Central Oregon

Dozens volunteer in C.O.'s yearly homeless count

Counting homeless helps organizations get funding

Volunteers count homeless in annual event

BEND, Ore. - Nonprofits and community members came together on Thursday in one of the biggest efforts of the year to help the homeless.

Dozens of volunteers spent the day counting, making phone calls and knocking on motel doors trying to identify the homeless.

It's a community-wide effort that's critical to local non-profits' funding for programs.

"There are more (homeless) families than I'd like to see," said Laurel Case of Healthy Beginnings. "More new families, and that tugs at my heart. I saw the beautiful 3-year-old girl with the ringlet curls just the other day -- that's what's out there."

 Case said she's seen a lot more homeless families this year. She spent Thursday volunteering at the Family Kitchen in Bend.

It was part of the Homeless Leadership Coalition's One Day Homeless Count -- a local and national effort each year to identify homeless populations and their needs.

"We need to know if there are a lot of homeless children, which there is -- and it is unacceptable," said Kenny LaPoint, chair of the Central Oregon Homeless Leadership Coalition.  "We need to know if there is a lot of homeless veterans. We need to know what the population looks like, so we can go out and find funding to target to those people."

The count was taking place in all three local counties in Central Oregon and Warm Springs.

And while warmer weather is easier on the homeless, Thursday's sunshine and relative warmth actually made the count more difficult.

"If it's colder, it may be easier to find folks in hotels or motels, because they're going to take the money they do have and get into a hotel or motel that night." LaPoint said. "You might also find them at a soup kitchen or something like that, where they're getting inside to get warm for the day."

Volunteers set up stations around the High Desert, at places like The Family Kitchen, Bend's Community Center and the La Pine Community Kitchen. Some places offered meals, pet food, hot showers and supplies.

And while organizers hoped the homeless would come to them, some volunteers also went to homeless camps, and LaPoint planned to spend a few hours Thursday night knocking on hotel doors.

"They may have jobs that just don't provide them enough income to get into housing," LaPoint explained.

He said not all  homeless people live on streets and shelters. Many live temporarily in motels, with family or friends, or even in cars.

It's a day-long effort  that began early and will lasted late into the night.  And LaPoint says it wouldn't be possible without all the  support from nonprofits coming together, and a community that cares.

"We had 450 propane tanks donated, and  we had 750 power bars donated from a church in town," he said.

"This really touches people," Case said.  "The count results in extra resources for these people. You know you're making a difference."

LaPoint said about 200 people in all participated in the effort. He said last year more than 2,100 homeless people were identified in Central Oregon, and that this year's numbers will likely be about the same.

One difference, according to LaPoint, is that more homeless people are staying homeless longer.

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