The geographic location and composition of King County’s unsheltered homeless population has changed compared to 2018, according to a new report released by All Home King County.
Sixty-eight percent of the county’s unsheltered homeless people were in Seattle, a 21-percent decrease in the city’s unsheltered homelessness compared to 2018. The same population in the southwest section of the county jumped by
11 percent, according to the report.
Countywide, the number of unsheltered people decreased by 17 percent, but the types of makeshift shelter shifted. The number of people in tents or unsanctioned encampments increased by 32 percent, while the number of people in vehicles decreased by 36 percent compared to 2018.
That was a dramatic shift. In 2018, the unsheltered population living in cars, vans or RVs increased by 46 percent compared to the previous year.
The data comes from the point-in-time count conducted at the end of January. The report was released weeks after the organization announced the headline-grabbing statistic that homelessness had dropped 8 percent compared with 2018. That is the first decrease in homelessnession in seven years.
Marginalized groups such as people of color and people within the LGBTQ community continue to be disproportionately impacted. According to the report, 32 percent of people experiencing homelessness in King County are Black. Black people make up only 6 percent of the population.
As previously reported, Indigenous people jumped from 3 to 10 percent of the homeless population compared with 2018, and Latinx people made up another 15 percent of the people experiencing homelessness despite accounting for 10 percent of the county’s population.
LGBTQ people made up 21 percent of the Count Us In survey respondents, while only 5 percent of King County residents identify within that community, according to a press release.
People with at least one disabling condition accounted for 37 percent of survey respondents while 6.4 percent of people under the age of 65 reported the same.
These numbers come with caveats.
First, the count is conducted on one night in January between 2 and 6 a.m., one of the coldest times of the year in Seattle, by teams of volunteers. Officials warn that the number is almost certainly an undercount because while the sheltered population is relatively easy to discern, people sleeping outside may go undetected.
When volunteers count visible tents, vehicles, or abandoned vehicles, they don’t know precisely how many people may be inside. Applied Survey Research, the company that has crunched the data for the count for the past three years, counts each as more than one person. In 2019, a tent counted as 1.5 people, while a camper or RV was 1.45.
These are significantly lower than the multipliers used by Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH), which ran the count every year prior to 2016. SKCCH counted each as two.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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