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King County has the third-highest number of unsheltered people in the US

It’s been two years since Seattle declared a state of emergency

Christopher Boswell

Back in January, a local point-in-time count found that 11,643 were experiencing homelessness in King County. Nearly half of them were living unsheltered. A recent report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), reported by the Seattle Times, found that those numbers are among the highest in the United States.

Out of all jurisdictions that are required to report counts to receive federal funding, King County ranked third both in homelessness—behind only New York City and Los Angeles County—and in people living unsheltered.

HUD also had the fifth-highest rate of homeless families with children in the country.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much our local homeless population has grown. Our count was conducted differently this year: the county brought in a research firm and volunteers were paired with formerly-homeless people to help with the count, so the new numbers aren’t directly comparable to past counts.

That said, the results of our count did grow at a higher rate than the rest of the United States, with the unsheltered count going up 21 percent and overall count of people experiencing homelessness growing by around 8.5 percent. Nationwide, the homeless population grew about 1 percent.

In response to Seattle’s growing homelessness crisis, the city declared a state of emergency two years ago—but clearly, the problem is still severe.

In an attempt to better-serve the homeless population, the city recently overhauled its homeless services contracts. While this led to new providers getting funding and a greater emphasis on housing, many longtime providers, especially those who provide emergency beds, are slated to lose their city backing.