It was a snapshot of homelessness in Pierce County.
At the encampment nestled in a wooded area in Parkland, there were, among others, a bricklayer who couldn’t find work, a landscaper who lost her job but still had her truck and a woman with two medical issues but no immediate access to treatment.
They smiled politely when offered warm hats and toiletries, but what they really wanted was a roof over their heads and jobs to get them back on their feet.
Volunteers connected them with available resources and asked them to fill out a one-page survey focused on where they’d slept Thursday night, what problems they face on the streets and how they came to be there.
“We want to be able to show there’s a need in Pierce County to get more funding,” said Erykah Sutton-Hernandez, a team leader for nonprofit Greater Lakes Mental Health in Lakewood.
The annual homeless count is coordinated by the Department of Community Connections and Tacoma-Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness. Data collected each year are used to show the state how prevalent homelessness is in the community, apply for monies to help curb the problem and figure out what resources are most needed.
At Sutton-Hernandez’s first stop Friday morning, her team found about 10 people living in makeshift homes in a muddy, overgrown area in Parkland. Some had lived there for nearly a decade, setting up elaborate tents with tarps and wooden walls.
There was a fire pit, common area with chairs and even a pet cat.
Savvy about how to get by, the transients simply asked for appointments to talk about finding housing and tips on where to find work.
This year, more volunteers focused on talking to transients in Gig Harbor and Puyallup because those cities have limited, if any, housing for the homeless.
“They’re trying to gather numbers so they can get more support from their cities,” said Rae Anne Giron, volunteer coordinator for Community Connections.
Giron said the 100 or so people who canvas the county each year typically receive 200 or so completed surveys. That’s just a small number of the estimated 1,997 homeless people in Pierce County.
“It’s a small snapshot,” Giron said.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653