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Seattle Lags Behind Other Big Cities in Sheltering the Homeless

Based on data provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

King County has more than 13 times as many homeless people without shelter than Boston. In fact, the county has almost as many unsheltered homeless people as New York City. Advocates say that points to an urgent need to move more people here off the street, and probably more money to help tackle the problem.

Credit Committee to End Homelessness King County
Committee to End Homelessness King County

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says a count of homeless people in Boston lacking shelter totaled 193. In King County, that number was 2,618. Those are figures the United Way of King County and the Committee to End Homelessness in King County are using to underscore the need to add emergency shelter beds. They’d also like to beef up services to help prevent homelessness in the first place.

Vince Matulionis, who works on homelessness issues for United Way of King County, says King County’s effort to end homelessness has had a lot of success, including helping to create more than 5,000 units of new housing, but the problem persists.

“We’re able to shelter a lot of people in our community, and yet we can do better as demonstrated by the number of people we have on our street,” he said.  

Matulionis says the groups want to set a goal of moving a certain number of people off the street by next summer. It’s part of a program they’re calling A Roof Over Every Head. Matulionis says the data demonstrate that adding emergency shelter beds is critical to the goal of achieving an end to homelessness. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.