On a single night earlier this year, homeless shelters in King County turned away 214 children and 152 adults. Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (skcch) conducted the One Night Count on Jan. 26, part of an annual survey of shelters and transitional housing held to determine the unmet need for shelter.
A total of 116 households representing 366 people requested shelter or housing but found the services full.
skcch collected data from 26 agencies and cross-referenced the data with Safe Harbors, the county’s data management system for homeless services.
Alison Eisinger, executive director of skcch, said the numbers represent a minimum count of the unmet need in King County.
“We’re very confident in the quality of that data, and we’re confident that that is a minimum,” she said.
While collecting the information, shelter and housing staff asked families where they stayed the previous night. Of those who answered, 51 families stayed with family or friends, 12 stayed in a hotel and nine faced eviction. Seven families, representing a total of 19 people, slept in a car, tent or on the streets.
The count found fewer people than in previous years. From 2009 to 2011, skcch counted between 141 and 194 families, representing 430 to 544 individuals.
The fluctuation in data is likely due to the nature of the survey, Eisinger said, which is taken on a single night each year.
“I wouldn’t read anything into it,” Eisinger said.
skcch presented the information to the Seattle City Council’s Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee July 25 at Mary’s Place, a family drop-in shelter. With more than 100 people in attendance, Eisinger and others called for more financial resources to support services. The Seattle City Council has worked hard at keeping homelessness from increasing, but Eisinger said that’s not enough.
“We need to do more than hold the line,” she said. “It’s foolish to think we can address it without new resources.”