County provides varied services for the homeless
Point-In-Time count scheduled for February 24
February 10, 2022
Are you homeless or living in substandard housing? Wahkiakum Health and Human Services would like to hear from you on February 24 when they participate in a nationwide event called the Point-in-Time count.
Why? The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the state of Washington look at those numbers each year to determine what kind of resources and funding are needed for each county.
“It’s their wonderful idea for one day to have all providers go out and look for people experiencing homelessness and collect data,” Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Community Services Manager Julie Johnston said.
This includes “all persons staying in temporary housing programs and places not meant for human habitation,” which might mean people living in cars or RVs without access to water or electricity, but in this case is not so much about people who are couch surfing or living doubled up in a home.
WHHS plans to have some events that day, and while details are not yet set in stone, they are tentatively hoping for people to get counted at the Hope Center in Cathlamet in the morning, and at the Westend Food Pantry in the afternoon.
There will be food, backpacks, and giveaways, as well as a chance for people to learn about resources that are currently available.
“We just want to get them counted, to hear their story, so we can start pushing back and say these are the resources we need,” Johnston added.
While HUD and the state might be more interested in numbers, the county hopes to have a dialogue with people in the community to see how they can help, whether it’s something like trying to figure out how to get someone hooked up to running water, or provide tarps for a leaking RV.
There will be survey forms provided by the Department of Commerce for the event. The forms ask where the person slept the night before, how long they’ve been experiencing homelessness, and how many times in the last three years. They also want to know if the person is experiencing a disability, the circumstances that lead to their current housing status, and source of income. The forms ask for name, date of birth, and for more demographic information, but it is not required.
The majority of the form is a series of check boxes, according to Johnston, and all of it is confidential.
Other assistance is available in the county for people who are homeless or are facing eviction.
According to Johnston, they have a Consolidated Homeless Grant, which can assist households who fall under the following situations if the household is also at or below the 30% area median income or a Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) referral from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS):
1. In a residence with inadequate facilities such as no access to running water, no heat or electricity. Basically, extremely substandard housing, not conducive to long term living.
2. Living in someone else’s home if the person that owns the home presents with an eviction notice – therefore, being at imminent risk of homelessness.
3. Living in a car, park, campsite or homeless shelter.
“We offer case management services and resources to assist getting into housing (if there is housing available),” Johnston wrote. “Participants develop a housing stability plan that will help determine what kind of assistance they will need. We can assist with things that will help get the person into stable housing and can provide short to medium term ongoing rental assistance within Wahkiakum County. Time limit is based on the housing stability plan. We can aid with move in costs and first couple months of rent if the household finds housing outside of County.”
The county also has extra resources for people who qualify for HEN to obtain items like cleaning supplies and toiletries.
They also now have an Eviction Rent Assistance Program 2.0.
“It was created to help households that are past due on rent and may face eviction,” Johnston wrote. “This grant can assist those households that fall at or below the 80% area median income, have an agreement at the place they rent, have lost income/job or faced other financial hardships, are at risk of becoming homeless, and have missed at least a partial payment of rent since March 1, 2020.”
For more information about these grants and more, go to https://www.co.wahkiakum.wa.us/542/Homeless-Prevention-Services-Rent-Assist or call WHHS Community Outreach Specialist Kelly Patterson at 360-795-8630, option 4.
“We have stuff. Reach out to us," Johnston said. “We’ll try our best to help.”
And she said, maybe they won’t have the funding for something a caller might need at the moment, but they might later.
“We can’t help anyone if we don’t know,” Patterson added. “Just get in here, and we can try to get creative. It might be a matter of a simple thing they didn’t know they could do. It might be a resource that is tiny, but it makes a big difference to them.”
And sometimes, she said, people just need an ear.
“We just want to get to people and let them know what’s out there,” Patterson said.