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Huge increase in Washington homeless numbers in 2016

Homelessness in Washington, in particular Seattle-King County, has grown significantly over 2015. (AP)

Washington homeless numbers rose by 7.3 percent in 2016, over the previous year, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

There were 1,408 more people sleeping outside and in shelters, according to the report.

Related: Seattle mayor wants to build four new homeless encampments

The increase is the second-largest in the country, falling only behind California, the Associated Press reports. In all, there were 20,827 homeless people counted in Washington.

While Washington’s homeless numbers rose, the number of homeless people declined in 37 states between 2015 and 2016, according to the report.

Homelessness has grown in the Seattle-King County area while it has dropped in Everett-Snohomish County, Tacoma-Pierce County, Spokane, Yakima, Vancouver-Clark County and the rest of Washington.

Overall, 13 states saw increases from 2015 to 2016. In seven, including Washington, at least half of the people counted were sleeping without shelter.

Since 2007, homelessness has been steadily declining, according to the report. Point-in-time counts found 647,258 total homeless people that year, with 255,857 living unsheltered. A total of 549,928 were counted in 2016.

The states with the highest rates of people living without shelter include California, Oregon, Hawaii, Nevada, and Mississippi. The states with the fewest living without shelter are Rhode Island, Nebraska, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and New York.

Beyond Washington homeless

The news that Washington homeless numbers are up, while many states are seeing their homeless populations decrease, follows a report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty that called out some cities for the criminalization of people living on the streets. That includes Puyallup, which made the “Hall of Shame” for how it has addressed its homeless situation.

Related: Criminalization of homelessness is rampant problem, according to study

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty says criminalizing strategies fail to address the root causes of homelessness and can create barriers to obtaining employment, stable housing, education, and access to justice.

The law center argues that homeless people should not be subject to civil or criminal sanctions “or harassment by law enforcement.” It says police training and protocols should be improved and constructive encampment policies should be developed.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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