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Kitsap homeless population on the rise

"Kitsap's homeless population has grown considerably, from about 450 in 1994 to 730 out of a total population of roughly 230,000 in 2001, according to data gathered during a recent homeless count.I was totally stunned at the final number - not that I don't believe it, but because we were able to connect with so many people, said Corky Senecal, housing manager for Kitsap Community Resources and president of the Washington Coalition for the Homeless. Some of the biggest surprises that came out of the survey were the number of homeless people who have jobs, the nearly even split between men and women and the number of children.A total of 319 homeless women was counted, 112 of them younger than 18; 360 men were counted, 115 under 18. These numbers add up to only 679 because 51 of the surveys did not include the gender of the subject.The survey sought to determine where the homeless slept, and included responses for temporary housing; transitional housing; unsafe housing, such as a domestic violence situation, a crack house or another substandard structure; emergency housing; and other, which included in a car, under a bridge or in the streets. Seventy-two of the people interviewed, (35 men and 37 women) about 10 percent of the total, reported earning income. That percentage grows if you consider only those older than 18.It flies in the face of the argument that if you would try harder, you could get off the streets, said John Wise, executive director of the West Sound Treatment Center, which treats drug and alcohol addiction. These folks are overwhelmed by a bunch of other things - it's easy to simplify things like that, though.The survey also revealed that many of the people counted had special needs, or problems that might complicate their ability to get into permanent housing. Special needs listed on the survey card were drug or alcohol addiction, developmental disability, domestic violence, physical disability, mental health issues, veteran status and pregnant or parenting teen status. Of those surveyed, 289 listed one or more special needs.This was no surprise to Martha Voorhees, director of the YWCA Alive program. She noted that about 75 percent of domestic violence survivors served by her program have special needs.They have other things going on, like drugs or mental health (problems), she said. It's the mental health people that we don't know what to do with.One common myth debunked by the count is that the homeless population is mainly from other parts of the country.It's my sense that most of our homeless are residents, because we are not on a main thoroughfare, said Major Jim Baker of the Salvation Army. My impression is that these are people who grew up here. "

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