Homelessness is inching up in the Tri-Cities while affordable rental units are becoming more scarce, Benton County commissioners learned Monday.
Judith Gidley, executive director for the Benton Franklin Community Action Committee, said the changing economy is putting more people in need. That means a three-year downward trend since 2006 ended this year.
Gidley said the annual survey done in January found 433 people who said they were homeless, which is up about 13.5 percent over the homeless count for last year.
Overall, however, Gidley said it's 56 percent below the 996 people identified in the 2006 survey.
Gidley said the committee's homeless housing services helped 343 households and 666 individuals during the past six months with various housing programs involving rental assistance, temporary shelters and utility payments for a total of $519,305.
"The bicounty rental vacancy of 1 percent to 2 percent is a real challenge. People are having a hard time finding housing," Gidley told commissioners at their meeting in Prosser on Monday.
Gidley said in her report that 266 households are on a waiting list for housing help, and 45 other households have been looking from two weeks to two months for housing.
This year's homeless survey also found about one-third of the homeless population reporting some type of mental health issues, she said.
In addition, Gidley told the Herald that the homeless survey has no way of tracking teens and people in their early 20s who stay with friends, couch surfing or hanging out with acquaintances, without having a permanent address.
And she said the homeless survey also can't identify or count the region's transient population of undocumented workers.
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org