Can we make progress on homelessness?

By United Way of King County, on May 6, 2019 | In Fighting Homelessness

Communities across the country reported their annual count of people experiencing homelessness to HUD last week. This data is based on a census done in January to provide a snapshot of the number of people staying in shelters and living unsheltered. Like most years, the results are mixed and show the dire need for significantly more investments at both the federal and local level.

  • The number of people experiencing homelessness in DC is down 5.5% from last year.
  • San Diego County’s homeless population is down roughly 11% from 2017.
  • Orange County saw an increase from 4,792 homeless people in 2017 to 6,860 homeless people this year.
  • San Antonio reports a 6% reduction in homelessness
  • New York City saw an alarming record of 63,839 people sleeping in NYC shelters each night.
  • Locally in King County we saw a drop in the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time since 2012. The 2019 point-in-time of people found 11,199 people, a decrease of 8% from 2018. There are fewer veterans, families, and young adults experiencing homelessness.

So what does all of this mean?

The good news is that we know what it takes to end homelessness. Housing + income. When we invest in effective housing solutions like diversion, permanent supportive housing, and rental subsidies, people exit homelessness. We need to do much more of this. We also need to help more people exiting homelessness access good paying jobs so that they can increase their income and afford housing, food, and other basic necessities.

There are some trends we should watch closely.

  • More than 22k households in King County (30,000 people) experienced an episode of homelessness in 2018. We need to build an effective prevention system to stop the inflow of people losing their homes.
  • Seattle saw record number more people dying on our streets last year. Without shelter people die. While not a long-term solution, we need more shelter capacity right now in this region.
  • As a region, the more available housing options with affordable rent, the fewer people will experience homelessness.
  • Racial disparities are growing each year. People of color make up more than half of the people estimated to be homeless, compared to only about a third of King County’s general population. Homelessness among African Americans went up by nearly 8% this year and Native Americans make up nearly 10% of the overall one-night count total. We will not end homelessness without addressing the racism within our systems and policies. That’s why we launched Home Base.  We know that people of color are receiving eviction notices at a disproportionate rate.  African Americans received 4.5 times the amount of eviction notices than would be expected based on their demographics. Home Base is designed to address those disparities and will prevent 4,000 people from becoming homeless in the coming year.

What can I do?

The number one question we get is “How can I help”?  Your time, talents, financial resources and voice are critical to helping build a movement to end homelessness. This month there are some big opportunities to use your voice. Check out these opportunities to get involved. You can also donate to organizations on the front lines of fighting homelessness, like us here at United Way of King County.


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