Homelessness down nationwide, but still up in King County | KUOW News and Information

Homelessness down nationwide, but still up in King County

Nov 17, 2016

Seattle and other west coast cities are bucking the national homeless trend — and not for the better.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the numbers from its annual point-in-time count Thursday. The number of homeless people in the U.S. is down 14 percent compared to the year 2010.

HUD says while homeless rates declined nationwide and across Washington as a whole, the opposite happened in Seattle. The number of homeless people in Seattle/King County rose by 19 percent since 2010.

One factor: the West Coast housing market. That’s one of the biggest reasons according to Matthew Doherty at the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Castro: "I think we've seen really dramatic shifts in the market on the West Coast over the last couple of years. And then I also think it's becoming harder and harder in these communities for people to exit homelessness and to find places to call home that they can afford and that they can sustain themselves in."

There's a similar trend in Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In Seattle, the HUD report shows there are fewer homeless families than there were in 2010, but more homeless individuals.

Some Washington counties have had more success; the percentage of homeless people dropped by double digits in Snohomish, Clark and Yakima counties.

In Everett and Snohomish County, the number of homeless people fell 54 percent from 2010-2016. In that time, 79 percent of homeless families found housing.

HUD attributes the nationwide drop in homelessness to work by the Obama Administration. The department cites targeted work to help homeless vets; 31 cities virtually ended veteran homelessness.

Another successful tactic was “housing first,” an effort to connect people to permanent housing immediately.

Seattle's city leaders have recently shifted their approach to homelessness and will practice “housing first.”

HUD has gradually increased how much it invests in Washington state's homeless services. The state received $22 million in 2010 from HUD and $35 million in 2015.