The numbers are still being crunched, but there are already several surprises in the first six months worth of data from Safe Harbors, a new countywide database that tracks the homeless.
One of them is that nearly 1,400 of the single adults who stayed in a publicly funded shelter in King County between January and June were women -- or 25 percent of the 4,363 single adults who were sheltered. Add to that another 350 women that Seattle human services staff believe haven't been identified and the countywide total of homeless women is 1,791, a number that's "a lot higher than we would have anticipated," Safe Harbors manager John Hoskins said in an Oct. 24 report to the board of King County's Committee to End Homelessness.
Another surprise is that, among the 570 families and 700 children who stayed in a shelter in the first half of 2007, the average age of the children was a little over eight years old -- a school age that's older than previously believed. Yet nearly 40 percent of the adult family members who reported their educational level, had not finished high school, he said, raising the prospect of generational homelessness.
In a county where 90.5 percent of the population is white, Blacks made up 36.6 percent of the homeless single adults and 46.5 percent of the family members sheltered in the first six months of the year.
The city of Seattle mandated and runs Safe Harbors, which requires all shelters funded by the city, county, or United Way -- 138 programs in all -- collect the name, race, birth date and Social Security number of homeless persons in order to track what happens to them. So far, of the 564 individuals for whom an outcome is known, 31 percent moved into permanent housing in the first half of 2007.
The city expects to release a final version of the first Safe Harbors report in December.