Volunteers hit Tri-City streets to count homeless

Nearly 80 volunteers will hit the streets, food banks and jails today for the annual effort to count the homeless in the community.

The event aims to raise awareness about homelessness throughout Benton and Franklin counties, as well as establish a baseline of the area’s homeless population to track progress toward reducing homelessness.

“It’s the awareness factor — ‘Hey, where do I go for help?’ ” said Cricket Cordova, with the Benton Franklin Community Action Committee.

Volunteers not only will be out in the community talking with the homeless, but any other community members in need of help.

“I think also the presence in the community lets us get the information out,” said Tracy Diaz, the Community Action Committee’s director of community services. “I think sometimes people aren’t aware what’s available to them or how to access these services.”

The Community Action Committee hopes volunteers will spread the word about services the organization offers, such as help with utility bills, housing eviction prevention, rental assistance, prescription help and winterization programs that lower utility bills.

“It’s about the prevention piece” before people reach homelessness, said Debra Biondolillo, the Community Action Committee’s director of supportive housing.

“And knowing it’s OK to ask,” Diaz added.

More volunteers -- especially volunteers who speak Spanish and other languages -- are needed for today’s day-long count.

Those interested in volunteering for the Homeless Bi-County Point in Time Count can contact Cordova this morning by calling 509-545-4042 or by stopping by volunteer headquarters at 720 W. Court St. in Pasco.