Oh, boy. All Home King County, the organization that arranged for the point-in-time count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in King County one night in January, has put out a press release about the results.
And now I will complain.
Why would I? It looks like fantastic news. According to a press release, the coming full report, which won’t be out until the end of this month, will say there were 17 percent fewer unsheltered homeless people counted this year than last year. So what could possibly have me miffed?
Well, for one thing, we wanted an early preview of the numbers in January. That was always the way it was until Applied Survey Research (ASR) was hired to organize the counts. But we have been told that we should wait until the full report is ready.
But then, three or four weeks ahead of the full report, a press release pre-spins the results.
I don’t want spin! I want the raw numbers and an accounting of the methodology.
I sure as heck don’t want All Home using a three-or four-week lead time to build a consensus around what the report will say before anyone can see it.
What I’m seeing is a play right out of Attorney General William Barr’s playbook.
Let’s hope the final report is complete enough to answer concerns that were raised back in January at the time of the count.
I have not forgotten the rumors that ASR was having trouble finding people to do the count back in January. The full report should address those concerns. What if they were short of counters by 17 percent? No, the full report coming out in a month from now would not address those concerns soon enough. They should have already been addressed in the press release.
Every year these counts have been done, even going back to when they were organized by the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH), there have been changes to definitions and search procedures, and changes in search areas. But when SKCCH was doing it, we got a lot of raw data right away and could tell within a day or two what sort of impact those changes had.
We could also use the quick access to raw data to spot other outside factors that might be at work, in time to investigate them while memories were fresh. An example of that occurred one year when we spotted an unexpected huge drop in the unsheltered in one South King County city. We immediately suspected it was an artifact of sweeps ongoing in that city, and were able to confirm that in days.
The 17 percent drop this year could conceivably be mostly due to Seattle sweeps, but at this late date it’s going to be a big pain to go back and line up all the reports of sweeps and determine whether that is the case or not. Figuring something like that out four months after the fact might even require a public records request.
Another possible factor in the drop may be that there has been a rise in car camping. There’s always a turnover in the population of homeless people overall, and as people exit homelessness they are replaced by new people who have different circumstances. If the percentage living in cars has increased it becomes a problem to count them. I don’t have a lot of confidence that ASR could count them adequately.
All that griping above comes under the heading, “Well, for one thing … .”
Now for the second thing I’m miffed about. This doesn’t have much to do with All Home and ASR and the point-in-time count. It has to do with a video produced for KOMO called “Seattle is Dying.” The only connection is that the video came out between the count and the press release, and it’s also about homelessness. And I’m miffed about it.
I think what I hate most about the video is that g-d awful screechy, jangly music it starts with.
I’m neuroatypical. I can’t even stand the 12-tone scale with all of the notes deliberately wrong. Shut up, shut up, shut up.
If the 17 percent drop holds up after all the concerns are met, I want KOMO to make amends. I want a new video, “Seattle is Reviving,” and I want way better music that doesn’t make me want to bash my head against a wall to escape life.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
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