Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

King County homelessness count shows 17 percent decrease overall

Decreases are not even among different demographics.

The 2019 homelessness count in King County was released last week showing an overall decrease in people experiencing homelessness. The overall decrease was 17 percent, down to 11,199 people.

While there has been progress in addressing homelessness, it is still affecting people of color more severely. The count held in January found the majority of those experiencing homelessness identified as people of color. Black or African Americans made up 32 percent of those experiencing homelessness despite making up only 6 percent of the King County’s population.

Hispanic and Latinos accounted for 15 percent of the homeless population while making up 10 percent of the total population. American Indian and Alaskan Native peoples were 10 percent of the homeless population while accounting for only about 1 percent of the total.

The Native American homeless population in particular jumped from 3 percent last year to 10 percent, and Native Americans living in cities face unique challenges to finding housing, according to the county. However, some of the increase may be due to the county finding more accurate ways to identify Native Americans experiencing homelessness, said Kira Zylstra, executive director for All Home, which coordinates the point in time count. And while there has been an overall decrease, there are still more than 11,000 people experiencing homelessness.

“Really what this tells us is that we are continuing to struggle with the crisis,” she said.

Areas where there has been progress include reducing the number of veterans and minors experiencing homelessness. Those groups have seen decreases over the past two years. Zylstra credited that decrease to three key elements working together.

In order for a strategy to be effective, there needs to be strong collaboration between service providers, local governments and partner agencies coupled with finding homeless people and working with them on a personal level. Also as important is having the funding to target different demographics to provide them with services. Federal grants are available for veterans and youths, which played a large role in reducing the number of unsheltered young people and veterans, Zylstra said.

“We’ve really had just an exciting marshaling of support from our community since the receipt of our federal dollars,” she said.

The count found 47 percent of people experiencing homelessness were living unsheltered, compared to 52 percent in 2018. However, there was a 32 percent increase of those living in tents or encampments, even as the number of those living in vehicles decreased by 36 percent.

The number of people living in emergency shelters also increased by 13 percent over last year as the number of people living in transitional housing decreased by 14 percent. That was partially due to new emergency shelter capacity and expansions opening, along with five Seattle tiny house villages being reclassified as emergency shelters instead of being unsheltered.

On the Eastside, the number of people living unsheltered was 337, far less than the nearly 3,560 in Seattle or the 1,084 in southwest King County. Some 2,451 people were thought to be families with children representing roughly 763 households. About 830 people experiencing homelessness were veterans.

In addition to people of color, LGBTQ people were also more likely to experience homelessness. About 25 percent of those in the count identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer, according to the report.

A majority of homeless people in the county also had some sort of health condition with 36 percent saying they had psychiatric or emotional conditions, followed by 35 percent with PTSD and 32 percent with drug or alcohol dependency.

Of the respondents in the count, three-quarters said they needed rental assistance and more affordable housing to get off the streets, while 41 percent said they needed a job or more income. Some 38 percent were looking for work, and 18 percent said they were unable to work due to age or medical conditions.

Creating more housing will remain an important focus, Zylstra said.

“We need to ensure an adequate supply of housing to create pathways out of homelessness,” she said.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

King County assessor wants Legislature to fix laws to help small businesses

Changes needed because of COVID-19 impact on commercial properties

King County could be in Phase 2 in two weeks

The county is also hoping the state lets them reopen several businesses by Friday.

Protesters gathered in downtown Snoqualmie on May 30 to voice their opposition to police violence against people of color. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Snoqualmie holds peaceful police violence protest

The protest attracted around two dozen people who held signs in downtown Snoqualmie.

File photo
Rates of COVID-19 lower in the Valley

East King County has lower rates than much of the rest of the county.

Kabal Gill, owner of East India Grill in Federal Way, wears gloves to hand over take-out orders at his restaurant on March 23. File photo
New guidelines for Phase 2 reopenings in King County

All workers will need to wear masks as restaurants, retail shops and other businesses reopen.

This undated file photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows CDC’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus. Courtesy photo
Inslee wants nursing home residents and staff tested by June 12

Governor says state will pay for test kits and personal protective equipment.

Stock image
Campgrounds to reopen in 22 Washington counties

Campgrounds in counties actively in Phase 2 of the reopening plan will begin to welcome visitors June 1, state says.

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht. FILE PHOTO
King County sheriff releases message about Minneapolis Police officer

Mitzi Johanknecht calls video of officer kneeling on neck of George Floyd ‘heartbreaking and disturbing’

Most Read