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The difficulty in determining why homeless people come to Seattle

The city has gone to great lengths to find out how many homeless people there are in Seattle, but not necessarily to find out where they’re coming from and why they’re here.

“They don’t want the answer to that. If the person says I was living in California or Denver, then all of sudden they have to answer the question, ‘Why did you come here to Seattle?,'” said KIRO Radio’s John Curley.

“Then if you find out, ‘I came here because you guys are offering X, Y, and Z,’ the entire drive — which is to spend 100 million on more services — would only attract more people.”

RELATED: Timeline: Understanding Seattle’s homeless issues

While it doesn’t provide a complete picture, a 2018 government survey found 16.9 percent lived outside of King County, and 5.5 percent came from out of state, according to a Seattle Times report. Approximately 3 percent of the 800 homeless people surveyed said they moved here for services and benefits. The data isn’t exact in nature and is believed to be low, as it relies on self-reported information, and doesn’t survey all the homeless living here.

A representative from the National Homeless Information Project told the Times that the question of why homeless people came to the area is not “politically correct enough to prioritize.” It’s also not seen as an important factor in solving the homeless crisis.

The 15 to 20 percent come from outside the county is a relatively consistent statistic at city centers across the country, according to National Center on Homelessness among Veterans. Sometimes when there’s a supply of shelters and services, this can act as a draw, especially when those resources don’t exist in the homeless person’s place of origin.

Mayor Durkan plans to increase shelter capacity by 25 percent, and proposes to serve more than 500 additional people in Seattle each night.

“They found that 15 to 20 percent of homeless people migrate here,” said co-host Feliks Banel. “The strength of America is that you can migrate anywhere you want in the 50 states.”

“But you don’t migrate somewhere and then live off the backs of those taxpayers,” added Curley.

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