On January 26 and 27 volunteers will be working to connect people struggling with housing insecurity and homelessness to resources to prevent homelessness and alleviate housing insecurity.

Annually the Point in Time Count takes place during the last weeks of January to better understand who is homeless and what services they are using or not using. Last year 36 people participated in the count from Ravalli County.

Talking to people like John Filz at Ravalli Head Start, Stacey Umhey at S.A.F.E., Gary Locke at the Bitterroot Family Shelter, Jim Morton at the Human Resource Council and Fidelis Temukum the Coordinator at the new Salvation Army Office on Main Street in Hamilton it is clear there are way more than 36 homeless people in Ravalli County.

Here is some of what I have learned since becoming involved with the Bitterroot Task Force on Homelessness and Housing on Oct. 25 of this year.

A person or family can be troubled with housing insecurity in they earn less than 80 percent of the median income and pay 50 percent or more of their income on rent. The per capita income for Ravalli County is $22,516 the median household income is $38,366. The median rent is about $8,242 annually.

So anyone brining home less than $16,484 a year can easily be considered housing insecure and at risk of becoming homeless. Census data indicates that as many as 11,795 people in Ravalli County fall into this category.

Here are a couple stories Gary Locke recently shared with me.

A single mom with two girls, 7 and 9 years old, SAFE has done everything they can for her. She has found a job in a small senior care facility but, it doesn’t pay enough to become self-sufficient and get into a rental.

An older couple on Social Security who is raising their 14-year-old grandson in their fifth wheel camper trailer that had a gas leak and they had to vacate it. While that was being repaired and the unit was empty, the water line broke in the cold weather. They found a rental they could afford, but the landlord doesn’t have it in livable condition yet.

In December, the Salvation Army helped about nine families with rental assistance, 3 with energy bills, 1 with water bill, four with emergency housing assistance (hotel) and about 33 with gas, diapers, food, hygiene supplies, etc.

This is just a snap shot constrained by the limits of an op-ed article. The need is greater than we know. If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity encourage them to call 211 and participate in the January 26 & 27 Point in Time Count.

If you would like to help with the Point in Time Count you can contact me at tim@tppeterson.us.

– Tim Peterson, Corvallis

President, Board of Directors Bitter Root RC&D and Valley Veterans Service Center