Officials Set Out to Count the Columbia Basin's Homeless - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Officials Set Out to Count the Columbia Basin's Homeless

PASCO, Wash.- Volunteers hit the streets Thursday in an effort to count the area's homeless population, but not in the way you might think.

Benton and Franklin Counties joined together to count the homeless, but not in the way you might expect.

They aren't walking the streets, instead, they're letting the homeless come to them.

"We've chosen our locations to be places where we believe that homeless people or people who've previously been homeless are at risk for being homeless might be or go during the course of a day," organizer Janine White said.

Locations like a Pasco food bank and Worksource.

Volunteers are administering surveys.  The surveys ask the basic, are you homeless, but they also ask, where are you living and do you need a home?

The questions allow them to identify people who aren't the obvious homeless, people that have clothes and don't look like they're in need.

"One fella I talked to was staying with a friend and he had a teenage son with him and they were just running on some bad luck and just you know needed some help," said Dwayne Speer, a volunteer.

Volunteers say it wasn't what they expected, among them is Franklin County Commissioner Rick Miller.

"Being a new commissioner, I wanted to actually be able to witness and see myself the problem so that I could know about it to inform my constituents out there," Miller said.

Last year, the count revealed 956 homeless in Benton and Franklin Counties.  This year, they hope that'll be less.

Volunteers say another one of the things that surprised them was the friendliness of the people they talked to.  They expected it would be tough to talk to people, but nearly everybody out was happy and cooperative.