One day a year, it's a lot easier for homeless people in Snohomish County to get some basic things that you might take for granted. Things like shoes, backpacks or pet care.
More than a thousand people lined up outside an elementary school in Everett on Thursday to get a little help.
Steph Stark and her sister came down from Stanwood at the north end of the county. Stark has been living in a tent along the Stillaguamish River.
"I'm having my hair cut," Stark said. "It's a blessing."
And how long had it been since her last haircut? "At least four years."
After her cut, she was going to get some new glasses.
United Way officials say their one-day event helps alleviate suffering but broader efforts are needed to address the root causes of homelessness. Stark and others flooding into the event say they see more homelessness than ever in Snohomish County.
"Oh, there's a lot more people and a lot more families," she said. "That's the sad thing."
Jason Knowles of Everett sees it similarly.
"Seems to be the worst I've ever seen it, honestly, as far as the amount of homelessness," said Knowles, who got out of jail a few weeks ago and has been staying at the Everett Gospel Mission shelter.
But county officials say fewer people, not more, are living on the streets and in the woods of Snohomish County.
"We've seen significant declines in family homelessness in particular and in veteran homelessness," said M.J. Brell-Vujovic, who heads the county's human services department.
Nobody really knows how many people are homeless in Snohomish County, or anywhere else.
Around the country, volunteers try to count the homeless on one night each January. They miss a lot of people who don't want their camps to be found or counted. And some years might get more volunteers pulling those all-nighters than other years.
Still, Snohomish County appears to be doing a lot better than King County. The one-night counts show homelessness increasing sharply in King County.
In both counties, homeless shelters turn people away each night.
"Our shelters are still operating at capacity," said Snohomish County's Brell-Vujovic. "So there's still a huge unmet need."