SPOKANE, Wash. - With the help of volunteers, the City of Spokane will count and contact the city's homeless population in shelters and on the streets.
The annual snapshot census, known as the Point-in-Time count, provides the city and local non-profits a wealth of information about the people they help.
"It's more than just a number and a count. It's some demographic information, some understanding of what drove them to this situation and kind of where they're at in this process because everybody is a little different," said city spokesman Brian Coddington.
During the 2017 count, 1,090 homeless people were recorded - an 11 percent increase from 2016. 13 percent were unsheltered and staying in places like parks, abandoned buildings, or on the street. 2017 also saw a 15 percent increase in homeless vets.
"Once you get a person stable, and in a housing environment where they know where they're going to sleep every night, it becomes much, much easier to help them with those other situations in their life," Coddington said.
The annual survey is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development since Spokane receives federal and state funds to support homeless services. The city uses the data to compete for even more funding for housing, mental health counseling, substance abuse, and employment programs, among other things.
"If it shows we're being successful in terms of our programs, that's certainly helpful in finding grant money and other types of investment in the community," Coddington said.
In the past, volunteers have used pen and paper to collect information, but this year they have an app called Counting Us. Volunteers will be able to enter information in real time.
"That will help us get data back quicker. In years past there's been several months lag time," Coddington said. All that does is just push us down the road for funding and for solutions."