An analysis of three authorized homeless encampments in Seattle showed some success getting people indoors, but highlighted racial disparities and data gaps.
In 2016, the Ballard, Othello and Interbay camps served 403 adults ages 18 to 64, making up 323 households. Of those, 37 had children.
Ages tended to skew toward middle-aged, with only 5 percent of residents in the 18-to-24 demographic and 3 percent over the age of 62. More than a quarter were chronically homeless, meaning they have slept rough, in an emergency shelter or safe haven for the past 12 months continuously, or 12 months total over the past three years.
Most had no source of income, while 11 percent were actively working.
Encampments seemed to perform better at getting people into permanent housing, with 26 percent reporting they had a place to live after they left, compared to 18 percent of those in shelters.
However, the data raised two important challenges. Although White people make up just above 30 percent of the homeless population, 57 percent of tent encampment clients were White, and White people make up 43 percent of the shelter population. Human Services Department staff have promised further research into these racial disparities.
Additionally, the data is incomplete. Case managers collect information from clients and enter it into the Homeless Management Information System, the federally required reporting database. Some clients refuse to give personal information about their next steps, or, because case managers are not on site around the clock, clients simply leave when case managers are absent.
Still, the results seemed promising to city councilmembers, particularly at the Othello site, which has more Tiny Homes — semi-permanent structures — than other camps. Othello seemed to be the program to emulate, said Councilmember Tim Burgess.
“If that is true, I think you should ask for more budget, because I think we’d be supportive,” Burgess said.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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