Shocker, not: New homeless count in King County shows spike in number of people sleeping outside

by DCG 

king county homeless2

Homeless in Seattle…

You know what that means: The local governments are going to need more taxpayer dollars!

From Spokesman ReviewFor the first time, King County’s annual one-night count of homelessness found more than half of homeless people were sleeping outside versus in shelter, with a stark increase in the number of vehicle campers.

With pressure to show progress on the homelessness crisis, the county on Thursday announced an overall 4 percent increase in the annual snapshot count of homeless people, to 12,112.

The count, conducted in January, found a worsening problem of people living in tent camps, cars, RVs and the street compared to last year. More than 70 percent of the county’s unsheltered homeless people were in Seattle.

The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless is funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Campion Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Seattle Mariners, and Starbucks. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over Project Homeless content.· Find out more about Project Homeless.

As Seattle and the county’s declared state of emergency on homelessness enters a THIRD year, the one-night numbers are sure to roil an already heated debate about how to better respond.

Compared to more rapid rises in homeless counts over the past five years, a slower 4 percent increase represents progress, said Kyra Zylstra, interim director of All Home, the county’s homelessness coordinating agency, which organizes the yearly count.

“It’s not the kind of progress we all want to see,” Zylstra said. “But our performance data shows that the resources that we are investing in are housing people faster.”

The increase in people living outside includes 370 residents of Seattle’s six sanctioned tent camps. They are counted as “unsheltered” because federal guidelines do not recognize sanctioned tent camps as shelter.

The new homelessness figure points to some gains, including significant drops in the numbers of homeless veterans and families. Zylstra credited rapid rehousing, which provides rental assistance, with helping more people find stable housing.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said the results point toward a need for greater regional collaboration.

“We must continue to take urgent action on the homelessness crisis with holistic, regional solutions,” she said in a released statement,” Durkan said. “The reduction in veterans who are experiencing homelessness shows we can have an impact with focused strategies. But there is much work to be done”

Overall, about two-thirds of homeless people in the county are men, and more than three-quarters lived in households without children. There were also signs of homelessness worsening outside of Seattle, with increases in people living outside in north and east King County.

The results come at a critical time. Seattle’s new business head tax, which will charge large businesses $275 per worker to fund homeless services and affordable housing, spotlighted a struggle to find the right balance between long- and short-term strategies. The business community has organized an effort to repeal it.

In the midst of that debate, a task force on homelessness, called One Table, has had delays in recommending more countywide, comprehensive strategies.

Read the rest of the story here.

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