MOSES LAKE — Volunteers will fan out across Grant County Thursday in an effort to determine how many people are living without shelter. Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church and its partners will host an event to help people, homeless and otherwise, connect with support services. And the church will be serving its regular winter Thursday lunch to boot.
Our Lady of Fatima is located at 200 North Dale Road, Moses Lake. Lunch is served in the Fatima Center, next to the church.
The Point in Time Count and Project Homeless Connect are designed to help determine the scope of the problem in Grant County, and get services to people who can use them. Steffanie Bonwell of the Grant County Housing Authority, one of the organizers, said 2019 marks the fifth year for Project Homeless Connect.
Participating agencies and organizations in Project Homeless Connect provide information on Department of Social and Health Services signup, help for people looking for work and housing services, among other things. Preventive health care information and assistance is available, including flu shots, blood pressure checks, information on diabetes prevention and help quitting smoking.
Showers and haircuts, food packs and sanitary supplies will be available.
The church has a clothing bank which is open each Thursday, including the day of Project Homeless Connect.
Volunteers canvass the entire county, from Grand Coulee to Mattawa, Quincy to Warden, Coulee City to Moses Lake, trying to determine how many people are living homeless in each community and its surrounding area. Volunteers also distribute food packs and sanitary supplies to the people they meet, if needed. Those materials are donated by local individuals and churches.
Each town has a different method for finding and counting people, Bonwell said. In Moses Lake the volunteers contact people during Project Homeless Connect and at the warming center. Staff and volunteers from Quincy Community Health and Coulee Medical Center play important roles in Quincy and Grand Coulee respectively, and in Soap Lake it’s staffers at the food bank, Bonwell said.
She said it’s hard to know how many people the volunteers will find. The last two or three years her intuition has been right, and homelessness has been trending down in the county. This year, she said, she expects volunteers may find more people. But whether that’s because there really are more homeless, or because it’s a subject that’s getting more attention, is impossible to determine until they’re counted, she said. “I hope I’m pleasantly surprised.”
The January date for the Point in Time Count is mandated by the federal government, Bonwell said. Statewide, Washington usually experiences an uptick in homelessness during the summer, she said. But a count during the winter does help determine how many people are dealing with issues so severe they can’t find shelter in the coldest part of the year, she said.
Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.