CSC calls for volunteers in PIT count

By Kristy Tallman

It’s that time of year when the rural areas of Oregon begin counting the homeless population in an effort to receive funding for their areas throughout the upcoming year.The survey is called a PIT (Point In Time) count that’s basically a snapshot of the current numbers of homeless in an area. States are required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to submit the data every year.

The survey – which will be taking place in Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties – will be completed by the Community Services Consortium (CSC). The CSC helps people in these counties to access tools and resources to overcome poverty and homelessness along with an array of other resources for those communities.

“It is like a census of the homeless population, and it’s the only federally recognized number,” said Scott McKee, who coordinates the count for CSC.

A wide shot of the homeless camp situated next to SHPD.

The federal government uses these numbers to decide what amount of funding each state will receive for their populations, which are growing every day. It is imperative to get accurate counts as these are also the numbers the states use to determine each location’s monetary allocations by the governor.

“We need them to know the accurate numbers so we can get our fair share of resources to address the issues,” McKee said, noting that it’s not just a matter of federal dollars. “When our governor, Tina Kotek, took office one of the first things she did was three emergency declarations, all of them surrounding homelessness, and the only meter she was willing to use to decide who got access to that funding – tens of millions of dollars –was the Point in Time count data.”

Oregon’s homeless population has grown to the extent where it now has the second largest population of homeless in the nation.

Last year’s study showed that, in the state of Oregon, 713 more families experienced homelessness in 2023 than 2022. It also showed that unaccompanied youth grew by 358 when compared to 2022 data. It was this same survey that created a snapshot of the growing loss of housing Oregonians seem to be facing. In total, 2,183 more people became homeless in the state with the homeless population growing from 17,959 to 20,142.

Each year, getting an accurate count, especially in rural areas, presents its challenges. Unlike larger cities with high density populations of homeless people, in the smaller areas of Oregon, those folks aren’t always so easily seen.

Those who are experiencing homelessness in these areas tend to find ways to keep off grid for safety and anonymity.

“Conducting a head count of those experiencing homelessness, particularly those who are not in shelter, is an overwhelming task,” CSC Housing Services Manager Dina Eldridge said. “Homelessness is isolating and scary, and many people who are forced to sleep in their car or pitch a tent in the woods do not want people to find them.”

With the considerable feat ahead the CSC is seeking community help.

“We do our best to get a snapshot of the problem with the understanding that the true number is undoubtedly larger, but unknown,” Eldridge said. “The amount of support we get from volunteers and donations makes a monumental difference in the count, and all the ripple effects from it in our region.”

“Oregon’s housing crisis impacts all of us,” CSC Communications Officer Karla Garrett added. “More of our community members are experiencing homelessness than ever before. The PIT count is just one way to help get more resources to the people that need them and make our communities safer and healthier for all.”

The count will be conducted Jan. 22 through the end of the month, with a variety of volunteer shift times and days available. New volunteers are paired with experienced people and use the app CountingUs to conduct the survey.

Unable to volunteer but still want to support the PIT count? Donations support volunteer work, provide gift cards for essential resources, meals and more for the unhoused. Donate today at givebutter.com/csc-pit or text “PIT” to 53-555.

To learn more about volunteering for the PIT count, email [email protected] or call 541-758-2604.