The following is a press release from AllHome, King County:
Count Us In 2019, King County’s annual homelessness count, found 11,199 people experiencing homelessness across the region on Jan. 25, 2019, including 5,971 people sheltered in emergency shelters, safe havens and transitional housing and 5,228 people on the streets, in vehicles or staying in tents or encampments.
The count marks a 17 percent decrease in unsheltered people and an eight percent decrease overall, the first decrease in homelessness in the region in the past seven years. Decreases were observed across multiple populations, including families with children (7 percent), veterans (10 percent), and unaccompanied youth and young adults (28 percent).
“This report highlights the regional nature of homelessness and the need for truly regional solutions and community collaboration,” said Kira Zylstra, Acting Director of All Home. “This crisis is felt across the entire County and continues to impact communities of color, people identifying as LGBTQ+, and people living with disabilities at higher rates. As we continue to work together, I have hope that the progress we have seen can continue and accelerate until all people in King County have a place to call home.”
The full report detailed homelessness in every region in King County. Sixty-eight percent of the county’s unsheltered population identified during the street count were residing in Seattle, marking a 21 percent decrease in Seattle compared to 2018. Twenty-one percent of unsheltered individuals were residing in the Southwest region, an increase of 11 percent compared to 2018. The balance of unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness were residing in East County (6 percent of total), North County (2 percent), Northeast County (2 percent), and Southeast County (1 percent).
Changes in the unsheltered population compared to 2018 were noted in the report, with the number of individuals residing in tents or unsanctioned encampments increasing by 32 percent and the number of individuals residing in vehicles decreasing by 36 percent.
As in past counts, the majority of individuals experiencing homelessness in Seattle/King County identified as people of color. This is consistent with regional and national data as well. When compared to the racial demographics of King County’s general population, the largest disparities are among those identifying as Black or African American (32 percent compared to six percent), American Indian/Alaskan Native (10 percent compared to 1 percent), and Hispanic or Latino (15 percent compared to 10 percent). Families identified as people of color at higher rates than single adults and youth and young adults, and individuals identifying with multiple races or as American Indian/Alaska Native reported the highest rates of being unsheltered.
Homelessness also disproportionately impacts people identifying as LGBTQ+ according to the report. Twenty one percent of Count Us In survey respondents identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, questioning, queer, or other. This compares to a 2015 Gallup U.S. Daily survey that estimated that about five percent of the general population living in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. This disparity is even more pronounced among unaccompanied youth and young adults under twenty five years old, with 34 percent identifying as LGBTQ+. Individuals identifying as transgender or with a gender other than male or female reported the highest rates of being unsheltered.
Disparities were also found among people living with a disability. Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents indicated that they were living with at least one health condition that was disabling, i.e. preventing them from holding employment, living in stable housing, or taking care of themselves, yet in 2018, just 6.4% of people under the age of 65 in the general King County population are people living with a disability.
While the estimate of unsheltered homelessness decreased overall, the number of people sheltered on the night of the count increased, indicating more people in crisis are connecting to the services and resources they need. During 2018, Seattle, King County and other jurisdictions added just over 530 new emergency shelter beds across the region.
The point-in-time count provides a snapshot of homelessness on a given night in January. To provide a more detailed look at the homeless service system and the people served, All Home recently unveiled a new interactive data dashboard. The dashboard provides the most current information available on the people enrolled in services and affirms that exits to permanent housing have increased over the past three years, with 17,992 successful exits between 2016 and 2018. Despite increased system capacity and efficiency, the rate at which people are becoming homeless outpaces the ability to house them within existing resources.
Looking ahead, the City of Seattle, King County and All Home have joined with many community partners to begin to design a regional action plan and a new consolidated authority to address regional homelessness. In December, King County Executive Constantine and Seattle Mayor Durkan affirmed 10 interdependent Actions to unify and redesign the regional response to homelessness. That work is focused on building a system that is accountable to customers and is based on a shared, community-wide theory of change.
The complete 2019 Count Us In report can be found on the All Home website.