Point In Time Count

REEDSPORT — Project Blessings Food Pantry hosted the community's annual Point in Time Count last week, helping get an accurate number of homeless residents in the area.

Susan Martin, executive director of the food pantry, estimated they had approximately 60 to 70 people come by, but added it would be awhile before official numbers are released.

People line up for food Jan. 29 outside of the Project Blessing Food Pantry in Reedsport takes during the annual Point In Time count in Reedsport.

Department of Human Services volunteers were originally going to do a canvas around Reedsport, Winchester Bay, Elkton, and the surrounding area, looking in parks, wilderness areas, and parking lots to count people who don't come to the official event. However, Martin recalled they were called away to a meeting and were unable to do the canvas this year.

Project Blessings teamed up with the Reedsport Church of God to work on the count, which is conducted every year by the DHS. The church's volunteers provided chili, rolls, and pastries to those who came while Project Blessings gave out 'travelling bags' containing a blanket, hand warmers, socks, medical supplies, and other items, as well as a hygiene pack with a tooth brush, tooth paste, comb, shampoo, and a single-use laundry detergent packet, among other items.

Martin noted that offering a meal can help improve the turnout to a PIT Count, since people will come for the food and have to be counted at the same time. She recalled that last year they didn't offer a meal and only 12 people came out to the count.

"It made a huge difference having the food, and having the Project Blessing volunteers and the Church of God volunteers actually doing the counting," Martin said, noting that without everything, they would have had another small count.

The Point in Time Count logs the number of people experiencing homelessness, defined as people who are without shelter, or are staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or Safe Havens for a single night. Point in Time counts are submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development as an estimate of how prevalent homelessness in the community is. HUD uses the data to evaluate how effective strategies used in a community to help end homelessness are and determine how much assistance funding is needed.

People line up for food Jan. 29 outside of the Project Blessing Food Pantry in Reedsport takes during the annual Point In Time count in Reedsport.

Aside from funding, the count is also important for the community's programs. Martin said that by working the count and interacting with people, they get a sense of what's needed in terms of affordable housing, home repair, assistance programs, and other needs. This information allows Neighborworks Umpqua and other groups to plan their grants and projects around what's needed to help eliminate the root causes of hunger.

Martin noted that the area is "a Bermuda Triangle" of services, with some coming from Coos County and others coming from Douglas County as well as other organizations. As a result, she said some services get lost as one group assumes another is handling it. Alongside people needing to travel from Roseburg and Coquille, it can be difficult for volunteers to come out.

"That makes you get dropped," she said. "We're remote. So it's an obstacle to get an accurate count."

Martin does have a possible solution, though. She said she spoke with the pastor of the Church of God and they both had the idea for the church and food pantry to team up and do the PIT Count themselves next year. They could get training from DHS and United Community Action Network for how to run the count, then run everything themselves instead of relying on the county.

Volunteers unload a truck full of food Jan. 29 as the Project Blessing Food Pantry takes part in the annual Point In Time count in Reedsport.

"Then, we actually run it, so we can be here all day," she said. "That way we don't have to rely on other people who, not their fault, had to be called away."

Over the course of this year, the food pantry and church will work together to develop a plan, and get any resources and training necessary to do the count in 2021.

Reporter Adam Robertson can be reached at 541-297-3590, or by email at adam.robertson@theworldlink.com.