The Annual Homeless Census is managed by Thurston County, with the City of Olympia coordinating all Census activity. Census results are compiled into the County's annual "Point in Time Count of Homeless Persons Report" and reported to the state and federal governments to ensure a proportionate level of public funding for local shelters, transitional housing, and related supportive services.
"Over the past decade, we have invested millions of dollars in community-based programs and projects that have helped hundreds of homeless families and individuals get back into housing and resume their lives," said Commissioner Budd Blake. "Unfortunately, the results of our annual Homeless Census reveal that each year new people fall into homelessness due to job loss, rent increases, unmet health needs and other challenges. We need the best possible data to ensure that our limited funding goes to resources, proven programs and best practices." Commissioner Blake notes that the result of the 2019 Census will be used to chart the County's progress in its soon to be released five-year plan to reduce homelessness by half.
Locally, census results are shared with all community stakeholders - policy makers, funders, service providers, concerned citizens and the homeless themselves. The final report will also include an assessment of available resources to help people get back to independence.
New for 2018
This year, the City will go beyond the state-mandated Count of Homeless People and include a pre-dawn doorway count and a camp census. These efforts, funded directly by the City of Olympia, will focus on getting a more accurate head count in addition to collecting more detailed personal information called for in the PIT Census. While the full census will still be conducted, the City's count is intended to reveal the true number of unsheltered people and to release the results as soon as possible.
"It's critical for our County to know who the homeless are before we can address ways to help them get back on their feet and invest our resources wisely," said Olympia Councilmember Jessica Bateman, who noted that most of the existing resources are located in Olympia. "When our homeless safety net fails, it hurts our homeless neighbors, and it also impacts our downtown and neighborhoods."
The original goal of the Homeless Census was to use the data to guide efforts to reduce homelessness by half. Started in 2006, the first census found 441 homeless people, which defined the goal to reduce homelessness by half to a total of 221 homeless people. In January of 2018, the Homeless Census found a total of 835 homeless people, representing an 89% increase, or 393 more people than identified in the 2006 Census of 441 people. However, the 2018 Homeless Census results did indicate a 14% drop, or 141 person decrease, in homelessness from the 2010 all-time high of 976.
For More Information Please Contact:
Whitney Bowerman, Homeless Census Manager