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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Point-in-Time count estimates a 5 percent increase in people experiencing homelessness, newly updated data dashboards reveal more people receiving shelter and services

Summary

The 2020 Point-in-Time Count for Seattle/King County found 11,751 people experiencing homelessness on one night in January, with 53 percent sheltered and 47 percent unsheltered. The total reflects a five percent increase compared to the 2019 Count. Newly updated data dashboards show numbers of most populations seeking homelessness services have remained steady over the past three years, while veteran and youth and young adult homelessness continue to see reductions.

Story

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan released the final report for Count Us In, the annual Point-in-Time count for Seattle and King County that found a total of 11,751 people experiencing homelessness countywide. The report counted 6,173 people (53 percent) sheltered and 5,578 people (47 percent) unsheltered. This represents an overall increase of five percent. City_of_Seattle_logo

The Point-in-Time Count is an annual event in which volunteers spread out across King County on a single night to count persons experiencing unsheltered homelessness.  The one-night count is supplemented by surveys and shelter data to inform the final report. This year’s Count happened in January, before the current COVID-19 emergency in King County.

Accompanying the report’s release is an update to online data dashboards that depict consistently collected data from the region’s Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS), a digital database of County-wide homelessness services.

"As a region, we have worked hard to create more 24/7 shelters that are connected to onsite services to help people regain health and stability," said Executive Constantine. "Looking ahead, we must continue to strengthen our response to homelessness beyond merely a place to sleep, but also providing the safety, dignity, and supports people need to build permanent pathways out of homelessness. That work must also ensure that we serve Black, indigenous and other communities of color who are disproportionately represented in the homeless population. We must always do better."

"While many individuals last stable home was not in the City of Seattle, our city continues to serve the most vulnerable in our region. While the City of Seattle makes record investments in prevention and serving individuals experiencing homelessness, the Point-in-Time report continues to highlight the disproportional impacts of homelessness on communities of color. Our regional homelessness investments must include an immediate and direct response to any crisis of housing stability, connecting people with the services they need, in their community wherever they are across the county," said Mayor Durkan.

"As we shift towards our regional governance model, we have an opportunity to improve on systemic inequities through contracting, planning, staffing, and more equitable services across our region," she said. "After years of discussion, we are finally creating a regional approach, with evidence-based policies proven to improve outcomes for our neighbors experiencing homelessness."
 
King County and the City of Seattle use HMIS data to guide policy and decision making. The HMIS provides real-time information throughout the year on the scale, scope and needs of people experiencing homelessness. The Point-in-Time Count provides a snapshot of a single night every year. The HMIS reports have been enhanced to share more information on people engaged in the homeless service system, including data by household type, age, veteran status, race and ethnicity. The dashboard also offers data on inflow and outflow of households in the regional homeless system, critical to understanding the magnitude of the crisis and the solutions needed.

Because the Count and the data dashboards rely on different data sources, the highest confidence lies in those areas where both sources indicate similar trends.

For example, the Count and the data dashboard both highlight the continuing disproportionality of homelessness among communities of color. Based on surveys conducted as part of the Count report, Native American/Alaska Native people made up one percent of the population in Seattle/King County, but 15 percent of the respondents experiencing homelessness. Black/African Americans are seven percent of the Seattle/King County population, but 25 percent of the respondents. Latinx persons are ten percent of the Seattle/King County population, but 15 percent of the survey respondents.

Seattle and King County are committed to addressing the causes and consequences of structural racism as the only path to meaningfully reducing these disproportionalities.

"Seeing these numbers of Native homelessness is heartbreaking. I feel enormous pain and sorrow for my relatives, who because of their indigeneity, because of their historical and on-going trauma, will experience the highest rates of homelessness," said Colleen Echohawk, Executive Director of the Chief Seattle Club and co-chair of the King County Continuum of Care Board. "Systemic and institutionalized racism continues to ensure that BIPOC communities experience homelessness at much higher and alarming rates. Our system must shift and our Regional Homelessness Authority must focus on system change that is equitable and anti-racist."

“We had a challenging and unacceptable homelessness crisis before COVID-19, and the risks are high that we will see an increase in homelessness as a result of the economic fallout caused by the pandemic,” said Sara Levin, vice president of community services at United Way of King County and co-chair of the King County Continuum of Care Board. “That is why United Way is focusing on preventing people from falling into homelessness and urging local, state and federal lawmakers to prevent evictions through funding and policy changes.”

Monthly data in HMIS shows an increase in households connecting with homeless services over the past year. Despite increased system capacity and efficiency, however, the rate at which people are becoming homeless continues to outpace the ability to house them within existing resources.

Together with leaders with lived experience of homelessness, King County, the City of Seattle, and the Sound Cities Association are working together to begin implementation of the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority, a new governance system to improve regional coordination of resources and action plans to address homelessness countywide. Responsibility for overseeing the Point in Time Count moves to the KCRHA in 2021.

The Point-in-Time count is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is used by HUD to make funding decisions. This is the first year the count has been coordinated by Vega Nguyen, a women and minority-owned survey research firm based in Bellingham. The King County Homeless Response System Dashboard and the 2020 Count Us In report are available online at https://regionalhomelesssystem.org/


Relevant links


Quotes

As a region, we have worked hard to create more 24/7 shelters that are connected to onsite services to help people regain health and stability. Looking ahead, we must continue to strengthen our response to homelessness beyond merely a place to sleep, but also providing the safety, dignity, and supports people need to build permanent pathways out of homelessness. That work must also ensure that we serve Black, indigenous and other communities of color who are disproportionately represented in the homeless population. We must always do better.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

While many individuals last stable home was not in the City of Seattle, our city continues to serve the most vulnerable in our region. While the City of Seattle makes record investments in prevention and serving individuals experiencing homelessness, the Point-in-Time report continues to highlight the disproportional impacts of homelessness on communities of color. Our regional homelessness investments must include an immediate and direct response to any crisis of housing stability, connecting people with the services they need, in their community wherever they are across the county. As we shift towards our regional governance model, we have an opportunity to improve on systemic inequities through contracting, planning, staffing, and more equitable services across our region. After years of discussion, we are finally creating a regional approach, with evidence-based policies proven to improve outcomes for our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

Jenny A. Durkan, Mayor of Seattle

Seeing these numbers of Native homelessness is heartbreaking. I feel enormous pain and sorrow for my relatives, who because of their indigeneity, because of their historical and on-going trauma, will experience the highest rates of homelessness. Systemic and institutionalized racism continues to ensure that BIPOC communities experience homelessness at much higher and alarming rates. Our system must shift and our Regional Homelessness Authority must focus on system change that is equitable and anti-racist.

Colleen Echohawk, Executive Director of the Chief Seattle Club, co-chair of the King County Continuum of Care Board

We had a challenging and unacceptable homelessness crisis before COVID-19, and the risks are high that we will see an increase in homelessness as a result of the economic fallout caused by the pandemic. That is why United Way is focusing on preventing people from falling into homelessness and urging local, state and federal lawmakers to prevent evictions through funding and policy changes.

Sara Levin, vice president of community services at United Way of King County, co-chair of the King County Continuum of Care Board

For more information, contact:

Sherry Hamilton, Department of Community and Human Services, 206-263-9010


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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