Walla Walla sees homelessness dip
Walla Walla homeless numbers go down: No one seems to know why the number dropped to 521, down from 547 in 2009 and 583 in 2008.
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
WALLA WALLA — There is some good news from the front for those battling the homeless situation in Walla Walla.
According to Walla Walla's Homeless Alliance, survey data released last week show a drop in numbers in several categories.
No one is quite sure why, however, said Susan Kralman, coordinator for Walla Walla County's 10-year plan for ending homelessness.
Kralman gathered information Jan. 28 through housing and service providers, school-district employees and people who have been homelessness, she said. Respondents did not have to answer everything and could check more than one box on many of the questions.
The number of homeless individuals reported this year dropped to 521, down from 547 in 2009 and 583 in 2008. Similarly, 294 households reported a lack of permanent housing this year, compared with 316 families last year.
"It is interesting. We are showing a decrease, which we definitely want to see and which is good, but I have no explanation for it," Kralman said. "This is a one-day count, and that can fluctuate from day to day."
The survey breaks the picture down several ways, including by age, types of disabilities, veteran status, income sources and situations leading to homelessness.
Out of those reported to be homeless, meaning they lack a permanent home, 131 were 5 or younger, 64 said they had no oral-health care, 112 struggle with substance abuse, two are 65 or older, 48 have a physical disability and 65 said they served in the U.S. military, although only 27 reported receiving veteran benefits.
The number of kids without a permanent street address is disturbing, Kralman said. "Basically, for the 2010 survey, half of the homeless people in this county are kids and that is alarming to me."
Moreover, 121 people had stayed at an emergency shelter the night before the survey was done, 226 were in transitional housing and 148 stayed with friends. Twelve people had slept in a vehicle, down from 20 in 2006 but up from seven last year. Two spent the night in an abandoned building, the report states. The number of homeless in jail, however, was 13, down from 28 in 2009.
And more people reported being homeless for long periods: Those reporting being homeless for more than a year has increased from 37 in 2008 to 46 to 2009 to 57 in 2010.
People lost their homes for different reasons, such as being evicted, facing language barriers or aging out of foster care.
Forty-one people reported they were homeless due to domestic violence, 100 people attributed their situation to substance abuse, while 39 said a poor credit rating kept them out of housing.
Addiction is the top barrier to gaining a home, according to Kralman.
"I think it's tough to get people to take steps toward treatment. That, and family breakups and lost jobs," she said. "We see this as an ongoing theme."
Just under 20 percent of the survey respondents indicated they had no income. The rest either received some form of public assistance, got money from family and friends or were employed at a low-wage job.
Getting and keeping a job is made much more difficult without a place to call home, Kralman said.
"When people are homeless, our focus is on stability and getting people into homes."
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