Homeless Count

Thurston County recently published the findings from its annual homeless census.

It’s titled the 2019 “Point in Time Count of Homeless Persons,” and the goal was to count the number of homeless individuals, quantify their needs and assess resources through a single-day census.

The Homeless Census Report was made possible through the collaboration of dozens of volunteers along with county and city staff. The count is also required under state and federal law. 

The report was able to make a number of conclusions regarding the cause and distribution of homeless individuals in the county — most notably that, for the first time in four years, the number of unsheltered individuals were among the majority of cases reported and that homelessness among youth is still an issue.

A second source for the report, based on data from all eight of Thurston County’s school districts, found that nearly 1,706 students faced homelessness in the most recent school year, 2017-2018, with the numbers trending on the rise. 

According to the report, Yelm Community Schools reported a census of 119 homeless students and Rainier School District reported 25 homeless students. 

The majority of the homeless population that participated in the census, nearly 21 percent, were 17 or younger. 

The rising number of homeless students isn’t a local problem. Statewide since 2008, the number of homeless students has nearly doubled, according to numbers from the report. 

The annual census took place on Thursday, Jan. 24. Seven official counts took place around the county, including one in Yelm. 

Yelm Point in Time volunteers began their count around noon and worked well into the evening. Counters took to a number of locations around Yelm, including the Yelm Community Services Food Bank and the Yelm Prairie Chrisitan Church. 

They also searched alongside other known spots where the homeless are known to seek refuge, such as the Yelm-Tenino Trail. 

Along the way, census reporters distributed donated clothes, toiletries and other necessities to those who needed them. 

About 7 percent of homeless individuals counted in Thurston County reported Yelm as the current city where they reside, according to the report. 

The report shows that nearly 31 out of 437 total census responses occurred in Yelm. Initial reports back in February by Yelm census volunteers tallied 35 responses. 

But these numbers gathered in rural communities can sometimes be inconsistent and require scrutiny, the report claims. 

“There is still a level of difficulty in capturing rural homeless, as people experiencing this struggle in rural communities are far less likely to be found in centralized locations, or be willing to answer the PIT survey questions,” the 2019 Homeless Census Report reads. 

Nearly 77 percent of homeless individuals reported receiving an income, the majority of which comes from SSI/SSDI. 

Causes of homelessness also varied, according to the report. Of the 500 people counted, 115 reported job loss/eviction as the cause of their homelessness. Mental illness, family rejection and physical disabilities were other major factors.

To read the report in full and for additional resources, head to the county’s website, www.co.thurston.wa.us. 

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