Starting Tuesday, Jan. 29, the Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition is conducting a three-day point-in-time count of the area's homeless population. Southern Humboldt project coordinator Dawn Watkins will be working with a team of 8-10 volunteers, covering everything south of Fortuna. They'll be visiting encampments and surveying the residents, but they want respondents to know that participation is voluntary.
Watkins says the strategy is to send volunteers who are already known to the residents of the known encampments that will be visited. That way, they can avoid a situation where strangers are being sent into unknown circumstances where they may be unwelcome.
"That's not very safe," Watkins says, "and it's not very nice. Like sending random people out to somebody's house. That's just not how we're going to do it."
Watkins hopes that everyone understands the purpose of the point-in-time count.
"The reason that we do it is to figure out who needs what in the community. All the nonprofits and agencies in the area use this data to do what they do," Watkins added.
During the three-day count, volunteers will be inquiring about how and where respondents spent a period of time on Monday evening. They don't expect to get everybody, but all the survey information will be kept anonymous and those who choose to be surveyed will also get a dental kit and a pair of wool socks, free. In turn, the data they provide will be used to study local homeless issues and apply for grants.
"They can refuse to respond," Watkins says, "and, probably still get the socks. It's low key, not very invasive."
Plus, all the demographic information collected will be kept anonymous.