By Molly • Molly Walker • 

Volunteers fan out to count homeless

Coordinated by the Yamhill Community Action Partnership, the annual count is mandated by the Housing and Urban Development. Similar counts are conducted throughout the U.S. in the same time frame. 

Among the places where volunteers were assigned was the St. Barnabas Soup Kitchen, which offered a free breakfast and dinner in conjunction with the county, plus items such as free blankets, to-go breakfasts, hygiene kits and sets of children’s books, toys and puzzles. Medical Teams International also offered free dental care at the location, serving 18 individuals.

At breakfast, the smell of cooking bacon floated through the air.

Volunteers approached guests, asking them if they had a stable housing situation. Those replying negatively were asked to participate, on a strictly confidential basis, in an annual homeless count survey.

No names were taken. Respondents were identified only by the first initial of their first name and first three letters of their last name.

In addition to how long they had lacked housing, they were asked if they had ever served in the military, suffered from mental illness, substance abuse or a physical or developmental disability, been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, been the victim of domestic violence or worked on a farm. Adults were also asked if anyone in their household unit had been released from a corrections facility in the last 90 days and children were asked if they were attending school.

Other questions were also on the list, with one designed to cover anything that might have been missed — “What other information would you like to share?”

Count Coordinator Lindsay Combs, client services manager at YCAP, said participation was slow in the morning but began to incentive in the afternoon. She said St. Barnabas served 200 at dinner.

While one team dealt with homeless people at St. Barnabas, six street teams, equipped with breakfast fare, snacks, socks, gloves, sleeping bags, blankets, hats and hygiene kits, fanned out to contact others in the field. Cheryl Blevins served as outreach coordinator, a new position this year.

Early Wednesday morning, Combs and Elise Hui, executive director for the Housing Authority of Yamhill County, appeared on KLYC Radio to urge members of the local homeless community to call 211, the social services hotline, in order to ensure they were counted. Members of the county jail staff made certain no one was missed there.

Combs said in one of the first incidents of its kind, a knife was pulled on a street team volunteer working in the Dayton area. She said officers were called, but the incident was resolved without any arrests.

The News-Register has  a call into the sheriff’s office seeking additional information.

The count is being completed as part of the county’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. Combs expected some preliminary numbers to be available shortly.

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