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Point in Time Count

Volunteers for last year's homeless Point in Time Count record the information of homeless folks at their station in front of the Coos Bay Public Library on Feb. 1, 2018.

SOUTH COAST — The 2020 Point in Time Count is gearing up to start and will be mostly digital to help capture an easier, more accurate picture of the homeless population today.

“We are using an app that is specific to the PIT Count,” said Margaret Bartholomew, director of program development and integration for Oregon Coast Community Action, an anti-poverty agency for Coos and Curry counties. “This app will drastically reduce any chances of error of bad entry.”

This app will be used by volunteers helping with this year’s count across the southern Oregon coast with a feature that will help pinpoint a specific location. However, that feature can be turned off if folks aren’t comfortable providing that piece of information.

“We will have paper as well, but it will be largely electronic which should help speed up some of the process,” said Tara Johnson, executive director at the Nancy Devereux Center, which helps feed and connect local homeless to services. “I’m excited not just having tables at the Center, but the fact that it is electronic and hopefully we can find more people we haven’t been able to count previously."

Johnson added that sometimes volunteers and participants have struggled knowing which question to answer next based on the answer to a previous question, but that the app will follow the prompts to jump to whichever section is required.

“It should help close some of those moments of having to decide where to go next because the app will drive the question process,” Johnson said.

The app will allow for ORCCA to see real-time data as it comes in.

“It will be raw data, but means we will have data out very soon after the count,” Bartholomew said.

A press release from ORCCA explained that the count is a “federally required event performed by every county in the state and across the country.

“It takes place during the last 10 days in January with the assumption that if you have a home to go to you will be there to avoid extreme weather,” the release said. “The PIT is a count of all unsheltered and sheltered individuals and families experiencing homelessness. It is vital to assessing need and leveraging resources to prevent and minimize homelessness in Oregon. This information is collected and used year-round by planning groups, policy makers on local, state and federal levels to inform work on homelessness.”

Because last year’s count captured what was believed to be a fairly accurate snapshot of the homeless issue in the area, Bartholomew said this year’s methodology will remain the same. The only change, aside from the app, will be a table set up at Mingus Park in Coos Bay.

“We have tried that location in the past, but are trying there again,” she said.

Over the years, the count has mapped an increase in the homeless population on the South Coast, which resulted in additional anti-poverty funding across the state but mostly “in our community,” the release said.

“This additional funding has supported projects such as the opening of the College Park Family Warming Center, capacity building at THE House and SAFE Project, extended operations of the Devereaux Warming Center, Curry Homeless Coalition’s work with community collaboration, and much more,” the release said.

Last year, the PIT Count had 75 volunteers while the previous year saw almost 100 volunteers. Bartholomew hopes to get as many volunteers as possible, which “makes a huge difference in how many people we can get in contact with,” she said.

The 2020 count is starting on Jan. 22 in Port Orford, moving to the North Bend, Coos Bay and Powers areas on Jan. 29, the Coquille, Gold Beach and Brookings areas on Jan. 28, and then Myrtle Point and Bandon on Jan. 30.

“We’re spreading it out more this year,” Bartholomew said. “We find it most effective when we’re focused on the individual communities …. Every town deserves equal attention.”

She added that 2020 is also a census year, but that the PIT Count does not replace the census for people experiencing homelessness.

To become a PIT Count volunteer, visit www.orcca.us or call Brooke Matthews at 541 435 7746.

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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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