Each year, the Opportunity Council does a point in time count of unsheltered community members. The most recent survey put our Orcas homeless population at 52. This number includes folks living in vehicles, tents, sheds, and those who may be couch surfing.  It includes the elderly as well as young, folks who are temporarily down on their luck and also those who have chronic mental health issues.

Prior to the pandemic, many of these folks strung together a series of services to manage their lives–showering at Moran State Park, warming up inside the Library, stopping in at the Orcas Community Resource Center, having a warm lunch at the Community Church during the food bank days or dinner at Emmanuel during dinner kitchen nights. The churches also coordinate a Cold Weather Shelter for nights when the temperature dropped below freezing.

Now many of these supports have gone dark due to Covid, and with the weather changing the situation is bleak. OCRC and OPAL are continuing to run the Shelter program–providing temporary shelter, skilled case management, and essential services to a handful of the most vulnerable. These efforts are funded through OICF’s Community Emergency Response Fund. Gratefully, several organizations and private individuals have stepped up to provide space.

While this has been a good temporary solution, there is a need for a long term fix. This week, OICF hosted a conversation focused on creating that long-range plan with representatives from OPAL, OCRC, the faith-based communities, the Sheriff’s department, Senior Services, the Library, and the paramedics union. We will be meeting over the next few months to identify revenue streams, good models, and possibilities for sheltering on Orcas. Hopefully, we can find a good solution.

On another note, I mentioned that OCRC was looking for furniture for a few new residents of April’s Grove. That need has been filled! Thank you. Both OPAL and OCRC are no longer seeking furnishings.

I hope you have a cozy weekend,