By Marcy Comer
3,772 people were homeless and outside in King County on Jan. 23, according to results from the latest One Night Count – an annual survey organized by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. This number is an increase of 21% over those found without shelter last year. This number always is assumed to be an undercount – because officials do not count everywhere, and because many people take great care not to be visible. The reasons people are without shelter varies. Lack of affordable housing, poverty, unemployment, untreated mental illness or addiction, and domestic violence all contribute to homelessness.
“This year’s Count is heart-breaking evidence that we cannot cover our community’s most basic needs. Clearly, the crisis of people homeless and without shelter is growing, and clearly we must respond by using every resource we have. Everyone needs a safe place to rest,” said Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.
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 over a dozen suburban cities and unincorporated King County and on Metro Night Owl buses.
How does the Count work?
Over 1,100 volunteers go out with 125+ trained team leaders to pre-arranged areas in parts of Seattle, East King County, North King County, Southwest King County, and South King County. The Count is only possible through the dedicated support from hundreds of individuals and dozens of community organizations, congregations and government agencies.
Since 2006, partial funding for the One Night Count has been provided by the King County Committee to End Homelessness, the coalition of government, business and nonprofits responsible for implementing our community’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. The Count helps to inform progress on the Plan, as well as provide insight into the dynamics of homelessness and inform strategies for solving it.
Why perform the Count?
The One Night Count is carried out for two reasons: to document the nature and extent of homelessness in King County, and to build public engagement and action around the issue. It is a solemn and eye-opening opportunity to witness the survival struggles of our neighbors who are homeless. Hundreds of community members come together for this annual count, which acts as a powerful launching off point for participants to speak up and act and write and advocate to end this crisis.
Why does this matter to the Junior League of Seattle?
JLS is committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Knowledge of our community’s homeless statistics is fundamental to affecting positive change to overall family stability in our community. To learn more about legislative solutions to make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time, visit Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA)’s 2015 State Legislative Agenda and The Mockingbird Society’s 2015 State Legislative Agenda.