January 29, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 5

News

Record number of people found sleeping outdoors in King County’s 2014 One Night Count

By Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

A person, above, slept on a Seattle street, while others spent the night in a tent, below. During the Jan. 24 One Night Count, volunteers found 3,117 people outside without shelter in King County.

Photo by: Ted Mase , Contributing Photographer

Photo by: Ted Mase , Contributing Photographer

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About 800 volunteers fanned out across the county at 2 a.m. Jan. 24 for the One Night Count, a federally mandated annual survey that tallies how many people are living outdoors or in their cars.

Volunteers with the effort saw a teenager with a suitcase sleeping in a doorway, a family-sized tent under a roadway with a stroller parked outside it and a man who tended a garden around his campsite.

Volunteers found 3,117 people — the largest amount in the count’s 34-year history — living in parked cars, sleeping in doorways or camping in greenbelts across King County. The number is greater than the 2013 count by 381 people, or 14 percent.

The count does not include those living in a shelter or in transitional housing, who are tallied separately. Volunteers searched in Seattle, 11 suburban cities, unincorporated King County and on Metro Night Owl buses.

The increase shows that regional efforts to end homelessness are good but not enough, said Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH), which organized the One Night Count.

“If, from one day to the next, 400 people became homeless through a natural disaster or a fire or a national emergency, wouldn’t we have a better response than we have now?” she said.

The King County Committee to End Homelessness has created more than 5,400 new units of housing since 2005 and provided emergency and transitional housing to 9,000 households in 2013, but Eisinger said the efforts aren’t keeping up.

“If we don’t match the scale of our response to the scale of our problem, we won’t make enough progress, period,” she said. “While those numbers are big and terrible, they’re not too big for us to solve.”

On Feb. 1, SKCCH will host workshops to discuss the One Night Count numbers and how people can work with elected officials in Olympia to reduce homelessness. Plymouth United Church of Christ at 1217 Sixth Ave. in Seattle will host one workshop at 10 a.m., and Kent Lutheran Church at 336 Second Ave. S. in Kent will host another at 2 p.m.

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