for the county’s 10-Year Homeless Housing Plan, which seeks to cut the number of homeless in Thurston County in half by 2015. “Across Thurston County, planners will use data from this annual count along with data from the homeless system of housing and services to improve the system as a whole. The count is an important part of our annual evaluation and improvement process,” said Theresa Slusher, who coordinates the network of service and shelter providers in Thurston County.
Olympia City Councilmember Jim Cooper, who also serves on the Thurston County HOME Consortium, will be one of the many volunteers helping with this important census on Thursday, January 23. Cooper said, “This count is important because we need to know who the homeless are before we can figure out how to help them get back on their feet. And this is very important in Olympia because most of the existing resources are concentrated here. When our homeless safety net fails, it hurts our homeless citizens, but it also impacts our downtown and neighborhoods.”
In years past, census volunteers have included individuals from local schools and colleges, non-profit organizations, faith communities, businesses, elected officials, and even some volunteers struggling with homelessness themselves. If you are interested in volunteering with the Thurston County Homeless Census or at the Homeless Connect resource fair events in Olympia or Yelm, contact Homeless Census Coordinator Anna Schlecht at (360) 753-8183 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: Volunteers Needed! 2014 Thurston County Homeless Census
WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 23
WHERE: – Thurston County Homeless Census—locations throughout Thurston County
– Olympia Homeless Connect event—First Christian Church at 701 Franklin St. SE
– Yelm Homeless Connect event—Yelm Community Service Center at 624 Crystal Springs Road NW