Ex-councilman now leading homeless survey effort

Sean C. Morgan

Scott McKee of Community Services Consortium is seeking volunteers to help count and gather information about the local homeless population during the last week of January.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development conducts the a “point-in-time” count every other year, said McKee, who provides support services for veterans and families with CSC, which provides short-term housing service for veterans and their families who are homeless or about to be homeless. The Albany-based CSC is a state-designated community action agency that offers services focusing on essential day-to-day survival, such as food and housing, as well as developing new skills that lead to independence through education, training, and work. Whether you need help keeping the heat on today or want help planning for your career of tomorrow, CSC is here to help.

McKee’s job is to help connect veterans and their families to available resources where they can find help.

“That requires me to do a lot of outreach,” McKee said, which means he often visits homeless encampments. “That kind of puts me in a position that makes it an easy assignment for me.”

While the federal government runs the project every other year, “we do it every year. We’re trying to build a solid database that is reliable and accurate.”

McKee said data for individual communities are not available, but it will become available as CSC develops its own database.

To get there, “we’re trying to establish a network of people, volunteers, organizations and agencies,” McKee said. While CSC takes the point on the count, “we rely on partnerships” with the homeless shelters, soup kitchens and food banks to help count.

The point-in-time count creates a picture of homelessness in Linn and Benton county communities that can help guide responses by the communities to the issue, he said.

McKee needs volunteers who will go in groups of two to the shelters, the food banks, soup kitchens, warming shelters and the streets, wherever the homeless congregate, to complete the surveys.

The volunteers carry questionnaires designed to gather demographic information as well as information about the circumstances surrounding each individual’s homelessness, such as where they sleep.

Normally, the point-in-time count is conducted in a single day, Jan. 30, McKee said, but because Linn and Benton counties are so rural and the homeless are spread out, the area has the last week of January to gather the information.

McKee said that the homeless tend to congregate in the same areas in Corvallis, but in communities like Lebanon and Sweet Home, they’re spread out and they move around a lot. They’re often on private property, which can make it more difficult to find and contact them.

Those who volunteer attend a one-hour training session, McKee said. He has group training sessions scheduled, but one-on-one training time is possible as needed. The training also covers how to talk with the homeless, who might be afraid or nervous.

CSC has a team to reach out and point the homeless to resources in Benton County, McKee said. It is creating a team right now for Linn County.

For further information or to volunteer, contact McKee at (541) 704-7638 or [email protected].