It’s a few hours on a miserably cold and wet January day. Bring a hooded jacket, a hat and gloves. Use Sharpie markers for note-taking in the rain. Come back to the office, and feel grateful for hot tea and a warm, clean, dry place to be.
For me, for a number of years, that’s been the experience of reporting on the annual Point-in-Time Count, Snohomish County’s annual survey of homelessness. This year’s count is scheduled for Jan. 23. Volunteers will fan out from sites in Everett, Arlington, Granite Falls, Monroe and Lynnwood.
For the county, the count is aimed at compiling numbers to secure state and federal money to assist the area’s most vulnerable people. For volunteers, it’s helping in that effort, in some cases offering supplies and resources, and encountering people they otherwise never would meet.
While tagging along with count volunteers, Everett police officers and social workers, I have talked with people who stay in makeshift tents along the Snohomish River. I have met homeless veterans in fast-food places, people who come into shelters only when temperatures are below freezing, and those who seek warmth in the Everett Public Library.
In 2017, the tally found 1,066 people who said they didn’t have permanent places to stay the night before being surveyed. They included 515 people without shelter, 462 in emergency shelters, and 89 in transitional housing.
New this year will be north county sites in laundry businesses at Smokey Point and Granite Falls. At all the count centers, people will find help applying for health care and food stamps. There will be coffee, snacks, hygiene kits and free socks.
Peggy Ray, a program manager with Lutheran Community Services Northwest, will oversee the count in north Snohomish County. The Suds & Duds Laundry Center on Smokey Point Drive and Tiny Bubbles Laundromat in Granite Falls will be count sites.
People who are homeless are most often looking for “housing, something to eat and somewhere they can shower,” said Ray, who manages family resource centers in Arlington, Lake Stevens and Granite Falls. Count organizers for north county decided “let’s make that happen for these people,” she said Thursday.
Doing laundry will be free for those being surveyed in north county, and there will be mobile showers. Housing navigators will be at the Smokey Point and Granite Falls sites. There will be information about substance abuse treatment from Stillaguamish Behavioral Health, health care resources from Community Health Center of Snohomish County and free meals.
A Stick it Or Stuff It food truck will provide meals at the Smokey Point site. In Granite Falls, free meals at the laundromat will be prepared by Omega Pizza & Pasta.
Social service providers have seen homelessness increase in the Smokey Point area. “It has great bus access, they can jump on a bus to get to services in Everett,” Ray said. Aware of “Keep the Change” efforts in Marysville and Arlington to discourage panhandling, Ray said, “I tell people please don’t give money.
“Give them our cards, or food,” she said. If you hand someone a dollar, she said, they just need another dollar to buy heroin or meth. “It’s $2 a hit,” Ray said.
Working with people in need, Ray has noticed an increase in those older than 50 who have lost homes or can’t afford essentials. And for the most part, she said, people who are homeless don’t come from far away.
“They’re not outsiders,” Ray said. “They are our kids, or an uncle or aunt. If they come back to Arlington, they’re actually from Arlington. They’re not typically strangers.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Snohomish County’s 2018 Point-in-Time count is scheduled for Jan. 23.
Everett: Salvation Army, 2525 Rucker Ave., 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Arlington: Suds & Duds Laundry Center, 3131 Smokey Point Drive, Arlington, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Granite Falls: Tiny Bubbles Laundromat, 112 S. Granite Ave., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Youth Count: Cocoon House U-Turn Center, 1421 Broadway, Everett, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Monroe: Take the Next Step, 202 S. Sams St., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Lynnwood: Good Shepherd Baptist Church, 6915 196th St. SW, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
Central county: Whitney Summers, email@example.com
Youth count: Claire Petersen, firstname.lastname@example.org
East county: Janos Kendall, email@example.com
South county: Nora Karena, 425-774-9843, ext. 236
North county: information at www.housinghope.org, sign up 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Jan. 23 at Life Church 360, 3131 Smokey Point Drive, Suite 1-B, Arlington.
Ready-to-eat food, hygiene supplies, socks, gloves, caps, flashlights, batteries, hand warmers, rain ponchos and similar items may be dropped at Lake Stevens Family Center, 1803 123rd Drive NE; Arlington Community Resource Center, 18308 Smokey Point Blvd.; and Granite Falls Family Center, 200 Portage Ave.