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caption: Homeless encampment along a road in the Sodo area of Seattle.
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Homeless encampment along a road in the Sodo area of Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Homeless count down in King County but not everywhere in WA

Washington state has seen a slight overall decline in homelessness. And yet the number of people living on the streets or in shelters has gone up in about half the state’s counties.

More than 21,600 people were counted as homeless in Washington state on a single night this January. That represents a decrease of 683 people (3 percent) from 2018.

The decrease was seen in how many people were counted living outside in tents, vehicles and on the streets.

Statewide, 1,022 fewer people were counted in these situations. The number of people in shelters and transitional housing during the annual one night count went up by 339 overall, according to the state Department of Commerce.

The decreases were largely thanks to a dip in King County where roughly 70 percent of the state’s homeless population resides.

For the first time since 2012, the number of people counted as experiencing homelessness in King County went down.

But not all counties followed this trend.

The state Department of Commerce said 21 out of 29 Washington counties saw their numbers rise.

Snohomish County topped the list with 258 more people counted.

The one-night count is federally mandated for jurisdictions that wish to receive money for homelessness services. Results only give a snapshot of the issue, however.

They’re widely recognized as an undercount and the methodology differs among the counties.

Year-round data gives a better idea of the scope of the problem. For instance, in King County alone, about 22,500 households needed homelessness services in 2018.

Officials say the service system continues to get more people out of homelessness and into housing, but the need continues to outweigh the resources in places like Seattle and King County.

Statewide, an estimated 29,800 people experiencing homelessness were successfully housed between October 2017 and September 2018, according to the Department of Commerce.