600 People Without Housing: The 2023 Point-In-Time Count
Each year in January, Okanogan County agencies come together to participate in the Point-In-Time (PIT) Count to get a general census of the number of people in our community experiencing homelessness. Supported by dozens of social service agencies, their staff, and volunteers, this year’s count tallied around 600 people living in conditions defined as homeless.
Homelessness, as defined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), includes people living outside, in shelters, in hotels, in RVs not connected to services (water, sewer, electricity), and multiple families living in the same household (doubling up).
Every county in the United States conducts the PIT Count in January. In Okanogan, the PIT Count was completed between January 23rd and January 26th, 2023. Teams of volunteers were dispersed throughout the county to collect demographic information, traveling North to Oroville, South to Pateros, East to Nespelem, and West to Methow Valley. People living without housing are asked some interview questions during the PIT Count, or volunteers may fill out the interview form on behalf of the person. The system to collect the data is not perfect and some social service agencies estimate a more realistic count of people living without housing in Okanogan County could be between 3,500 and 5,500.
Some of the data collected in the PIT Count includes information about the individual or family’s age, racial and ethnic background, where individuals or families have been staying, how long individuals or families have been experiencing homelessness, potential veteran status, and potential disability status.
So, what is the point of the PIT Count? Not only does completing the Point-In-Time Count provide social service agencies around the county with a better idea of the number of homeless people we are serving, but the data collected is referenced when social service agencies apply for state and federal grant funding. Knowing how many people are experiencing homelessness in our county can help us to better prepare and serve those individuals and families.
Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis occurring not just in Okanogan County, but nationwide. Increased cost of living, high rental prices, long low-income housing waitlists, and a grocery cost increase of nearly 12% (USA Today, 2023), all contribute to homelessness. Nearly 59% of all Americans are one large medical bill, natural disaster, or missed paycheck away from being homeless according to a study completed by Charles Schwab & Co. in 2019, and that was BEFORE the COVID-19 Pandemic.
We know homelessness is a problem. Using the data from the 2023 Point-In-Time Count will hopefully allow us as an agency, as well as other social service agencies in the county, to provide financial assistance to those in need, start the process of building more affordable housing, house more of the individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and continue to advocate for the policies that support our neighbors and community members experiencing homelessness.
If you would like to sign up to volunteer to help with the 2024 PIT Count, please give me a call (509) 422-4041 or send me an email@example.com. We’ll begin organizing the 2024 PIT Count in the Fall of 2023. For more information about homelessness in Okanogan County, go to www.occac.com/Livingwithouthousing