Homeless census covers more ground than ever

SPOKANE, Wash. - Volunteers across Spokane County are canvassing city streets and shelters - counting the homeless.

The annual "Point-in-Time" count is a snapshot census of people experiencing homeless in the Spokane community.

This year's census is the largest ever - covering parts of Deer Park, Spokane Valley, and Cheney. Inside the Union Gospel Mission Thursday, volunteers listened and collected information from dozens of homeless people eager to chime in.

"I've heard a lot about illness. I've heard a lot about family rejection, evictions, lack of affordable housing, lack of jobs," said volunteer Chelsa McDaniel.

The survey includes questions about substance abuse, mental health, and where people slept on the night of January 25. The information is used by the city and local charities to uncover gaps in homeless services. The data is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development since Spokane receives federal funding for homeless services.

Spokane is one of three cities in the country using an app called Counting Us. It collects survey responses more efficiently and maps where each interview was conducted.

In 2017, volunteers counted 1,090 homeless people in the Spokane community - an 11 percent increase from 2016.