King County homelessness reaches new high

On January 23rd, King County’s annual One Night Count of homeless and unsheltered individuals totaled a record-breaking 3,772 – a 21% increase over last year’s count and the highest number in the 35 years of the count’s existence. Findings from the One Night Count (by definition an undercount) are supported by the steady upward trend in student homelessness reported by Communities Count.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. The 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, launched in 2005, aimed to end homelessness by 2015. Maybe it’s working in other places around the country, but we seem to be moving in the wrong direction. At Seattle City Hall last July, presenters at Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness told a local audience that “steady reductions in the annual Point-in-Time Count data clearly show our progress, nationally.” If the nation actually is reducing homelessness, how do we explain the opposite trend here in King County? As quoted in the Jan 28-Feb 3 issue of Real Change, “How is it possible that so many amazing people can be working on this and still be losing this badly?”