Homelessness: 2nd annual media blitz

A year ago, more than 30 Seattle media outlets joined a coordinated media response to the region’s homelessness crisis.  Despite sincere and sometimes successful efforts by city and county governments, local businesses and philanthropies, and community-based organizations, homelessness in King County still qualifies as a crisis.

In January, the one-night count of sheltered plus unsheltered homeless in King County was 11,643, generating the local headline, “A city the size of Woodinville is sleeping in our streets.”  But the annual count used a new method in 2017, so that number can’t validly be compared to previous results.

We have another source of data, though. School districts in Washington are required to “track their homeless students and report that data annually to OSPI” (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction), which in turn reports to the state legislature.  Communities Count has compiled these data for King County school districts going back to the 2007-2008 school year.  By 2015-2016, student homelessness statewide had ballooned to 39,671 – a 52% increase in just 5 years. Over the same period, student homelessness in King County almost doubled — from 4,423 in 2010-11 to 8,411 in 2015-2016 (see chart). Of the 19 school districts in King County, the number of homeless students declined in only 2 (see school district trends).  Washington schools use the U.S. Department of Education’s definition of student homelessness, explained in detail here.

Options for monitoring national and local media coverage of homelessness on June 28th include a national conversation curated by CityLab, Crosscut’s social media pages (Facebook and Twitter), and hashtag #500kHomeless.

 

Anyone could be homeless

Starting March 1st, eight short videos about homelessness in our region became available on The Moth’s YouTube site.   Last year, National Public Radio’s StoryCorps team and Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness invited local residents to talk about their experiences with homelessness. The resulting stories briefly convey (< 10 minutes each) the broad spectrum of circumstances that can leave families without a home.  They remind us that, despite the best-laid plans, anyone could be homeless.

This message is echoed in Communities Count’s new student homelessness update.  In the 2014-15 school year, homelessness among King County public school students has increased again – to an all-time high of 7,260.  In the Tukwila district, 1 in 9 students was homeless last year.  Almost half of homeless students (3,478) were in pre-K or elementary school; more than half “doubled-up” with friends or relatives because their own family was unable to provide stable housing.

For the first time, Communities Count provides downloadable student homelessness data for the past 8 school years. Updates on housing affordability can be found in the Housing section of Communities Count.  For additional information on homelessness in King County, go to AllHome.

Homelessness emergency declared in Seattle / King County

This morning Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine proclaimed that regional homelessness has reached a “state of emergency.”  Such proclamations are usually reserved for natural disasters, but Murray explained that local deaths related to homelessness have surpassed those caused by natural disasters in 2015.  Both the county and the city plan to increase funding for homelessness services, and will work to secure support from Washington state and the federal government.  An additional $5.3 million from the sale of city property will be used to address homelessness issues.  About half of those funds will be applied to homelessness prevention efforts.

According to the Seattle Times, last January’s One Night Count reported “3,772 men, women and children without shelter in King County, including more than 2,800 in Seattle – a 21 percent increase over 2014.”  When Communities Count reported on student homelessness in the 2012-2013 school year, 6,188 students in King County public schools were homeless.  According to the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, that number increased to 6,448 in 2013-2014.

 

“Home: Lost and Found” storytelling workshops

The Moth, a popular public radio show that also puts on stage events and open-mic StorySLAMs in Seattle, is hosting free storytelling workshops to develop the storytelling skills of family homelessness providers and advocacy organizations in the Puget Sound Region. “We’re looking for people who have a personal story related to homelessness, who want to learn how to craft it into a compelling 5-minute story that can be told in front of a live audience.” Workshops will be held in February and March. Click here for details and a link to application information. Applications will be accepted through Feb. 6, 2015.
Communities Count tracks student homelessness in King County school districts. Collectively, close to 6,200 students were homeless in 2012-13. The overall rate of homelessness (1 in 44 students) masked large differences across districts — from Tukwila (1 in 10 students) to Mercer Island (2 in 1,000).

Eastside project focuses on sexual assault of homeless youth.

The King County Sexual Assault Resource Center has partnered with Friends of Youth, the Redmond Police Department, the Riverview School District and Learning Center, and other organizations to create Project360, an innovative approach to addressing sexual assault trauma among homeless youth. Successfully piloted with Seattle-based YouthCare, the new program offers therapeutic support for sexually abused youth. Serving people 13 to 24 years old, Project360 stresses prevention, but also offers therapy, case management, community and legal advocacy, and training – across disciplines – in responding to sexual assault situations.
For more information on homeless youth, see Communities Count’s new section on Student Homelessness.