For as long as the Point in Time Count has existed, Clinton hairdresser William Bolding has shown up every year to provide haircuts free of charge to those who need them.
During the annual Island County and Whidbey Homeless Coalition event Thursday, Bolding and another hairdresser set up shop in the hallway of Island Church, the South End’s hub for the count, with various stools, brushes and sprays. While people enjoyed the community meal happening in the church kitchen, others trickled into the hallway for haircuts.
“I’ve been volunteering for this for a long time,” he said. “It’s nice to give back.”
Several who showed up told Bolding they remembered receiving haircuts from him during the Point in Time Count in previous years.
Jesse Hall, who had been found living in the woods by a canvas team of volunteers that morning, was just happy to have the hair out of his eyes, joking that he no longer looked like a “mountain man.” Volunteer Michael Wildeman helped him pick out a jacket from the rack and sat down to have lunch with him.
“Community’s always there for them,” Bolding said about his clientele of the day.
Last year’s Point in Time Count yielded 166 homeless individuals in the county, 46 of whom were identified as being chronically homeless, meaning living unsheltered for more than a year and having a disability.
Emily Wildeman, who works for the county as the regional lead for the South End, said although the total number of unsheltered individuals has gone down over the years, the number of chronically homeless has increased.
“They are harder to find down here, because it’s more rural,” she said. “There are more jobs and services in the north so it makes sense that people would tend to migrate up there if they were down here and kind of struggling.”
Last year, Wildeman was the regional lead for the North End’s count. She said the closure of Spin Cafe, where people gathered previously, would affect their count this year.
Wildeman said people are very committed to the South End, even with its challenges.
“We have a lot of people that come into the office looking for housing. They love this community,” she said. “It’s just the cost of living down here is really high for rentals and the lack of workforce housing options.”
Currently, there are 10 people staying in Langley’s House of Hope, a 90-day shelter for families and single adults who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
Volunteers participating in the Point in Time Count headed out with backpacks full of gloves, socks, water, personal hygiene items, hand warmers and more.
In the afternoon, Whidbey Homeless Coalition Executive Director Jonathan Kline and Operations Manager Tanya Stager canvassed several wooded areas and empty lots of Freeland, searching for people to provide with resources.
Kline said one of the challenges of the count is its accuracy. During the day, people often leave their encampments for work or other places, and cannot be counted.
Such was the case Thursday afternoon. Although evidence of active campsites were spotted, no one was in sight.
Remnants of a former home decorated one campsite, including a remote control car, a bible and a Jurassic Park DVD.
Laundry was strung up on lines between trees, and the beginnings of a bed frame made of branches sprung up among the foliage.