Monday, November 12, 2018

Washington State is one of THREE states that will not get fresh milk for their food banks until April 2019

by Lindsay Morgan Tracy

According to the National Dairy Council, “The body of science indicates that eating nutritious dairy foods — such as milk, cheese and yogurt — improves bone health, especially in children and adolescents. They are also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure in adults.”
Thank you for letting me share this piece. Last week after the amazing Poverty to Possibilities summit, I took some of the leftover muffins to a food bank that was open on the evenings so that their clients could enjoy them. (As a side note, I love it when food banks are open during nontraditional times during the week as we know so many folks are working during the day and can’t hit up a food bank that’s only open 9am – 4pm).
As we recently learned in the ALICE report, 42% of our county is struggling to make ends meet or they are in poverty. This is up 10% from two years ago. This is staggering. When many households have to choose to pay rent, utilities or food, they choose to pay rent/utilities and will head to a food bank to get food.
Now back to my night after the UWPC event. I headed to a food bank and got there 10 minutes before it opened. I met with the warehouse manager and weighed the food and a high school volunteer immediately started putting the muffins in individual baggies. As I looked up from the scale, I noticed tons and tons of cereal on the top shelves. OODLES of cereal?!
My contact was busy working to accommodate me and our last minute donation and help manage expectations from the many volunteers in the food bank. Then I couldn’t help but notice the influx of people into the food bank. Now, this food bank isn’t in an urban area. It’s rural so people have to take the time to get there. My contact was busy helping volunteers look for specific items, such as chicken soup as a mom was looking for some - - either boxed or canned - - for her little girl who was sick. “Sorry, we don’t have any this week,” I heard. Ugh.
Then I learned that there is no milk in the state for the food banks. This caused me to pause. The area in the warehouse that had tons of cereal would be distributed to clients but with no milk. This made me think that it’s just like giving crayons to kids and then telling them there was no paper.  I learned that Washington State was one of three states that did not receive bids from local milk vendors therefore it’s very likely that there will be no fresh milk for our food banks from last month to March 2019. While there are plans to work with the dairy industry to get local bids, this is a gap with our food partners that many people do not know about.
What can we do?
·         Help fundraise with “Dollars for Dairy” for your local food bank - here is an example of what you can do.
·         Ask your legislators what they can do and ask for a timeline.
·         Make a monetary donation designated for milk to your local food bank.
·         Volunteer time at a food bank.
·         Work with United Way’s Hunger-Free Pierce County initiative to stay abreast of the work.
Dr. Michael McAfee challenged us to be dogged about our work. YES! He also said we are here because our institutions have lost their capacity to serve. He was spot on. I got up at 4am to write this as I know those folks in the food bank are my people. They need to be of all our people as Dr. McAfee said.
As I left the food bank, I noticed so many kids outside happily playing in the dark while their parents or caregivers received food. And then I got in my truck and slowly started to drive away from the small food bank. It reminded me of the end of the movie Field of Dreams. There were so many cars in the parking lot and more cars pulling up with their lights on. As the camera pans up and out, the cars continue for miles. While the cars didn’t continue for miles in my case, it was lengthy and one where I hope anyone would be truly uncomfortable. But more importantly, I want people to act and advocate. I will.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Free Summer Meals for Kids Kicks Off in Pierce County

The CenturyLink team takes a break with Rhubarb,
the Rainier mascot.

One in six children struggles with hunger and many children who rely on school meals, struggle to get enough to eat during the summer months. This fact is unacceptable to United Way of Pierce County as well as many local health and human service partners that are fighting hunger. Together, they are helping to provide kids with nutritious food at various sites during the summer months (from June 25-August 30).

More than 100 children, families and volunteers turned out for the kickoff event held at the Drake Apartment complex in Tacoma, sponsored by CenturyLink. It brought employees from across CenturyLink  departments together to learn more and by rolling up their sleeves to dig into the work—with activities focused on activities with books and serving food.

“We are glad we had the opportunity to help United Way celebrate the worldwide Day of Action, and we had a great time helping the children at the Drake Apartments with summer learning activities! We are thrilled with this partnership because it brings home the work that needs to be done to support children and families in Pierce County.” --Robert Betancourt, Manager, Regional Operations, CenturyLink.

In addition to offering free, nutritious meals, several of the sites provide an incentive for children to participate in summer enrichment programs, which means that children are not only well fed, but engaged in academic and recreational activities.

“The Summer Meals program ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session,” said Lindsay Morgan Tracy, Vice President, Community Impact and Engagement for United Way of Pierce County. “Last year, Summer Meals partners served more than150,000 meals, but because of barriers to accessing sites, like transportation, limited walkability and awareness, only 20% of the children who qualified for free school meals, were able to participate in the program.”

Raising awareness and advocating for important food assistance programs like SNAP are part of the hunger puzzle. Earlier this year, United Way along with many partners worked with legislators to ensure that Breakfast After the Bell (House Bill 1508) passed to help address student hunger and increase family financial stability by making breakfast part of the school day – just like lunch. 

Summer Meals is a federally funded program providing free lunches and sometimes breakfast and snack, for any child 18 and younger who lives within a qualified school area or neighborhood area. To qualify, schools must have 50% or more students signed up for the free and reduced price lunch program.

The majority of sites receive federal reimbursement for qualified sites. There are challenges with serving schools and neighborhoods where there are hungry children, but not enough to meet the 50% USDA threshold. Some nonprofit organizations are using the private pay model to ensure children are fed, while others partners host serving sites where there are hungry kids, but the sites do not qualify under USDA guidelines. These sites receive funding through private donations and grants.

Summer Meals partners are: Bethel School District, Boys & Girls Clubs, Clover Park School District, Families Unlimited Network, Food Backpacks 4 Kids, Franklin Pierce School District, Metro Parks, Orting Food Bank, Pierce County Library System, Prairie Ridge Community Center, St. Leo Food Connection, Sumner School District and YMCA of Pierce & Kitsap Counties. 

To learn more, visit to find sites, locations, dates and times or you may call South Sound 2-1-1 by simply dialing 2-1-1 for more information.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Sew Kind! The Gift is in the Giving

A quilt is a special gift, one that can spread comfort to those in need. Just take a look around our own community and think, ‘who needs a quilt?’ Homeless shelters, women’s shelters and hospitals are a great place to start.

United Way of Pierce County has been procuring items for individuals and families in need in our community for many years and there are a number of local businesses and donors who have contributed. 

However, few of the donations are as personal as the gift of homemade quilts pieced together by two secret sewing angels, who have taken their passion in pursuit of providing comfort.

As you can imagine, it takes time, effort and money to make these quilted blankets.  However, the quilting duo (who chose not share their names) think everyone deserves sweet comfort, especially members of our community who may be forgotten or overlooked.

The women are members of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Tacoma where their church sponsors a group called ‘Sew Kindness.’ 

“We have been members of this sewing group for approximately twelve years.  In the beginning, our group was quite large but now there are just a few of us left.  The church generously donates a space to meet, set up and work each week.  They also provide us with an area to store all of our sewing supplies.”

For the past several years, they have applied for and received grants through the Thrivent Financial Group, which is a Lutheran financial and insurance company based in Minnesota. They receive these grants through a special program they call Thrivent Action Team Projects. These monetary stipends assist in accomplishing community-based project goals and objectives. 

“We feel very blessed to be able to receive these funds to pay for supplies and materials for our quilting group.  Although we have no knowledge of who receives our blankets, we know that through United Way of Pierce County’s Gifts In Kind program,  they are being distributed to deserving families in need.”

According to Phyllis Roepke, Sr. Associate, Gifts In Kind, United Way of Pierce County, “There is just nothing that compares to the comfort of a handmade quilt that has been pieced together with love.”

On a related note, we are sad that Phyllis will be retiring in June after more than 10 years with United Way, but we are so happy that she will be pursuing personal dreams. Phyllis has made a herculean effort in acquiring donations from companies that include the Men’s Wearhouse, IKEA, Bed, Bath and Beyond and other regional businesses as well as member organizations like churches and women’s groups and of course, local families.

Pete Grignon, CFO, United Way of Pierce County noted, “Phyllis brings joy and enthusiasm to the job that is hard to replace. She has organized our annual holiday toy and book drive as well as getting beautiful professional attire that boosts job seekers’ confidence. She will be missed and never forgotten.” 

If you or someone you know would like to make a gift of new or unused clothing, office furniture, home furnishings, appliances, toys, bedding and toiletries, please contact us at 253-597-7485.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Community-Minded Students Inspire Others through Leadership

Willie Stewart became a pioneer in 1970 when he was named to lead Lincoln High School and he became the Tacoma School District’s first African American principal. He made a name for himself by setting the standard for success by living his true purpose and having a positive impact on the lives of people by uplifting them and inspiring them to think and act in ways that they may not have considered before. His leadership in the Pierce County community is truly inspiring.
Willie Stewart and his friend, Karl Anderson, co-founded the Willie Stewart Community Service Scholarship 19 years ago to honor the commitment and dedication of students across Pierce County who give back to their community.

On May 31, United Way of Pierce County was proud to commemorate Willie Stewart’s contributions to Pierce County, during an awards ceremony. The scholarship ceremony recognized 19 high school seniors who have given back to their community, locally and globally, through volunteer service.

Stewart noted in his remarks that after he served in the Army and later became Superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools, he realized the importance of serving your community. He wanted to find a way to recognize the hard working students who dedicate their time and energy to community service.

“There is no other place I would rather be than right here honoring these youth who give us hope and who deserve to be recognized.”-- Willie Stewart.

Hats off to: Reese Anselmi, Rimpal Bajwa, Kelsey Bell, Aaron Crook, Callisa DeHut, Alyssa Gries, Samantha Griffith, Madeline Lambert, Michelina Luong, Sidney Mueller, Lina Park, Kelly Phan, Angel Reddy, Mackenzie Richards, Eve Robinson, Alexis Tisby, Spencer Wesenberg, Hannah Wisti and Caroline Yi.

One recipient said she was 'delighted to receive the scholarship in the first place and it also helps to relieve some of the financial burden on me and my family.'  All students and families shared that they were both honored and glad to meet Mr. Stewart.  

One parent noted that this scholarship is a unique opportunity to show appreciation for the efforts of these students to engage with the community, beyond participating in their school activities and ‘I hope it continues so my younger daughter can apply.’

It's impressive today to see so many young people taking charge to lead positive change. We salute the fine young people who accepted the Willie Stewart award and we are eager to hear how they will choose to use servant leadership to improve conditions for others.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

AmeriCorps Gets Things Done

In Celebration of National Community Service Week, we salute our AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) members who complete a year of national service at United Way of Pierce County. VISTA members serve as a catalyst for change, living and working alongside community members to advance local solutions. 
Michealea and Natasha at Walker High School

Michealea Lemons, the Education VISTA and Natasha Laitila, the Hunger-Free Pierce County VISTA, network with community leaders about how to address issues of poverty within Pierce County. 

Michealea assists in managing the Education programs at United Way, which include READ United: Afterschool, READ United: Summer Learning and Lil Readers. She also attends community meetings and outreach fairs to inform locals about community service opportunities.  

Natasha assists in organizing and managing cooking demonstration volunteer programs for food banks, creates and builds collaborative relationships among 30+ organizations by facilitating the Hunger-Free Pierce County Collaborative, Power Packs Partners Network and Pierce County Summer Meals. 

By connecting the community with United Way, our VISTAs are creating a partnership that will have long lasting benefits. Through their efforts, they are helping to lay a foundation for sustainable programming and community engagement. Both VISTAs are gearing up for United Way’s Summer Meals and Summer Learning Programs-- focused on feeding children in high need, low resource areas, simultaneously provide books
to read and volunteers facilitate the work. 

LIVE United with our VISTA's and United Way of Pierce County by visiting or to see how you can give back to the community. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Go Further with Food

Submitted by Guest Blogger Shawn Paton, Director, Volunteer Engagement, Community Building & Investments, United Way of Pierce County

In Pierce County, where obesity and chronic disease diagnosis rates are higher than the national average, nutrition education is an important piece to increasing the health and well-being of our residents. Health-related issues directly attributable to food insecurity include: asthma, COPD, type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis, gout, lupus, fibromyalgia, as well as anemia and hospitalizations for children. Indirect health costs related to hunger include dental issues, increased doctor and emergency room visits and increased need for prescription medications.

What contributes to poor nutrition?

One in six households in our community cannot afford enough food for all household members to lead healthy lives.

Some families lack transportation, so they are unable to access grocery stores or even food banks. For those living in food deserts-- where the closest food source is a corner store or mini-mart featuring high priced, unhealthy food options-- it is difficult to find affordable, high-quality fresh food. For some, the barrier is knowledge about how to plan meals, shop on a budget or prepare healthy meals at home.

In the past, cooking skills were passed down from generation to generation, but this trend has been broken, with many parents working multiple jobs to make ends meet leaving little time for home-cooked meals, resulting in millions of people across the country lacking even the most basic food preparation skills. The Hunger-Free Pierce County Collaborative is working together to help all Pierce County residents lead healthier lives through nutrition education projects.

Colorful Cooking Made Easy is a nutrition education program featuring trained volunteers who perform cooking demonstrations at local food banks, teach cooking and nutrition classes and lead grocery store tours all designed to help families learn how to shop for and prepare healthy meals from scratch.  Skills taught during Colorful Cooking Made Easy programming include meal planning, shopping on a budget, healthy cooking and help to make healthy eating a daily reality.

The hunger collaborative food bank partners are also working to help individuals and families understand the importance of selecting healthier food options by making it easy for food bank visitors to find those options among the various products available. Colorful Cooking Made Easy food bank cooking demonstrators take fresh produce in stock at the pantry that day and create healthy, delicious and simple meals, providing clients with the recipes and ingredients to take home and prepare themselves. The emergency food system is also working to increase the amount of fresh produce, dairy and proteins available for food bank clients.

How can you help change the story for individuals and families in Pierce County? There are many ways to get involved in the fight against hunger in our community. Host a food or dairy drive. Hold a soup kit making project. Volunteer to lead a cooking class or grocery store to learn more and to get involved!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Breakfast After the Bell-- A Small Victory for Kids

Guest Blogger: Shawn Paton, Community Investment, Strong Families & Basic Needs, United Way

A bill that United Way’s across the state have advocated for with legislators for a number of years will soon be signed into law! Breakfast after the Bell moves school breakfast service from before school, when many children do not have the opportunity to participate prior to the start of class, to after the start of the school day, so it is available to all kids regardless of how early they arrive at school.

In Pierce County, more than 50,000 students are enrolled in free and reduced-price school meal programs. Children struggling with hunger have more health issues, miss more days of school and may have behavioral issues.  Making sure that these kids have breakfast means children who arrive at school hungry aren’t forced to wait until lunch to eat. Breakfast gives these kids the energy to focus and do better in school.

Many of these children rely on free school breakfast and lunch to provide foundational nutrition during the week, so Breakfast after the Bell is a victory for hungry children! However, these same children are at risk of going hungry on weekends and school breaks when free school meals aren’t available. That is why United Way of Pierce County supports the Power Packs program, providing food packs on weekends and over school breaks for those children most at risk of not having enough food at home.

Despite the economic boom in our region, hunger is a growing issue. 

Our food bank partners report that nearly 70% of households they serve have at least one working adult. Forty percent of their clients are under 18 years of age. 

Food bank visitors report having difficulty making ends meet because of rapidly increasing housing costs, child care costs and more. Some working families make too much to qualify for free and reduced-price meal programs, but because of other household expenses, they are not able to afford school lunches or even to put enough food on the table at the end of the month.

United Way is working in partnership with the Hunger-Free Pierce County Collaborative to fight hunger in our community. Visit to find out how you can get involved! 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Reflections on a Day of Advocacy

Guest Blog by Lindsay Morgan Tracy, Vice President, Community Impact, United Way of Pierce County

On February 1, 2018, a contingency of United Way of Pierce County advocates, descended upon our state’s Capitol in Olympia to talk about legislative priorities and concerns. A group of fifteen staff, friends and board members, spent the day meeting with our legislators or their aides to talk about keys issues that are important to our community.

One of the key themes at our From Poverty to Possibilities event was the importance of being fully engaged in policies and advocacy efforts that impact the stability of Pierce County. Our attendees highlighted the need to assess and review policies that are keeping people poor or even incentivizing them to stay in poverty (a/k/a the Benefit’s Cliff). 

Spending a day on Capitol Hill takes commitment for all who take the time. It is a significant commitment from the business community that allowed their employees to take the day to champion causes important to the greater good of our residents. Special thanks to WSECU, State Farm, Western State Hospital and CHI-Franciscan for allowing your staff to participate in this good work!

As our group divided to conquer our 20 meetings, we received a lot of feedback from our political leaders. While we don’t spend a lot of time in Olympia, this trip reinforced the fact that our work is continuing to be heard by Washington State leadership. 

A few of the key takeaways include:

  • Our legislators love the fact that 2-1-1 is a life changing and often lifesaving program that many aides refer to constituents when they call their representatives/senators and let them know they need help. This was heard repeatedly throughout the day. It’s hard to even imagine how the aides would respond if South Sound 2-1-1 didn’t serve the Pierce, Thurston and Lewis communities.
  • Our Pierce County legislative leaders work well together and they consistently all meet (as Republicans and Democrats) to discuss bipartisan ways to move forward - - this is rare at a statewide level and nationally.
  • Corey Mosesly’s leadership in a bill with Representative Laurie Jinkins continued to get support (HB2730) for business tax credits to reduce cost barriers for adults attending college to further their careers. 
  • Legislators truly enjoyed having kids there to learn about the legislative body of work. In fact, last year, Matt Levi’s daughters were instrumental in advocating for Breakfast After The Bell, which had just passed on January 30! The girls were thrilled and even more impressive—legislators remembered them from last year and continued to encourage them to champion for important causes. 
  • We also learned that our Strong Family legislation was not fully supported, as some legislators desired more accountability in the language of the bills. They were very articulate with their reasoning and we appreciated their time to discuss specifics with us so we could learn what we could do to ensure movement.

The day ended with a reception at the Governor’s Mansion where our President & CEO, Dona Ponepinto served as the emcee. After Governor Jay Inslee’s address, one of our younger delegates (yes, my son, Eban) got a picture with him so he could write his very own blog for school about his Day on the Hill with United Way of Pierce County.

Learn more about our 2018 State Policy Agenda or visit to stay abreast with current issues.  Check out additional photos from the day!

Monday, January 22, 2018

New Year, New You: Opportunities for Change

Guest Blog by Allison Loft, 
Education and Engagement Manager, United Way of Pierce County

What is your New Year’s resolution?  Be more organized? Lose weight? Find a new job? Volunteer? Save money? Travel more?

I find myself this time of year, after putting away decorations, washing extra loads of guest laundry and recovering from a lack of sleep and too many holiday treats…looking ahead to a year of opportunity. Many of us are fortunate to have a roof over our heads, enough food and clothing and a healthy family. However, 1 in 3 working families in Pierce County struggles to make ends meet let alone make New Year’s resolutions. Struggling parents mean struggling children and children who grow up in poverty are more likely to be poor as adults, while those who grow up in families that are more affluent are more likely to be affluent later in life. While even a few years in poverty can have a significant impact on a child’s economic trajectory, the risks are particularly high for those who experience many years of poverty.

Armed with this knowledge, United Way of Pierce County is working to bring health & human service providers, schools, faith-based groups, government agencies, policymakers and the private sector together for the purpose of collaborating to collect, share and analyze data and information regarding inter-generational poverty. The goal is to use this information to implement a two-generation approach designed to stabilize high-need families and, ultimately, to reduce the incidence of children in our community who remain in the cycle of poverty into adulthood.

This approach will require a commitment to serving low-income families in Pierce County in the most efficient and effective way possible, even if it means thinking outside of the box. It means moving from transactional human service providers toward becoming an integrated system of services that focus on the whole person, the whole child and the whole family/household. It will also require a central 'backbone' organization to facilitate and support these collaborations, and that is where United Way of Pierce County comes in. Two-Generation programs, like the model shown below, have incredible promise for breaking the cycle of poverty, and it is time to put this knowledge into practice to see how two can indeed, be better than one.
Model from The Aspen Institute
We look forward to collaborating with the community to help inform us as we develop our Two-Gen approach. While this work has just begun locally, the opportunity for hope and progress for Pierce County families abounds. If you would like to get involved now, many volunteer opportunities are available to help children and families, please visit our volunteer website at or email

Here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous and hopeful 2018!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Day On, Instead of a Day Off

In Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, United Way of Pierce County hosted a Day of Service to create both hygiene kits for homeless teens and literacy kits for children in our community. The event was coordinated by AmeriCorps VISTA members Michealea Lemons and Natasha Laitila. AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members bring their passion and perseverance where the need is greatest-- to organizations that help eradicate poverty.

“Being a teenager and working hard to be successful in school is difficult enough. Imagine the additional challenges that not having a stable place to call home creates. These hygiene kits provide essential items to help these student who may be
couch surfing or are forced to live in cars or tents while trying to stay in school. And certainly literacy kits provide children from low-income families with tools to encourage reading and enhance learning skills in their home environments,” said Shawn Paton, Director, Community Investment, Engagement & Basic Needs, United Way of Pierce County.

A total of 200 hygiene kits for both male and female students, were assembled by 10 enthusiastic volunteers. Both sets of hygiene kits included granola bars, Top Ramen, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, socks, combs and washcloths, but the female hygiene kits also included feminine hygiene products. The kits are being distributed to various Care Closets through our partners serving Bethel, Franklin Pierce, Clover Park and Tacoma School Districts.

The 150 literacy kits were assembled by 12 volunteers and included two different Dr. Seuss favorites: Ten Apples on Top and Cooking with the Cat as well as an activity for each book, including a memory match up game and a felt fabric project focused on food groups. Another group of six volunteers created inspirational cards to include in the kits. The the literacy kits will be distributed to pre-K children through LIL Readers and to first and second graders through our READ United after-school program.

All 32 volunteers and staff were active and engaged on this “Day On.” Many volunteers appreciated the fact that United Way’s day of service was held on a weekend since they wanted to volunteer, but had to work on Monday .

A few high school students participated to complete community service hours while others were looking for a short term one-time event.

“We’re always happy to have support and we realize people have limited times and objectives, so we try to construct events based on needs and interests,” noted United Way AmeriCorps VISTA program staffer, Michealea Lemons.

Paton adds, “We are thrilled to have Michealea and Natasha here as part of our extended team at United Way. Their service improves the lives of others. They’re not just building their future careers, Michealea and Natasha are helping to build up our community while helping others engage in work that is essential to addressing the barriers of poverty.”  

One volunteer team included a mom and her two boys who worked for United Way in another state and they just moved here over the summer. “They were really excited to help out with United Way again and even stayed after to help with clean up and take down,” Lemons said.

According to Lemons, “The turnout was good and many of our volunteers were willing to participate in future days of service. It’s inspiring to have a wide range of ages as people come together to lift up others.” 

To learn more about upcoming volunteer opportunities or if your company would like to create a team building volunteer engagement, Get Connected today or contact Shawn Paton at 253-277-4263.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Everyone Counts, No Matter Where They Live

Homeless is not a noun. It is an adjective describing a temporary condition that people fall into when they can’t afford to pay a place to live, or when their current home is unsafe or unstable. Job loss, physical and mental disability, various hardships—including personal and drug addiction can accelerate people’s slide into poverty-- and for some, eventual homelessness.

A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation. Being homeless does not define a person. The lack of housing, access to healthcare and supportive services, then act as others barriers that keep individuals from moving into “homefullnesss.”

What the Point of the Point-In-Time Count?
Discovering how many people are currently homeless in Pierce County…how many of them are families, youth or veterans…how many are disabled…The answers to these questions and more are answered by the Pierce County Point-In-Time (PIT) counts. A PIT count is an unduplicated count on a single night of the people in a community who are experiencing homelessness-- that includes both sheltered and unsheltered populations.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that communities receiving federal funds from the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program conduct a count of all sheltered people in the last week of January annually. Electronic administrative records are used to enumerate people living in emergency shelters and transitional housing. Unsheltered counts are required every other year, although most communities conduct an unsheltered count annually.

In unsheltered counting efforts, outreach workers and volunteers are organized to canvas Continuums of Care to enumerate the people who appear to be living in places not meant for human habitation. During the point-in-time count, Pierce County is required to identify whether a person is an individual, a member of a family unit, or an unaccompanied youth under the age of 18 or age 18 to 24. In addition, we must identify if a person is chronically homeless, indicating long-time or repeated homelessness and the presence of a disability.

An Eye-Opening Volunteer Experience: Friday, January 26, 2018
Within Pierce County’s 1806 square mile boundaries, the task of counting can individuals can be daunting. Pierce County is looking for volunteers for the 2018 Point-In-Time Count on Friday, January 26th, 2018.The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Washington State Department of Commerce require communities to conduct a one-day Point-In-Time (PIT) Count to survey individuals experiencing homelessness. PIT Counts are one source of data among many that help us understand the magnitude and characteristics of people who are homeless in our community. 

“Homelessness is a community issue. Morally and socially, we are all affected. I look forward to seeing you at this year’s PIT Count. This is such important work and your efforts will be greatly appreciated,” said, Dona Ponepinto, President & CEO, United Way of Pierce County.

Volunteers will be stationed at meal sites, day shelters, events such as Project Homeless Connect, and Department of Social and Health Services offices throughout Pierce County and will complete surveys of people experiencing homelessness.

Donations are given to anyone who is experiencing homelessness on the night of the PIT, and provides a starting point for the conversation to complete the survey.

Items Needed:Hats, Gloves, Scarves, Socks, Hygiene Kits: Shampoos, Conditioners, Soaps, Razors and Feminine Products, First Aid Kits, Blankets, Warm Winter Jackets and Packaged, easy to carry food: Granola Bars, Bottled Water, etc. For donation drop-off locations email

PIT Count Volunteer CriteriaMust be at least 18 years of age; Must attend a Point-in-Time Count Training; Search for unsheltered homeless within designated locations; Survey individuals experiencing homelessness using a mobile app; Provide individuals who have been surveyed with incentives as available and; At least one member on the team must have access to a smart phone, tablet, or laptop with Wi-Fi.