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Point in Time count aims to capture scope of homelessness in Pierce County

The survey tallies up how many people are experiencing homelessness and makes note of what may have contributed to their situation.

BONNEY LAKE, Wash. — Puyallup and Pierce County council members worked alongside volunteers on Friday to gather the stories of those experiencing homelessness in Bonney Lake.

Their goal was to complete the Point in Time count for Pierce County, a survey required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Washington State Department of Commerce intended to capture the magnitude and scope of homelessness in the region. 

The count attempts to tally up how many people are experiencing homelessness and make note of what may have contributed to their situation. 

Kathy Hall, who has volunteered in past Point in Time counts, says the survey helps shed light on important questions. 

“Why are people experiencing homelessness? How long have they been in homelessness? What type of support are they going to need to assist them, whether it’s mental health, insurance, physical disabilities?” Hall said.

The answers are meant to help inform Pierce County's homelessness response. 

According to last year’s count, 1,005 people were homeless in Pierce County. Of those people, 50% were people of color, 41% were female, 24% were domestic abuse survivors, and 11% were families with children.

Homeless advocates have also criticized the Point in Time count, arguing it's not an effective approach and only provides a snapshot of the full problem. 

Nicole, who lives in her car in Bonney Lake, says the stigma may prevent people from coming forward and seeking help.  

“I think a lot of people are embarrassed, I mean it’s embarrassing for me,” she said. “But I don’t know what to do anymore, I used up all my resources. I don’t know what to do.”

Deputy Mayor Ned Witting hopes this count can serve as a baseline to secure resources so Pierce County can do more for its most vulnerable residents.

“I met one gentleman who was working up in Seattle, had a full-time job working a grave shift in Seattle, and drove down to Puyallup to a safe parking facility because he didn’t feel safe in Seattle,” he said. “So he works full-time, commutes back and forth, and lives in his car. We should be able to do better than that.”