By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Homelessness by the numbers

Rockne Roll / News-Register##Christian Hall crafts jewelry on the sidewalk at Northwest Third and Davis streets in McMinnville on Friday, Jan. 22. Volunteers will count homeless people in Yamhill County on Wednesday.
Rockne Roll / News-Register##Christian Hall crafts jewelry on the sidewalk at Northwest Third and Davis streets in McMinnville on Friday, Jan. 22. Volunteers will count homeless people in Yamhill County on Wednesday.

But behind every number will be a person with a unique name and story.

One of them is Christian Hall, who can often by found at the corner of Third and Davis streets in downtown McMinnville with his fiancee.

They sing and offer small craft items for sale. “I prefer to try to earn what I get rather than just begging people,” he said.

Hall, 22, said he’s been homeless since fleeing a Texas foster home at the age of 9. His foster parents never missed him, he said.

He remembered a police officer stopping him while he was standing roadside tying to hitch a ride. The officer checked a database of missing persons without getting a hit.

“Wow,” he recalled the officer saying. “Somone must really not like you.”

That’s life on the street, Hall said. “No one cares.”

Actually, a lot of people showed they cared on Wednesday.

Dozens of volunteers counted and interviewed homeless people. As they are aware, the numbers they tally could ultimately affect the services the homeless receive.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development require cities and counties to count the number of homeless in their jurisdiction every other year. In this part of the country, however, the head count has become an annual event at the city, county and state levels.

“Statewide, it’s done on an annual basis,” said Jeff Sargent, executive director of the sponsoring Yamhill Community Action Partnership. “We’re modeling our effort on what the state is requesting. Plus, it’s part of our 10-year plan to end homelessness, so we’re committed to doing this annually.”

Doing the count annually gives everyone a clearer perspective on the problem, said Mandy Gawf, YCAP’s client services coordinator. “We’ve always chosen to do it annually because we’ve found we get more consistent numbers,” she said.

The last HUD-mandated count was conducted last January. Called the Point in Time Count, it suggested Yamhill County has a slightly higher percentage of homeless people than Portland — either that, or it simply does a better job of counting.

The county tallied 901 homeless residents. That amounts to 0.9 percent of Yamhill County’s roughly 100,000 residents. Of Portland’s roughly 600,000 residents, 0.74 percent were determined to be homeless.

The head count takes place on the last Wednesday in January. Yamhill County volunteers used to just count the homeless in the county’s assorted shelters, but those tallies proved flawed.

Now homeless people are encouraged to visit one of 13 sites in the county to answer a set of questions. Food, clothing, sleeping bags, tarps and a variety of services are offered in exchange for their cooperation.

“The survey information is used to plan local and national service delivery,” Gawf said.

To make sure homeless veterans are counted, YCAP also sponsored a program called Stand Down on the day of the head count. Disadvantaged veterans were able to connect to services and resources at the event int the McMinnville Elks Lodge, 333 N. Evans St.

The free event connected homeless, low-income and disadvantaged veterans with information on housing, health care, local resources, mental health, Veterans Administration services, employment and other programs.

Stand Down also helped veterans obtain haircuts, medical screening, hot lunches and military surplus gear. The program was sponsored by YCAP, along with First Federal Savings & Loan, Express Employment Professionals, Columbia Bank, American Legion Post 75 and the Yamhill County Transit Area. Sargent said the the head count included dozens of volunteers throughout the area, mostly from nonprofit organizations that serve the homeless.

The volunteers help bring the homeless to the various sites. A volunteer training session was held this week.

“We have a good cadre of volunteers,” Sargent said. “We could always use a few more, I suppose, but at this point, they would have to be trained individually.”

Gawf said it is more important for local businesses to place fliers in their windows and direct homeless people to the counting sites. In fact, she said, everyone in the community can pitch in by making sure as many people as possible are counted.

“Right now, it’s all about getting the word out,” Gawf said.

Hall said he and his girlfriend and their cat will definitely be around. They don’t intend to leave anytime soon.

“She’s too good to leave behind,” he said. “I decided I can’t just take off and leave her like I do everything else in my life. She’s too good to lose.”

He will likely stay, at least for now, on a street corner selling crafts and singing for his supper. He hopes he won’t be part of next year’s homeless count.

“Cat food is expensive and everyone knows girls are expensive,” Hall said. “I just want to do what I can to provide for us. I’m tired of being homeless.”



I'm so tired of McMinnville becoming a homeless Mecca. I was running last Wednesday night (Jan 20) between 1st and 2nd on Ford and one of the homeless people had a pair of shoes tied together at the laces, wound the shoes up quickly in a circle as I approached and threw the shoes at me as I passed. Mind you this was 5:58pm when my wife and children could have been walking down the same street. Courtney McHill and McMinnville Cooperative Ministries are encouraging homeless to come to McMinnville and the streets are being overrun with people that are a threat to the community.


I believe what the "homeless advocates" don't sense is the animosity mounting daily by working people sick of being panhandled, threatened and approached aggressively by those who can't even bother to get off their asses and dispose of their own trash.
The person pictured in this article--Hall--spends quite a bit of his time in jail. In this case, the cat has my sympathy; no one else.