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News / Health / Clark County Health

Point-in-Time Count: Annual survey of homeless people, resource fair give advocates way to reach those in need

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter, and
Alexis Weisend, Columbian staff reporter
Published: January 25, 2024, 5:50pm
4 Photos
Josiah Rhodes of Vancouver, from left, comforts his four-legged friend, Molly, as she gets a free toenail trim from Christy Gifford of Humane Society for Southwest Washington during Project Homeless Connect Thursday morning at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Vancouver. Rhodes&rsquo; aunt, Cheri Rhodes, watches nearby. The event is the largest resource fair for homeless people in Clark County.
Josiah Rhodes of Vancouver, from left, comforts his four-legged friend, Molly, as she gets a free toenail trim from Christy Gifford of Humane Society for Southwest Washington during Project Homeless Connect Thursday morning at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Vancouver. Rhodes’ aunt, Cheri Rhodes, watches nearby. The event is the largest resource fair for homeless people in Clark County. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Point-in-Time Count, a federally required count of homeless people in each county across the United States, creates a database of thousands of rows of data.

Behind one row of data will be Corey Elvetici, a young man living in a homeless camp taking care of his 64-year-old mother, who also lives in the camp.

Although he’s been homeless in Vancouver for five years, Thursday was the first time canvassers reached him to respond to the annual survey. Outreach workers asked him questions and invited him to Project Homelessness Connect, Clark County’s largest annual resource fair for homeless and low-income residents.

“They give you food and clothes. I didn’t know they did that,” he said.

13 Photos
Maggie March of MetroMan Hair Salon in Portland, top, gives Robert Hayes of Vancouver a fresh trim during Project Homeless Connect at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Thursday morning, Jan. 25, 2024.
Point in Time Count & Project Homeless Connect Photo Gallery

Volunteers and housing advocates trekked through mud and shouted over freeway noise to conduct their count and connect people to resources. The local data they collect will feed into a national database that’s meant to capture a snapshot of American homelessness in one day.

In 2023, the U.S. saw a 12 percent increase in homelessness from the year before. Clark County’s homeless population jumped by 9 percent from 2022.

The count is not only a way to understand how many people are homeless; it also helps connect people to resources and build trust with providers.

Some of the questions can be awkward to ask, such as those about sexual orientation and mental health conditions. But outreach workers said it helps that they have spoken to many of the people in the camps before.

“Sometimes, it is hard asking the question. Ultimately, they are pretty open once they know who you are,” said Brian Starbuck of Council for the Homeless.

One-stop shop

By 10 a.m. Thursday, dozens of booths packed St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Vancouver for Project Homeless Connect. People received haircuts, dental and medical care, assistance getting a driver’s license and addiction treatment information.

Although called Project Homeless Connect, the annual event assists a wide array of residents. As inflation and cost of living have risen in recent years, many Clark County residents are looking for assistance.

Marina Boyeas lives in Vancouver Housing Authority’s subsidized Lincoln Place. After moving out of a women’s shelter, she needed a haircut and some new clothes for herself and her daughter.

Volunteers gave her two sweatshirts, a coat and a pink pair of running shoes.

“I’d rather be at the mall or Macy’s, but I can’t afford it. So this is cool,” Boyeas said.

Domenoch Carr, who used to live at Vancouver’s first Safe Stay, sat at a table with brochures surrounding him. He combed through a Veterans Assistance pamphlet that he plans to give to his mom, a veteran.

“I saw the booth and I was like, ‘I believe my mother could use this.’ She needs assistance,” Carr said.

Council for the Homeless worked with Couve Collective to plan the event.

“We want to give (people) something tangible, that they can hold on to and see that change is possible,” said Felicia Hubach, co-founder of Couve Collective, a nonprofit. “Because that’s the biggest thing when you’re homeless, feeling that hopelessness. Where do I go? What should I do? This is a one-stop shop where they can find a progressive path forward.

“The goal here is that they walk away with hope.”

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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