A new report on homelessness in King County says nearly 12,000 people were homeless on a single night in January—and 77 percent of those people were living in King County when they lost their homes.
The annual Seattle/King County Count Us In report was released Wednesday. All Home and Applied Survey Research conducted the research in January to obtain a point-in-time count of homeless individuals in the county.
Researchers collected the street count between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. in late January. It looked at nearly all areas in King County, according to a news release from the Count Us In organization.
About 6,200 people were living in transitional housing or emergency shelters; 5,500 were reportedly living on the streets, sleeping in vehicles, tents or encampments when the street count was conducted, according to the new report.
“This year’s count reflects what we already know: skyrocketing rents and the growing demand for behavioral and mental health services continue to make homelessness a regional challenge," King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. "We are already moving more people into housing faster, while cutting in half the number of people slipping back into homelessness. With comprehensive data from Count Us In, we can do even more to target resources where they are needed most."
Researchers followed the street count with a person-to-person survey, which was conducted by peers following the general street count. About 1,200 people participated in the survey, which researchers generalized for the entire population.
“I think it's housing affordability. It's the largest epidemic of addiction in our country's history and again this is one of the worst states for funding mental health. If we don't address those problems, we're going to continue to see those problems grow,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said.
Murray took a tour of a tented city in SODO on Wednesday and pointed out the lack of federal funding as a reason for the rise in homelessness.
“President Obama left a huge budget item to increase treatment for heroin in particular and that now is mostly missing in the current president's budget,” Murray said.
Budget woes aside, some help is on the way. Seattle’s first 24/7 navigation center is still on track to open this summer.
This year's report and method of counting is extremely different than previous years, aiming to establish a baseline for Seattle and King County.
“This new count is the most comprehensive to date, and confirms that homelessness is prevalent throughout the county,” Mark Putnam, director of All Home, said in a statement. “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.”
Chronic homelessness affects nearly 3,000 people in King County. That means the people are sleeping in places that aren't meant for human habitation or in an emergency shelter for a year or longer, the report said.
The report claims about 55 percent of homeless people in King County are identified as people of color. About 1,300 of the individuals affected by homelessness are veterans, while about 1,500 people are unaccompanied youth or young adults, according to the report.
About 40 percent of people experiencing homelessness had experienced domestic violence or abuse, the report says, and 7 percent said it was the cause for their current homelessness.
More than half of the survey respondents reported having spent time in jail, the report said.
Half of homeless people say they have a disabling condition—more than a third said they have two or more conditions, a news release from the Count Us In organization said.
Some leading causes of homelessness include loss of job at 30 percent, drug or alcohol problems at 20 percent, and eviction at 11 percent.
Additional findings in the report include 62 percent of homeless people identifying as male, 36 percent as female, 1 percent transgender, and 1 percent as neither male, female, or transgender.
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