Pierce County homeless count needs volunteers

Staff writerJanuary 14, 2014 

Every year, volunteers take to the streets of Pierce County to learn how many people are homeless and what services they most need. A glance at the numbers in recent years shows a sharp decline, but those who work with transients said the drop has little to do with more people finding a permanent home.

“It’s more in a change of how the housing is defined rather than solving the issue,” said Rae Anne Giron, a social service program specialist for Pierce County Community Connections, which manages the annual homeless survey.

In 2012, the count estimated 1,997 people were living on the streets of Pierce County, 750 of whom were children. Last year, volunteers counted 1,303 homeless people, 464 of whom were children.

The drop in numbers is mostly attributed to 460 beds in 160 units being reclassified from transitional housing to permanent housing, Giron said.

It’s unclear whether this year’s numbers will continue to drop.

Volunteers will gather Jan. 23-24 and visit known encampments, both to ask transients to voluntarily fill out the short surveys and to pass out warm clothing, food and toiletries. The surveys ask a range of questions from where they slept the night before to the biggest problems they face on the streets.

“Volunteers collect important data that will help us improve the quality of life and outlook for so many families and individuals,” said Charlene Hamblen, chair of the Tacoma-Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness.

More volunteers are needed for the upcoming count and must first take a class at Pierce County Community Connections. The classes will be Wednesday and Friday.

Donations of clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, bottled water, nonperishable food, flashlights, batteries, towels and toiletries are also being sought. Those can be dropped off weekdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Catholic Community Services, Phoenix Housing Network, 7050 S. G St., Tacoma.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653

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