By Molly • Molly Walker • 

Teams fan out to count homeless

Teams fanned out to known sheltering or gathering places in both urban and rural areas. As an inducement for members of the homeless community to come forward, they were offering tarps, sleeping bags and bus passes.

Lee Means, YCAP’s executive director, said members of the teams were feeling optimistic about their efforts to get an accurate count.

“We heard a lot of grumbling last year that we do this every year and it doesn’t seem to do any good,” she said. But she said good counts help secure funds from the federal government over time.

“We know it’s frustrating that we can’t get money to help people,” said Means. But she said, “It’s more frustrating for them. They’re living hand-to-mouth.”

Shauna Williams of the agency’s client services support staff, staffed a morning counting station at McMinnville Cooperative Ministries.

“Things are great,” she said. “We’ve had a good stream this morning.”

Williams said tents, sleeping bags and socks seemed to be in high demand, and her team had run through its entire inventory of tarps.

“A lot of single men came through,” she said. “They have the least resources in this area.”

Two clients served at the location indicated they appreciated the handouts, but what they would most like is a job enabling them to get back on their feet.

Antonio Cervantes-Lopez said he came from California, but things didn’t work out. “I’m just trying to get back home,” he said hoisting a new tent.

Jay Jaeger, the county’s volunteer coordinator, said a $3,000 anonymous donation helped YCAP cover the cost of bus passes and supplies. He said another donor contributed a supply of sleeping bags and tents, and store employees ponied up to add to a stock of supplies purchased at Bi-Mart.

Jaeger went out with one street team, charged with combing parks and river frontage.

In one location, members came across a very active gathering spot filled with sleeping bags and tents, he said. In another, he said, they encountered a mother with five children and referred her to Henderson House for help.

Jaeger credited the donations in helping induce the homeless to come forward. He said an accurate count helps secure federal funding, so it makes a real difference.

“I think the word got out to the ones who wanted to be counted,” Jaeger said.

The count is conducted throughout the nation on the same day. Forms indicate number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people and group them by their status as military veterans, members of the chronically homeless community and victims of domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse and/or HIV/AIDS.

In addition to the required information for HUD, Means said that there was an extra page that asked the individuals what they needed most. She hopes this will lead to the agencies that serve the homeless population getting together and working toward filling those needs.

The totals are reported to the state. They are also reported to the federal Housing and Urban Development, which compiles a national portrait.

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