One Night Count homelessness statistics from 2014, courtesy of SKCCH.
One Night Count homelessness statistics from 2014, courtesy of SKCCH.

Every January, a count of our fellow residents experiencing homelessness is conducted across Seattle and King County. Last year, the results of the One Night Count were worse than previous years with over 9,200 residents experiencing some level of homelessness. The Count helps policymakers and social welfare organizations gauge the progress on ending homelessness in the the spirit of the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in King County. This effort is coordinated with a nationwide effort on the same night in order to understand the scope of homelessness and analyze efforts to end homelessness.

More than 900 volunteers will break into 125+ groups to scour cities and towns across King County to count every homeless individual. The numbers will be reported to determine the nature and extent of homelessness that individuals are experiencing. This information is incredibly valuable because it assists with future strategies and the allocation of resources to combat the causes of homelessness.

The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness has a brief Q&A on why and how the One Night Count is even conducted by advocates:

What is the One Night Count?

King County has one of the nation’s best-established point-in-time counts of homeless people. The One Night Count remains the largest community-organized count in the United States. Since 1980, the Coalition and Operation Nightwatch have organized the One Night Count of people who are without shelter.

The One Night Count has two parts:

  1. A survey of emergency shelter and transitional housing providers about who is staying in their programs or facilities on that night. Staff from the King County Community Services Division, Homeless Housing Program coordinate the survey.
  2. A street count of people who are homeless, without shelter and staying outside, in vehicles or in makeshift shelters. The Coalition has expanded the count from its downtown Seattle origins to include parts of 11 suburban cities and unincorporated King County and Metro Night Owl buses.

While it’s too late to sign up and volunteer for tonight’s One Night Count, we strongly urge you to consider involvement for future years, or by offering assistance in related efforts. We genuinely believe that solving homelessness is not only a just and fair cause for our fellow neighbors, but that we can truly end it in our region. We’ll keep you posted on the results, and hope for a better outcome than last year.

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for promoting sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He advocates for smart policies, regulations, and implementation programs that enhance urban environments by committing to quality design, accommodating growth, providing a diversity of housing choices, and adequately providing public services. Stephen primarily writes about land use and transportation issues.