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One Night Count Shows Rising Homelessness In King County

Ashley Gross
Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata rings the gong in recognition of the 3,772 people found lacking shelter in King County

The number of homeless people in King County continues to grow, according to this year’s One Night Count which showed a 21 percent jump from last year in the number of people without shelter. 

Volunteers found people sleeping in doorways, under overpasses, in cars and in alleys. Some were just wandering around, no place to go.

From Auburn to Woodinville, Seattle to Kirkland, 3,772 homeless people were counted this year, up from 3,123 last year.

Alison Eisinger, executive director of Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, which organized the event, said while the count is not an exact science, the increase from last year is clear-cut enough to say the numbers have risen.

Fraying Social Safety Net

She says a fraying social safety net has contributed to the problem, as federal and state budget cuts have resulted in fewer resources for people with mental illness as well as a shortage of affordable housing. 

"We know that there are an awful lot of people and they’re not just in Seattle. They’re in Renton, they’re in Burien, they’re in Kent, they’re in Bothell," she said. "There are people for whom struggling to make ends meet has become struggling to survive outside.” 

Outside Seattle City Hall, the newspaper Real Change set up a gong to ring once for each person with no shelter. 

`The Gong Is A Form Of A Prayer'

Mary T. Andrews Yarbrough took a turn at the gong.  She and her son have been staying in a shelter since early December.

They haven’t been able to find an affordable place to live since a fire destroyed their last house.

"The gong is a form of a prayer, so every time we gong it, we’re gonging a prayer for 3,772 people, not only for their safety but for our leaders to allocate more funds," Yarbrough said. 

Next Wednesday, homeless advocates will take the gong to Olympia as a way to get their message across to legislators. They say homelessness needs to be recognized as a crisis and not a given.

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.