Volunteers vital to putting on Spokane’s census of homeless people

SPOKANE, Wash. — A notably large group of volunteers will be conducting Spokane’s annual “Everybody Counts Campaign” to survey people who are homeless in the area.

Bob Peeler will be one of the people polling Thursday night. He’s been working with Spokane Neighborhood Action Program (SNAP) for decades. As a member of SNAP’s homeless outreach team, he’s used to meeting those who live on the street. During the point-in-time count, he’ll have more help than usual.

“I love it. I get to talk to people from all different stages,” Peeler said.

Peeler will join a little more than 200 volunteers. Many will be spread to polling stations that span from downtown Spokane to the far corners of the county. At each location, volunteers hand out supplies and ask people about their living situations.

That information not only gives the city insight into how many people are homeless, but why. That data will go on to influence future grants and financial decisions for local groups and the City of Spokane.

“Spokane has a lot of good resources. We just need to find the mix that’s gonna fit that person at that time,” Peeler said.

City of Spokane Homeless Management Information System Administrator David Lewis said the city has moved toward a more tech-savvy approach to counting in recent years. Years ago, data was recorded on paper. Now volunteers input information through an app called Counting Us.

That’s not the only recent change. Lewis said there’s been more of a focus to reach homeless people living beyond the downtown core, whether they’re in Liberty Lake or Deer Park.

Carrying out this large of a task requires a lot of volunteer power. This year, people turned out in surprising numbers.

“I was blown away by how many volunteers we had this year,” Lewis said.

Lewis said a little more than 200 people offered their time.

“It’s just such a great community and there are people that really care and a lot of them,” Lewis said.

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