The annual Point In Time Count of the homeless across the country will occur on Jan. 26, 2023. This count aims to record sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January every year. Each count is planned, coordinated, and carried out locally. In San Juan County the count is carried out by non-profits like the Food Bank and Orcas Community Resource Center, schools, faith organizations, and the Sheriffs department.
Our community resources, literally the dollars and cents from State and Federal Grants aimed at affordable housing projects and housing support services all consider the PIT count in their evaluations. The housing crisis in San Juan County means that, in addition to the homeless, there are numerous individuals and families living in situations that may lack basic infrastructure.
The count aims to include those: with no stable place to live; living outdoors; living in vehicles; living in abandoned buildings; living in an RV or boat that lacks one of the following: drinking water, a restroom, heat, the ability to cook food and the ability to bathe.
This year the Coalition to End Homelessness on Orcas is seeking volunteers to help with the effort. There are two ways islanders can contribute. The first is to volunteer on the week of the count to help individuals complete the document and be counted at various locations on island. The Food Bank will also be collecting counts on their open days Tuesday, Jan. 24 and Friday, Jan. 27.
The second way to help is to be an advocate for someone you know whose living arrangements meet the description above and should be counted. This means reaching out and helping them get to a location to complete the one-page document. Anyone wishing to be counted may stop by the Tide Pool Coffee House on January 26th from 9am to 5pm to be counted and share a cup of coffee on COHO.
Housing scarcity affects us all. High costs and limited inventory of both owned and rental housing results in substandard living situations, homelessness, and local businesses facing labor shortages. Grants help provide funding for housing projects, both their construction and, more importantly, covering the gap between operating costs and the rent islanders can afford. They also help our community provide crucial housing support services to islanders facing a myriad of challenges resulting from an inadequate supply of housing in our county.
We hope you will consider helping make sure our count is accurate. You can reach out to Heather Stansbury, COHO Project Coordinator if you would like more information on volunteering, advocating or have any questions or thoughts about our community efforts to address homelessness and housing vulnerability on Orcas. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. or by call/text at 360-643-8707.