The number of homeless people in Washington state is rising.
According to new numbers released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Thursday, more than 19,400 people in Washington lived in shelters or on the streets in January this year.
That's up 5.3 percent from the same time last year. And that's bucking a national trend: Across the U.S., rates of homelessness have fallen over the past year.
Tim Harris, the founding director of the street paper Real Change, said the numbers don't come as a surprise, and they actually underestimate the scope of the problem.
“There's a lot of fantastic work that's going on to reduce homelessness. But the problem is that we're seeing about 35,000 new people becoming homeless in King County every year so we're really swimming against the tide,” Harris said.
He said the count from the federal department doesn't include people who temporarily stay with friends or family and move around to stay off the streets.
Neighboring states Alaska and Oregon have also seen an increase in homelessness over the past year.