County’s survey on homelessness underestimates numbers

Point-in-time count

Giving undercount of the problem

Snohomish County had its Point-in-Time Count on Jan. 24 (“Annual homeless county aims to give snapshot of housing crisis,” The Herald, Jan. 25). This annual event calls for volunteers to go out into the community to gather data about how many people are living without housing.

This was my first year volunteering with the county in Everett, and quite frankly possibly my last. My experience was a pleasant, though infuriating, one. The reason I am actively choosing not to participate again is because of how the county runs the count.

I had assumed that the aim was to get an accurate count; that is to say, a head count for every person the volunteers could accurately identify as being houseless. Instead, what I learned and led to my fury is that only those who chose to fill out our questionnaire would be included in the count. My fury boiled more when I found out the city I in which I had volunteered consciously chose to clear all the camps the weekend before the count. The result is a severe undercount.

I encourage those who want to help alleviate the struggles of homelessness to reach out to Snohomish County Council to tell them that this undercount does no favors to anyone. Not enough resources will be allocated. Those who need the most help will get the least. In my time on the streets, the most important piece I learned is that what those who live on the street want the most is agency, to be able to care for themselves without arbitrary rules that dehumanizes them when they do seek help.

This problem is multifaceted and requires more than one avenue to fix it. Unnecessary bureaucracy, in the form of a must-be-completed survey, adds an extra barrier that need not exist.

Saffron Coelho

Lake Stevens

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