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COOS COUNTY — The homeless population is being counted again later this month and volunteers are being called on.

The Coos Bay and North Bend Point in Time count is Jan. 30. Coquille’s count is Jan. 29 and Myrtle Point and Bandon’s count is Jan. 31.

“Last year we had 40 to 50 volunteers helping with the Point in Time count, and we need that many again,” said Tara Johnson, director of the Nancy Devereux Center. “We need a lot of volunteers.”

The 2018 PIT count’s raw numbers revealed around 940 homeless individuals in Coos County. Johnson said she hopes this year’s number is higher because she knows last year’s count missed people.

“There were places we potentially missed,” she said. “We want to do a better job this year to get the word out to homeless individuals to be counted and that it’s important to be counted.”

The count is a national effort from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to get a screenshot of homeless numbers to better help policymakers create new programs and help local organizations with grants to end the epidemic.

For volunteers, training is required before participating in the three-day count.

“The training is for the form that we are required to complete that is provided to us through HUD,” Johnson said. “If a homeless individual doesn’t want to put their name on the form, they can be Jane Doe. That takes pressure off people who are concerned about their legal status or have warrants for their arrest, any barriers that would keep them from participating in the PIT count.”

During the count, tables set up with the forms that need to be filled out will also be handing out a sack lunch and backpacks for homeless individuals.

“The volunteer training will cover what the day will look like, what to do to prepare, and the location a volunteer might be sent,” Johnson said. “We do a brief discussion on safety, which is the first and foremost thing. If someone doesn’t feel safe, they need to call law enforcement.”

As Johnson explained, the count couldn’t happen without volunteers.

“There’s five of us on the Steering Committee that prepares for this,” she said. “One drove around to make sure the sites had what they needed and another headed up the brush count, busy from dawn till midnight making sure he found people who needed to be counted.”

To volunteer for the count, call Melvin Richins at 541-435-7080 ext. 367.

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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