Point in Time Homeless Count

Joel and Joni Fuller hold one of their rabbits Wednesday as the talk with volunteersr working during the Point-In-Time homeless count near the Millicoma boat ramp in Eastside Coos Bay. The count is a national effort by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to get a screenshot of homeless numbers to help policy makers create new programs and help local organizations with grants to end the epidemic.

COOS COUNTY — Throughout the week, volunteers from across Coos County have participated in the Point in Time Count, some of which worked as a small specialized team to conduct the brush count.

Brush counters trudge through brush and forest in order to find homeless encampments off the beaten path in order to provide those living on the outskirts of civilization with supplies and include them in the Point in Time Count.

Dorene Dalton, a homeless volunteer, writes her phone number down on Joni Fuller's palm Wednesday at Rooke-Higgins County Park, one of many pl…

The PIT Count is reported back to U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development and the results can determine the sort of services and resources that groups in the county can get funding for based on its homeless population.

What some may not know about these brush teams is that they are often made up of people who are homeless themselves, or were formerly homeless.

The brush team has the most success in finding folks for the count at night, because that’s when people are in their camps. During the day folks are often away from encampments working whatever jobs they might have or gathering resources.

One of Wednesday’s brush team volunteers was Doreen Dalton. Dalton and her husband are homeless themselves, and are known in the homeless community as Mom and Dad.

“When we see a new homeless person we let them know where the Devereux Center is, where they can take a shower, let them know they can go eat at the mission, and really let them know where all the resources are,” Dalton said.

Dorene Dalton, a homeless volunteer, carries a blanket and paperwork Wednesday toward the Isthmus Slough Bridge during the annual Point-in-Tim…

Joel Fuller and his wife, Joni Fuller, are currently living out of their truck and were approached by the brush count group. Fuller became homeless almost a year ago after an injury caused him to lose his job and subsequently his housing. When he was housed, Fuller kept a number of rabbits as pets and still has a few that travel with him.

“We moved into our truck and have been struggling with the other people on the streets ever since,” Fuller said. “We utilize all the resources, but sometimes it’s still not enough to get you over that next hump."

The homeless community is very much like a family. Many folks are aware of their homeless neighbors and work together to survive. That sense of community is a major benefit when conducting a brush count, because those in the community know where camps are located and often have developed a certain level of trust with the various inhabitants of the encampments.  

Volunteer Jay Brown takes information Feb. 1 from Joel Fuller near the vehicle he lives out of during the Point-In-Time homeless at Rooke-Higg…

“The homeless community, by nature of what they’re going through, is a shared experience,” Devereux Center Director Tara Johnson said. “They understand how hard it is on the streets, they know how hard it can be to find a place to sleep. There’s comfort in knowing that there’s somebody that’s already walking down the road to teach you the ropes. They’re quick to jump in and volunteer.”

Outside of the Point in Time Count, it is very common for members of the homeless community to give and share what they can at resource centers.

“Much of our operation is already provided by people who are experiencing homelessness,” Johnson said. “If a person is newly homeless I can take them around and introduce them to some folks at the center, and they come around that person and support that person. They share resources with that person.”

Volunteers Dorene Dalton, right, and Jay Brown walk along a trail Wednesday at Rooke-Higgins County Park as they look to document the homeless…

According to Johnson, a number of homeless folks who were not technically volunteers in the Point in Time Count, that still participated by getting the word out to their community. Johnson said there is an information network among the homeless community that can travel from the Devereux Center to Bunker Hill in almost no time.

“The day of the count here was a sunny, nice day. We knew there was a chance that there weren’t going to be a huge amount of people here, and I said ‘hey guys help spread the word,’ and people just started coming. There is a grapevine, and the word can spread through this homeless grapevine very quickly,” Johnson said.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.