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Volunteers Count Central Oregon's Homeless

BEND, OR -- Central Oregon’s “point-in time” homeless count took place Wednesday at more than a dozen sites throughout the tri-county area. Cody Standiford is Co-chair of the Homeless Leadership Coalition. He tells KBND News, "We need data in order to be able to apply for federal funding. Not only is the data very important so we can collect the numbers of homeless in our tri-county area, but that also, as a community, helps us understand what the problem really is and how we might be able to start tackling that, moving forward."
Volunteers also visited homeless camps during the one-day count, to try and connect with those who may be unable or unwilling to stop at a count site. Standiford says the effort also allows volunteers to connect directly with a vulnerable population. "If we can help identify folks and know where they’re at so that we can, as service providers, start targeting services to those areas – that’s the biggest hurdle is finding people. A lot of people don’t necessarily want to be found. So, once we find them, we can start providing individualized services. Everybody’s story’s a little different and everybody has a little different need."
The count takes place every two years. In 2015, they identified 2,087 who said they didn't have permanent housing, 43% were under the age of 18. Standiford expects that number to be higher, this year. Although, when work began at Bend’s United Methodist Church, Wednesday morning, he was concerned the weather would keep some from participating. "This has been one of the harder winters in the last couple decades, and we’re standing out here in downtown Bend and there are at least 50 people down here that are living outside in these conditions while we all sit nice and snug and warm in our homes and offices. It adds a little sense of urgency to it, for sure."  
Fellow Coalition Co-Chair Molly Taroli tells KBND News, "You know, it’s cold and it’s not going to be easy to find people outside, trying to do the count. But, what we have done, I believe, is a really good job with our community partners saying, ‘how can we do better this year and get a better count.’ So, how can we find people to make sure that we’re doing our job, this year?" Despite the weather, Standiford is confident they'll be able to contact most people. "Our partners, who work with these people daily, have a rapport, so they’re able to access them a little better. If we just walk up to someone cold and say, ‘Hi, I’m Cody and I want to count you,’ we may not get a real warm response. We’re really counting on those partnerships like at United Methodist Church, and it makes it just a little more comfortable to say, ‘you know me; I’m going to ask you these questions and I promise I’m not going to give it to the FBI and nobody’s going to come find you."
The data will be compiled over the next few days.  A full report likely won’t be made public until spring.  

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