Homelessness Myth or Fact?

By United Way of King County, on March 11, 2016 | In Fighting Homelessness

Myth or Fact?: People who are homeless move to King County because of homeless-related services

Myth. People move to Seattle for all the reasons you might imagine: improved job prospects, to be near family and friends, access to some of the best medical care in the country, education, the lure of Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier . . . the list is long.

King County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation; passing the 2 million mark in 2012. And most of the population gains do come from folks moving into the county from other places (vs. a “natural” increase, births minus deaths). Last year, the Seattle Times reported that King County had a record-breaking number of newcomers; the Department of Licensing issued 64,376 new drivers licenses to people who moved here from other states. In 2015, that number went up another 13%. People come for:

  • We’re on lots of Top 10 lists of where college grads want to land their first job.
  • We have great universities – and they attract people from outside of our region. It is more common for new students at the likes of Seattle University (67%) and Seattle Pacific University (46%) to be from outside of Washington State.
  • Great amenities. Whether it’s great restaurants, amazing coffee or 12th man appeal, you don’t have to look far for all the things that attract newcomers.

Yep. Hopefully just like you, people like living here. But that doesn’t mean that we’re especially attracting people who are homeless.

In fact, for someone that is already homeless, there are lots of reasons NOT to want to move here:

So, while King County can be a great place to live, we’re not attracting people who are homeless at a rate that’s disproportionate. At emergency shelters, we ask people where their last permanent address was. Just 14% give an address outside of King County. That means that most people checking in at a homeless shelter this evening were recently living in King County neighborhoods.

These are our neighbors. Neighbors that deserve our help when they’re down on their luck.

We make a variety of investments to make sure that if people do become homeless, it is both brief and one-time. We invest in emergency shelter – extending hours in the dark, winter months. We support outreach workers through the Streets to Home program, acknowledging people’s unique experiences and working on unique solutions. Jobs Connect program helps people bounce back by connecting them with temporary employment. This is what neighbors do.


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