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King County notes first drop in homeless count since 2012

A homeless man sleeps on the sidewalk in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

According to the latest homeless count for Seattle/King County, there are 11,199 people experiencing homelessness countywide.

The annual homeless count, conducted by Count Us In on January 25, found 5,971 people sheltered (52 percent) and 5,228 people unsheltered (47 percent). Officials say that they won’t have the full data set complete until the end of May, but at first glance, the overall homeless population decreased by 8 percent since the 2018 point-in-time count. The number of unsheltered people decreased by 17 percent.

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The definition of “sheltered” are those in emergency shelters, safe havens and transitional housing, according to Count Us In. “Unsheltered” are those staying in vehicles, tents, or encampments.

According to the count, it’s the first decrease in the past seven years, however, it points out that the number of sheltered individuals increased. The decreases were also seen across all subpopulations, including families, veterans, and unaccompanied youth and young adult homelessness.

The decreases lead Count Us In to conclude that more homeless people are connecting to the services they need. An additional 530 emergency shelter beds in 2018 might be part of those increased resources.

“This year’s results and our local system’s data indicate progress,” Kira Zylstra, Acting Director of All Home, said in a news release. “More people in our community are connected with services than ever before and permanent housing placements through our system continue to rise each year, yet more than 11,000 of our neighbors are without housing on any given night.”

Count Us In also said there were 17,992 successful exits to permanent housing between 2016 and 2018. But despite that, the rate at which more people are becoming homeless is outpacing the system’s ability to provide shelter and resources.

Following the release of the count, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said:

We must continue to make progress by employing strategies that are moving people inside then into permanent housing. We have made historic investments in expanding the City’s 24/7 shelters with case managers, expanding our Navigation Team who connects people with shelter and services, and investing programs that are more effective in moving people out of homelessness. Still it is not enough. This is a regional crisis that demands a regional response – none of us can do it alone to help the thousands in need of housing and services. Government, philanthropy, businesses, and human services providers must continue our work together to expand affordable housing, treatment services and effective programs like enhanced shelters.

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