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More than 11,000 people are experiencing homelessness in King County

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Nearly half of people counted in January of this year were unsheltered

David Lee/Flickr

Each year in January, a team of volunteers covers King County, tallying people who are sleeping outside. Every year the results are pretty grim, and this year is no exception: All together, people working with city and county coalition AllHome counted 11,643 people experiencing homelessness on the night of January 27 alone.

Nearly half, or 5,485, were sleeping outside of a shelter—on the street, in a vehicle, in an abandoned building, in a tent.

70 percent, the majority of those unsheltered, were in Seattle, although 20 percent were found in southwest King County, which includes Renton and Kent.

Out of the 11,643 people experiencing homelessness, about 16 percent are under 18, including 1,677 in the shelter system and 237 unsheltered. 13 percent were young adults between the ages of 18 and 24—and more young adults were unsheltered than sheltered, with 535 and 953, respectively.

Youth in shelters tended to be with family units, whereas unsheltered youth tended to be without adults. Unaccompanied children made up less than 3 percent of the population, but still made up about 225 individuals.

The count found a disproportionate amount of people of color: While about 65 percent of King County’s population is white, only 45 percent of people surveyed through Count Us In identified as white. 29 percent identified as black, compared to 6 percent in the general population.

The survey also suggested that homelessness hits LGBTQ folks disproportionately, as well—18 percent of respondents identified as lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, questioning, pansexual, or other, anything besides “straight.” A Gallup survey, the summary notes, estimates that just under 5 percent of the general population in the area identifies as LGBTQ.

LGBTQ respondents were also more likely to be experiencing chronic homelessness.

The Count Us In report echoed what a city survey found recently, too: That most people experiencing homelessness in the area originated in the area, busting myths about “Freeattle.” 77 percent of those surveyed reported living in King County in their last home. Only 9 percent came from out of state.

The most common reason reported for experiencing homelessness was job loss, at 30 percent—although people also reported drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, eviction, and a myriad of other reasons.

The survey 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 numbers aren’t directly comparable to previous years. (That change in methodology is also why the numbers were released significantly later than in previous years.) But for a vague comparison, the 2016 One Night Count found 4,505 people unsheltered.

AllHome’s website has the full results of the survey.

The numbers reflect just one night out of the year, but still put data behind an ongoing crisis as the city and county work to find solutions—including a proposed countywide sales tax to expand housing and homelessness services.