The Thurston Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) agenda-setting meeting on Tuesday, February 6, was marked by discussions surrounding the annual Point in Time Homeless Census and the Right of Way initiative.
Thurston’s Homeless Prevention Coordinator Keylee Marineau said the census was conducted at the end of January, commending the various initiatives of county staff and volunteers.
Along with the census, essential services, such as free vaccinations for flu and COVID-19, haircuts, and foot and wound care, were also provided.
Marineau explained that the census is crucial for assessing the extent of homelessness in the community.
“Our team is working diligently to get as much data as possible and as quickly as possible into HMIS or the Homeless Management Information System,” said Marineau. “We look forward to giving you that preliminary report in mid-March.”
Commissioner Tye Menser queried whether neighboring counties also conducted similar counts, expressing concerns about the representativeness of the data.
Marineau clarified that every county must conduct an annual count, but challenges exist in accurately capturing homeless populations, especially in South County areas where centralized gathering places are scarce.
Marineau also acknowledged the limitations in identifying individuals who may not self-identify as homeless or may not fit the Department of Housing and Urban Development definition.
Commissioner Carolina Mejia echoed concerns about conflicting messages, referencing a recent meeting where it was asserted that Desmond camp was not part of the Right of Way initiative, contradicting earlier indications.
Marineau said the recent focus has been on addressing camps, including the Desmond Drive site, which has been subject to discussions and actions by the Department of Enterprise Services (DEES) to manage the site's population.
Despite some confusion surrounding the inclusion of Desmond Camp in the Right of Way initiative, Marineau said efforts are underway to provide housing options for individuals living at the site.
Commissioner Gary Edwards asked for clarification on the binding name list mentioned in discussions.
Marineau explained that it serves as a comprehensive record of individuals living in encampments, ensuring prioritization for access to housing assistance.
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