Homeless count numbers increase
However, Lee Means, executive director for the Yamhill Community Action Partnership, said it likely reflects improved counting rather than a surge in the local homeless population.
Means said the tally included 500 children under 18, accounting for 45 percent of the total. She said their parents had largely fallen victim to the recession.
“What it says to me is, No. 1, while the recession is easing for the upper-income ranges, the low income are always the hardest hit, the first hit and the last to recover,” she said.
Means said soup kitchen traffic has increased in the past year, but food pantry traffic has remained largely unchanged.
According to Howie Harkema, manager at the St. Barnabas Soup Kitchen, McMinnville area feeding ministries served more than 57,000 meals in 2013, up 4,700 from 2012.
But Means said food box distribution was essentially flat, and she wasn’t sure what to make of that.
Means said she doesn’t believe this year’s count, while improved, actually captures the full extent of local homelessness. She said a significant number, which she termed “survivalists” for want of a better term, simply don’t care to be found for one reason or another.
“They’ve come to accept that way of life and they’re happy,” she said. “They don’t want to be bothered with people. They don’t want to deal with society.”
YCAP began conducting an annual homeless count when Yamhill County launched its 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. She said the C-WISH inclement weather shelter network and the annual Community Connect program, which offers an array of services to the low income and homeless, also grew out of that.
Means said there are other steps YCAP would like to see taken, but they are expensive. And she noted YCAP is dealing with a 10 percent cut in funding as a result of sequestration.
She said an infusion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 swelled the agency’s annual budget to more than $6 million a few years ago. She said it is down to just over $4 million today.