Volunteers counted 579 homeless people during the 2016 Thurston County homeless census, according to results released this week.
The county hired Olympia-based ACR Business Consulting to conduct the I Count Thurston census, which was held Jan. 28. Nearly 140 local volunteers participated.
This year’s count was higher than 2015, when 476 homeless people were counted, and was about even with 2014, when 576 were counted.
However, the average for all homeless censuses between 2006 and 2015 is about 619 people. The highest count during that period was 976 in 2010.
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Just like previous censuses, the 2016 count can be broken down into three groups: Those who are sheltered (235), those living in transitional nonpermanent housing (152) and those surviving on the street (192). The latter group is referred to as “unsheltered” — those people sleeping in places such as cars, parks and abandoned buildings.
Other counties saw an increase over the previous year’s homeless count as well. King County volunteers counted 4,505 unsheltered homeless people, about 19 percent more than in 2015.
The state is expected to finalize homeless census numbers for all counties by late April or early May, said Gary Aden, program manager for Thurston County Housing and Community Renewal.
As for the overall decrease in homelessness since 2010, Aden credits local efforts such as the nonprofit SideWalk’s rapid rehousing program.
“The community has been working really hard to provide programs and services,” he said.
This week, ACR Business Consultants will submit a draft to Thurston County for a new 10-year strategy to reduce homelessness. ACR owner Aaron Rodriguez said the fundamental element of that strategy will focus on the coordinated entry model, which refers to a “front door” where an individual or family can seek services.
The strategy will use data from the census to prioritize funding and make agencies more effective, he said.
As for the 2016 census itself, Rodriguez said he was encouraged by the energy and enthusiasm of volunteers as well as businesses that participated.
“There was a real sense of community buy-in,” he said. “It’s not always about the numbers. It’s about the human piece that can be woven into the strategy.”
Discussion on homelessness
Aaron Rodriguez of ACR Business Consultants will participate in a discussion panel about homelessness from 7-9 p.m. Thursday (March 24) at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW.
The meeting is hosted by the League of Women Voters of Thurston County. The discussion will cover the 2016 homeless census, the upcoming Providence Community Care Center, and plans to increase housing options for low-income residents.
To learn more, call 360-352-8220 or visitlwvthurston.org.