One Night Count
PIT Count Results Courtesy of Seattle/King County Coalition To End Homelessness

In the early morning hours of Friday, January 23rd, volunteers spread across King County in order to complete the One Night Count. This annual census is a critical part of the effort to end homelessness in the Puget Sound. The results were pretty grim.

Volunteers counted 3,772 people outside, unsheltered. This is a 21% increase from the 3,123 people counted in 2014. A large portion of this increase is likely from including two new locations, Southwest King County and Vashon Island. These two additions accounted for 219 people. In one regard, the Coalition to End Homlessness deserves a lot of credit for organizing enough volunteers to cover additional areas. Excluding the areas, there were still 3,553 people sleeping without shelter, nearly a 14% increase from 2014.

Seattle’s Numbers Look Poor Nationally

When compared to efforts in other cities, Seattle’s homeless population is heading in the opposite direction. The official national statistics compiled by HUD have only been published through 2013. In the last ranking, Seattle had the third largest homeless population, behind New York and Los Angeles, but ahead of many larger cities.


Changes in the number of areas covered and volunteers mobilized can have a big impact on the number of people counted, but even with this taken into account, Seattle doesn’t fair well. Homelessness appears to be declining nationally, down nearly 9% from 2007 to 2013, and many cities have been touting their declining numbers. San Diego reduced its count of homeless population 4% between 2013 and 2014, even though more volunteers participated in the count. Salt Lake City and Phoenix have both declared they successfully ended chronic homelessness among veterans.

Still, there are many cities with an increasing homeless population, including Washington, DC and Las Vegas, which may both surpass Seattle’s total homeless population when HUD files its 2014 report to Congress.

What’s Next

The final results from 2015 will include people counted in shelters and are not yet published. This number will give a better picture of the change in the total number of homeless King County residents. Additionally, the effort to end homelessness is ongoing. There are a number of legislative battles that are important, such as investing $100 million in the Washington state housing trust fund and changing laws to allow people with criminal records to obtain housing. There are a lot of ways people can help, including donating, understanding the causes of homelessnesssending this postcard to the state legislature, and/or signing up for action alerts to help with next year’s One Night Count.

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Owen does servicing and consulting for a software company to pay the bills. He has an amateur interest in urban policy, focusing on housing. His primary mode is a bicycle but isn't ashamed of riding down the hill and taking the bus back up. Feel free to tweet at him: @pickovven.

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HOW and WHY did our area become a destination for so many homeless people? Every where I go where there is an open space there are tents and plastic tarps set up and people living in them.
How much are these homeless costing each of us taxpaying families in our area. Why when there so little unemployment in our area are there so many of these freeloader’s living here? From what I understand our area has the third highest population of homeless people only N.Y. and L.A. has more.
How many of these people are druggies and here for the free lunch they are given here.
Our area looks like America did in 30’s during the depression when there was no jobs but then there was an excuse but what is the excuse we have these days? There are many good paying jobs and our area has unemployment under 5% and from what I understand there are many businesses looking for good employees to hire. AGAIN I ASK HOW & WHY this has happened in our area ? posted : 6/11/2017


I think this is “trickle down” homelessness due to the increased cost of rent. I don’t see what else it could be. Poverty and substance abuse are the two biggest contributors to homelessness. But there is no reason why substance abuse would see a sudden (14%) increase. If there was, the number would be reflected nationally. Meanwhile, Seattle has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. This isn’t Kentucky right after they closed the coal mine, or Gary Indiana right after they closed the plant. Nothing like that has happened in Seattle.

The only logical explanation is that rent is just too damn high. The folks who used to live in a decent apartment have essentially kicked out the folks that lived in the dumpy apartments. Some of those folks live in their car, or shelters, stay with friends or on the street. All those heroes working their ass off to help the downtrodden are simply swimming against the tide of increasing rent.

Something to think about when someone says they don’t want to “upset the character of the neighborhood” by allowing additional dwelling units on the property (the cheapest way to add density). Require extra parking, or ridiculous limits on the structure, or even worse, ownership requirements, and all it does is add to the cost of rent. Ultimately it means more children — yes, children — living in cars or shelters. Enjoy your nice neighborhood, and I hope you sleep well tonight.


Oh, and in case someone thinks I’m criticizing single family home owners, I’m not. I live in a house in just such a neighborhood (where, like most of Seattle, tight restrictions apply to development). As much as I enjoy the quiet solitude, I think there are more important considerations (like how an 8 year old is supposed to work on her homework when she lives in a car with her mom).