Point in Time Homeless Count

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-Higgins County Park in Coos Bay.

SOUTH COAST — The raw numbers from January’s Point in Time Count came out on Monday, painting a larger picture of the homeless problem on the southern Oregon coast than previous years.

The raw numbers released by Oregon Coast Community Action counted 1,299 homeless individuals in Coos County and 137 in Curry County. This is a jump from the 2018 count, which showed an estimated 940 homeless individuals in Coos County.

The 2019 raw data reported a 36 percent increase in “homeless individuals,” as well as a 27 percent increase in “households” compared to last year.

“Those numbers are still low,” said Maggie Sackrider, ORCCA’s director of program development and integration. “Our area has challenges to counting and Curry County’s raw numbers are probably more reduced than Coos County because it is more spread out.”

The Point in Time Count is done every year, tallying as many homeless individuals as possible in communities throughout the nation over the course of three days. The count provides information to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD only releases the analyzed numbers once every other year and 2019 is a year that will be reported in another few months.

However, ORCCA releases raw numbers every year to the local community. Sackrider reminded that the numbers released this week are going to be different from the final HUD numbers released later, after they have been processed.

“Next year we will try to count in more of the outlying communities,” she said. “Powers was very engaged this year and we feel we got accurate numbers there, but we could do better in Coquille and Myrtle Point.”

The survey filled out by homeless individuals during the count also saw a change with new questions being asked. Those questions included how long they have been in the community and what brought them here.

Sackrider is still analyzing that data, which will be released with the finished numbers later in the year.

Looking back at the count in January, Sackrider said one difference this year were the amount of counting stations.

“We had less stations, but we still saw an increase in numbers,” she said. “We had learned last year which station locations worked and which didn’t. We also saw more homeless folks recruiting other homeless folks to get counted.”

Some even caravanned to the stations, she added.

“It can be frustrating for these folks doing surveys over and over and not see a change, but it seemed that they understood how this affects the community at large,” she said.

In fact, one new location had two stations. Lakeside was included on the count in January and Sackrider said representatives from the town got involved in the planning process.

“They took charge this year,” she said. “We haven’t had a good pulse on that area for a little bit, but we're getting more community data.”

In previous years, the PIT raw numbers didn’t come out until summer or the fall months. When asked why numbers were being released early, Sackrider said ORCCA understands the importance of the numbers to the community and wanted to get them out quickly.

“We are okay rolling our raw numbers with the understanding that the HUD numbers published this year will be different than the ones we’re giving now,” she said.

Sackrider hopes to start the planning process for the 2020 count early and work again with local food pantries, which she said helped in this year’s count.

“The success of the PIT count is reliant of volunteers and community support and we’re happy that we have that,” she said.

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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.