Seattle’s homeless population ticked up by 4 percent in 2017 according to the results of the annual point-in-time count conducted in January. This is the first time that more people are sleeping outside or in vehicles than are able to rest in some form of shelter.
The count, conducted by volunteers between 2 and 6 a.m. on Jan. 26 found that 52 percent of people experiencing homelessness in King County on that night were unsheltered.
That is up from 47 percent in 2017.
The population of people sleeping in their cars also exploded, leaping up 46 percent between the 2017 and 2018 counts. At the same time, the number of unsheltered people without a vehicle decreased by 7 percent.
The population of people sleeping in their cars also exploded, leaping up 46 percent between the 2017 and 2018 counts.
Though the count covers all of King County, 71 percent of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness were in Seattle.
Applied Survey Research (ASR), the company that conducts the census, also distributes a survey to get more granular data on the local homeless population. That survey found that 83 percent of respondents reported that they were living in King County the most recent time that they had housing.
Roughly one-third of respondents said that they had lived in King County all of their lives.
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Fully two-thirds had experienced homelessness before and more than one-fifth had been homeless four or more times in the past three years, pointing to the uncomfortable reality that despite the tens of millions poured into homeless services and prevention in Seattle alone, many people are not finding homelessness to be “rare, brief and one-time.”
Furthermore, the survey reinforced the fact that people become homeless for a number of reasons, the most prevalent of which was job loss. Approximately 21 percent of survey respondents noted that alcohol or drug abuse was a primary cause of homelessness, followed by eviction and illness.
The survey reinforced the fact that people become homeless for a number of reasons, the most prevalent of which was job loss.
And, despite the pernicious rumor that people “choose to be homeless,” 98 percent of respondents said that they would move into safe, affordable housing should a unit be offered.
As in previous years, the survey showed that homelessness hits marginalized populations the hardest. According to the 2016 American Community Survey, King County was 67.2 percent White but 50 percent of the homeless population identifies as White.
Black, Latinx and Indigenous populations are disproportionately overrepresented in the homeless population, and according to The Seattle Times, leaders of Indigenous-led organizations in Seattle believe this to be an undercount.
The full point-in-time report can be viewed here.
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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