Volunteers count homeless population for annual survey
EVERETT - Volunteers scoured Snohomish County Thursday, Jan. 23 looking to collect the stories of the homeless for the annual Point in Time Homeless Count.
Preliminary figures on how many homeless people volunteers counted were unavailable by press time.
Last year the count found 1,996 people living as part of 1,151 households.
|Doug Ramsay photo
The Point in Time Count isn’t a true tally of the county’s homeless population because the numbers are based on how many people are found by volunteers willing to be interviewed that day.
Volunteers Urosh Krvavac and Jasmine Wong, two international exchange students attending Edmonds Community College, found difficulties finding homeless people on Broadway while searching part of the afternoon.
“This is an area that doesn’t look like it has a lot of homeless people,” said Wong, a 16-year-old from Hong Kong.
“Maybe with the police out, they don’t want to hang around in the afternoon,” replied Krvavac, an 18-year-old from Montenegro.
Peering through Clark Park and traveling up Broadway, the volunteers were clear across north Everett from the volunteer home base at the Salvation Army on Rucker before finding their first interviewee.
Joanie Ingram, 59, never asked to be homeless. She had a career until a fateful night 18 years ago in Colorado when someone sexually assaulted her and left her disabled in a brutal attack, she said. He hit her upside the head, forced her down and repeatedly kicked her when she fought back, she said.
She said she was walking to a Denver 7-Eleven.
These days, trying to make do, Ingram stays at the Waits Motel, a disreputable hotel on police watch lists near Providence Regional Medical Center. She pays for her $850 a month room by cashing in her Social Security Disability check and panhandling to make up the rest of the bill.
“I have a shower, cable TV, a telephone… so it equals out to renting an apartment,” Ingram said.
She started panhandling years ago to pay for a room at the now-shuttered Everett Motel on Broadway, across from the also-shuttered Best Inn.
Ingram was holding her sign on the outskirts of the Safeway on Broadway when the volunteers found her. “Signing” is how she met some of her friends such as 57-year-old Linda Roth.
Another one of their friends, a 50-year-old woman, reported to volunteers she became homeless because of domestic violence. Domestic violence is the common denominator for many homeless women.
Roth and her husband bounced in and out of homelessness after losing their place.
It’s difficult being homeless. It’s even more difficult when you’re a felon, she said.
Apartment managers won’t look twice at a felon, Roth said. She was convicted of prescription fraud, which she shrugged off as a harmless crime.
“A lot of people look down on you (for being homeless), it’s ridiculous,” interjected a homeless man overhearing the conversation.
Ingram gets questioned a lot, too.
“People come up and ask, ‘What’s your problem? Is it drugs, or is it alcohol’?” Ingram grimaced. “No, I’m hungry.”
The volunteers gave each woman a bag full of hand warmers, blankets and other goods for participating in the surveys.
Her friend Roth offered advice for what homeless need from giving strangers.
“It’s helpful when people give food and warm stuff,” Roth said.
Jodi Nelson, a 56-year-old transient in south Everett, had a similar experience being homeless for years.
“It’s really hard out there, and I fought,” Nelson said. “I tried to stay dry” sleeping in the cold but got frostbite. Nelson regularly gets pneumonia on top of a myriad of medical issues she said she has.
“It’s getting tiring,” she said. “I call all these places and they’re full up. I call one place every Monday morning and when I hang up, I cry.”
At the Salvation Army last week, Nelson got help increasing her food stamps.
Her monthly budget is $700 in Social Security Disability and $100 in food stamps, she said. One of her few points of relief is one of her friends lives in a cramped camper trailer she can occasionally stay in.
“I’m 56 years old trying to find a place of my own, I have a brain tumor that’s inoperable, PTSD and I was diagnosed as having major depression. That’s a lot,” she said.
“I want a place of my own, it’s been so long,” Nelson said.
The homeless people who participated in the Point in Time surveys received free supplies. Many got assistance signing up for the Affordable Care Act and other services.
Curtis Paramore, a veterans’ case manager for Catholic Community Services, had signed up five people for Veteran’s Administration assistance by the afternoon of the count.
A large segment of post-Vietnam, pre-Gulf War military personnel from the 1980s didn’t think they were eligible, Paramore said.
The annual count is a federal mandate in order to help the state and federal government gauge how much money to disburse to each county.
An average of 2,344 individuals were counted between 2008 and 2012, county housing and homeless services department employee Nate Marti said previously.
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