Jeff Humphrey, Media Content Coordinator, 509.625.6308
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at 11:20 a.m.
While some cities find it easier to ignore the homeless, Spokane is choosing to embrace everyone.
In order to better understand this part of our community, the City is conducting a census January 25th.
“It’s an opportunity to engage and hear the stories of those experiencing homelessness and connect them with resources. Learn about the situations that can cause homelessness,” David Lewis explained. Lewis works for Spokane’s Community Housing and Human Services Department.
Some of the individuals experiencing homelessness are constantly on the move; searching out food, a place to sleep and ways to meet their needs. People like Joseph Hurtt.
“I didn’t know about shelters. I didn’t know where to go. My family gave up on me,” Hurtt recalls.
Census takers are doing more than just totaling up the number of people experiencing homelessness. A lot of the questions being asked are intended to reveal details about homeless person’s lifestyle.
“We’re asking questions like their primary reason for being homeless. How many times someone’s been homeless in the past year? How many ER visits they’ve had?” said Tija Danzig, one of the City’s Homeless Programs managers.
Interviewing everyone in a simultaneous head count, including people living out of their cars, and under bridges is going to take a lot of manpower.
That’s why the City is training volunteers to help with the surveys and at the same time, connect homeless individuals with valuable resources.
“They’re people. They’re just like us and they just need a helping hand. They just want to be heard and we want to make sure they know we want to help them,” said volunteer Wendy Nelson.
Organizers also need an accurate count of our homeless youth. In an effort to help with the census, Pizza Rita is offering a coupon for a free slice of pie for all the teens who show up to the “Everybody Counts” events held exclusively for young people.
“The data we collect helps us to be able to make sure the resources we are providing meet the need. That the services are in the locations that they need to be in and better support the folks who need the services,” Danzig said.
City officials stress even if you don’t have homeless people hanging out where you work or shop, their problems are really our problems and the Point in Time Count is designed to calculate solutions.
“We see it impact nearly every aspect of living in our community and again, it shouldn’t fall to a few to try to address this problem. It really requires a comprehensive, holistic, city-wide effort,” Lewis said of the area’s homeless issues.
On Thursday census takers are handing out helpful items to the homeless including a battery powered flashlight.
The clip-on device also flashes and makes the person wearing it more visible at night.
Providence Health, Avista, Asuris, Witherspoon Kelley, Wheatland Bank, Express Employment Professionals, Daryll and Rebecca DeWald and Susan Meyer all made donations to support purchase of the flashlights.