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What We Know About King County's Homeless Population

Paula Wissel
A new report provides insight into King County's homeless population.

Seattle and King County have released a report on the area's homeless population that will be used by officials and service providers to determine how resources should be allocated.

The 2017 point-in-time count was taken on Jan. 27. Volunteers canvassing the county counted 11,643 people living outside, in cars, in emergency shelters and in transitional housing. 

All Home, the organization in charge of the count that oversees federal housing funds in King County, then conducted a demographic survey.

The 116-page report gives a sense of how many people in the county experience homelessness and which populations are most affected by homelessness. It also looks at causes and solutions. 

"I believe that this year's count helps us better understand who is homeless and why they're homeless," said Catherine Lester, director of Seattle's Human Services Department.

This year's point-in-time count was conducted differently than in previous years. The tactics are meant to be more comprehensive, but it makes comparing numbers more difficult.

Last year, more than 10,000 homeless people were counted.

This year, surveyors found that many homeless people are from the area. Most listed their last addresses in King County.

Children made up about 16 percent of the homeless population. Many of them were part of families in temporary shelter situations.

Adults without children accounted for 45 percent of the unsheltered population.

Seattle and King County have seen some success housing families with children, but promoting services for single adults has been harder, according to King County Community and Human Services Department director Adrienne Quinn.

"I think there are a lot of myths about who people are who are homeless," Quinn said. "Many of the stereotypes are not true."

The business community has donated space for family shelters. Quinn said they could also be a resource for sheltering single adults outside of residential areas, where 24/7 shelters see pushback from the community.

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.