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Number of homeless on the rise in San Juan County

(Editor's note: The information below is provided as a press release from San Juan County Communications Department) 

This year’s Count of Homeless Persons identified 110 people in San Juan County.

Forty-two of those people, including many children and disabled, were classified as unsheltered —  living in tents, cars, boats (not equipped with facilities for living aboard) or staying in motels (with money from churches, etc.).

The remaining 68 people, were staying in temporary, unstable living arrangements often with friends or family members — a situation commonly referred to as “couch surfing”.  

The state-required Count was conducted by San Juan County Health and Community Services on Thursday, Jan. 27.

Organizers anticipated an increase in the number of homeless people in the county due to the worldwide economic crisis and significant local business closures. This year’s count was significantly higher than last year’s, when 79 homeless were counted (29 unsheltered and 50 “couch surfers”).

Organizers caution that the Count is just a snapshot in time and the increase could be a result of the amount of effort put into the count compared with last year, rather than an actual increase in the overall number of homeless people. 

Organizers say the numbers are also an estimate at best, as it is impossible to locate and identify all homeless people and those staying with friends or family in unstable situations.

Based on this year’s results, however, and on information from churches, food banks and other organizations that help the homeless, organizers found no evidence of a decrease in the number of people consider homeless in the San Juans. 

Organizers and volunteers of the county's “Point in Time” (PIT) Count worked with local schools, food banks, churches, healthcare providers, support service counselors, youth groups, senior centers, family resource centers; the Sheriff’s department, fire and EMS departments and many other community organizations to perform the count.

The PIT was established by the Washington legislature in 2005 in the Homelessness Housing and Assistance Act (RCW 43.185c). The goal of that Act is to reduce homelessness in Washington state by 50 percent by 2015.

Results from previous PIT counts for San Juan County, and all Washington counties, are available at: www.commerce.wa.gov/site/1064/default.aspx

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