Last night marked the 34th time that volunteers scoured King County tallying people without shelter. It’s known as the annual One Night Count, organized by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, and last night a total of 3,117 men, women and children were identified.
It’s a depressing number, and one that’s nearly 400 people larger than last year’s tally of 2,736 people surviving outside without shelter. As Real Change Founding Director and longtime homeless advocate Tim Harris notes, that’s a 14-percent increase.
“Of course it’s getting worse. I was hoping for better. But, you know, this has been the trend,” says Harris of the tally. “The need is overwhelming the resources. It’s just that simple.”
Breaking the numbers down, 2392 people were found without shelter in Seattle, with 14 of those minors. In Seattle alone 730 were found living in a car or truck.
Here’s the complete breakdown:
According to a press release published online this morning by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, the count relied on roughly 800 volunteers to do the counting, identifying “people trying to survive in cars, tents, by riding all night buses, waiting in hospital emergency rooms, or curling up in blankets under bridges or in doorways.” The count does not include people staying in shelters and transitional housing - a population that’s counted separately.
“This year’s Count is an unmistakable call to action,” Coalition Executive Director Alison Eisinger say in the release. “As teams handed us their tally sheets, they described the people behind the numbers: a teenager sleeping in a doorway with a suitcase, a family-size tent under the roadway with a stroller parked outside, a man who proudly showed off the garden he made around his campsite. Next Tuesday is Housing & Homelessness Day in our state capitol. We ask everyone to call their state lawmakers and urge them to fund housing, shelter, and services. There is no overstating the urgent need in our own backyards.”
According to Harris, community members will gather in Westlake Square and at Bellevue’s First Congregational Church today for simultaneous events designed to highlight the problem of homelessness in King County. A gong will be rung once for each homeless person counted. The effort, which was organized by Real Change, will be a kick-off of sorts for the “Outside In” campaign - which Harris says has a goal of reducing the number of homeless people in King County by 1,000 this year.
Harris says the campaign will be multifaceted, with an over arching aim of getting people to think about homelessness in a different light.
“You can’t end homelessness through human services alone. You’ve got to get to the root economic causes,” he says. “What we’re really trying to do with this campaign is change the frame, from homelessness being a human services issue to an economic justice issue.”