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News / Clark County News

COVID-19 complicates Clark County annual homeless count

By Calley Hair, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 16, 2021, 5:45am

An annual count of people experiencing homelessness in Clark County was hindered this year by COVID-19, according to the Council for the Homeless.

For the 2021 Point in Time count, staff and volunteers counted only the number of people staying in shelters to avoid approaching and potentially exposing unhoused people to the coronavirus. They identified 375 sheltered people during the single-night count in January.

In 2020, 958 people experiencing homelessness were identified during the count, with 471 sheltered and 487 unsheltered. Unsheltered people are defined as those living on the street or in cars, tents, or trailers without running water or electricity.

The 20 percent decrease in sheltered, unhoused people doesn’t necessarily indicate a decrease in the number of overall unhoused people, said Kate Budd, Council for the Homeless’ executive director.

“Another factor was that fewer people were interested in congregate shelters this winter due to COVID,” Budd said in a press release on Tuesday. “Many people felt it was safer to shelter in a tent or car rather than a building, which makes sense when we are all being encouraged to socially distance.”

The Point in Time count isn’t meant to serve as a comprehensive report on the status of homelessness in the community, but rather one tool of many to track trends.

The 2021 Pount In Time also found:

An overall reduction in the number of emergency shelter beds due to social distancing restrictions;

A 23 percent increase of people in transitional housing over last year, due to a new X-Change Recover program;

An increase in the number of chronically homeless families living in shelters.

Past Point in Time count reports can be viewed at www.councilforthehomeless.org/point-in-time-count/.

Columbian staff writer