Count Us In 2017 report offers comprehensive look at regional homelessness in Seattle-King County

Count Us In—a new and more comprehensive point-in-time homelessness report was released May 31, providing critical new baseline on homelessness in Seattle and King County. This year’s Count Us In used a nationally-recognized count methodology, a countywide canvas of 99.5 percent of King County census tracts, and a person-to-person survey of people experiencing homelessness to gain a clearer picture of the people and not just the numbers.

The 2017 Count Us In tally counted a total of 11,643 people experiencing homelessness throughout King County. This total includes 6,158 people sheltered in transitional housing or emergency shelters, and 5,485 people on the streets, sleeping in vehicles, tents or encampments (both sanctioned and unsanctioned). Obtaining reliable, accurate and actionable data through the annual point-in-time count is a requirement for federal funding, and imperative to informing local strategies to address homelessness. This year, the count was held on January 27.

“We set out to do a more rigorous, comprehensive, and thorough count than ever this year so we could assess the specifics of this crisis and develop concrete solutions to it,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “Since this count was taken, we’ve aggressively implemented a hands-on approach to addressing this crisis. Our Navigation Team of social workers, health professionals, and police officers have successfully engaged with more 600 people and connected services and housing to more than 250. This is how individualized services can help and how having a complete picture of this crisis helps us better service those experiencing it.”

For Seattle, there were 8,476 people experiencing homelessness in Seattle. Of those, 4,619 were sheltered and 3,857 were living on the streets, in tents, in vehicles or in

Additionally, this year All Home, who coordinated the count, also commissioned a person-to-person survey completed by 1,158 people reflecting a representative sample of the sheltered and unsheltered population across the county. The results of the survey can be generalized to the entire population of people experiencing homelessness with 95% confidence. Key findings include;

  • People experiencing homelessness in King County are our neighbors, and overwhelmingly local. Ninety-one percent are from Washington state, including 77 percent who said they were last housed in King County. Only 9 percent reported a last home address out of state.
  • History of domestic violence or partner abuse is prevalent; 40 percent said they had experienced abuse and 7 percent said it was the current cause for their homelessness.
  • Homelessness disproportionately impacts people of color. In all, about 55 percent of the local homeless population are people of color.
  • Half of all people surveyed reported a disabling condition, and more than a third have two or more conditions. Most mentioned were mental illness, substance use, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Nearly a third are maintaining employment.
  • Loss of job (30%), drug/alcohol problems (20%), or eviction (11%) were the leading causes of homelessness.
  • Homelessness is not a choice. Ninety-two percent said they would take safe and affordable housing today if it was available.
  • Rental assistance and affordable housing were the top two supports needed to end the experience of homelessness.

 

The Count Us In results are a reminder that homelessness will only be solved with the commitment and resources of the entire Seattle and King County community. This support must address the immediate needs of those currently experiencing homelessness, as well as skyrocketing rent, stagnant wages and limited access to behavioral health resources which were all identified as contributing factors to the rising homelessness population. Permanent housing is the best solution to resolve a person’s homeless crisis—but there’s still not enough for everyone who needs it. In Seattle, there are more than 60,000 households who are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. More than 46,000 are paying more than 50 percent. The city remains committed in leveraging the resources of partners such as the faith based community, philanthropy and the private sector to help transition people out of homelessness.

“This new count is the most comprehensive to date, and confirms that homelessness is prevalent throughout the county,” said Mark Putnam, Director of All Home. “People who are homeless want housing, and we are housing more people than ever. Yet the count confirms that more people are becoming homeless here. This is true wherever there is a severe lack of affordable housing.”

All Home, the City of Seattle and King County together with their partners are moving more people from homelessness to permanent housing – and doing so faster than ever. Guided by the Pathway’s Home framework for addressing homelessness, the City of Seattle has been intentional in taking bold steps to help those experiencing homelessness.

  • The Emergency Operations Center has been activated since February and has focused all departments on helping people living unsheltered to move to safer alternatives.
  • The Navigation Team outreach social workers and specially-trained police officers has offered services to 630 unique individuals, and 252 of them relocated to safer living arrangements, including 162 to sanctioned city encampments.
  • Two of the City’s enhanced-model shelters are under construction that will house 175 people at a time or about 700 people a year. Both will open this summer.
  • Three new sanctioned encampments opened in March and April, bringing 162 new spaces for Navigation Team to refer people to.    Capacity is 225 for all three new camps, and well over 400 spaces available.
  • Partnering with King County, the City is supporting the work of the Opioid Task Force.
  • Funding for diversion services has increased by 40% to help people avoid episodes of homelessness. The city has also increased investments in rapid rehousing programs and other permanent housing options.

 

The full Count Us In 2017 Report is available on the All Home website.