Homelessness Count Shows System Improvements, Growing Needs

The numbers are daunting. The January 27th count found 11,643 people experiencing homelessness in King County. Around 47% were considered unsheltered, living in vehicles, tents, abandoned buildings, or on the street.

Despite this, the report from All Home contains good news. Over 7,500 households moved from homelessness into permanent housing in 2016. This represents a 50% increase from 2013. Housing organizations created hundreds of new units of permanent affordable housing over the past year, along with hundreds of new shelter beds. Beyond the physical spaces, Seattle and King County increased access to services to help people move from homelessness to housing. It’s taking less time for people to move from homelessness to housing, and fewer are returning to homelessness.

Crowd of volunteers gather for Count Us In
Over 1,000 volunteers participated in Count Us In

With all this progress, why are so many people still experiencing homelessness in King County?

Housing by the Numbers

Headlines tell us Seattle is the fastest growing big city in the nation, continuing to set new growth records. Rents continue to rise during this rapid growth. According to the report, rents have risen 57% over the past six years, so that someone paying $800 per month in 2011 now has to pay $1,256 for the same home. Only 29 units of affordable housing are available for every 100 low-income residents.

Who Homelessness Impacts

The new study breaks through many of the myths surrounding homelessness in our area. It also confirms many points that we know from our work. Homelessness disproportionately affects people of color due to structural disparities in housing. Many people experiencing homelessness struggle with other significant barriers, such as lack of access to mental health services. Here are a few call-outs from the survey results:

Local Residents

Over 90% of our homeless neighbors were living in Washington State when they became homeless, with 77% already in King County.  More than half of those surveyed lost their housing due to economic challenges from job loss, eviction, or divorce or family dissolution. Nearly a third have jobs but aren’t able to meet housing costs.

Families with Children

Over 900 families with children are experiencing homelessness. Nearly a quarter of our homeless individuals belong to these families. These numbers are sobering, but we are making progress. Efforts by King County, the City of Seattle, All Home, and partner organizations such as Compass Housing Alliance to engage and help homeless families are getting results. While we still need to move children and families into permanent affordable housing, 97% were sheltered on the night of the count.

Veterans

The survey identified 11% of individuals experiencing homelessness as vets. Veterans reported physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress at much higher rates than non-veterans in the survey.

For more details on these populations and survey findings, check out the full 2017 Count Us In Report.

What We’re Doing to Meet the Challenge

Compass Housing Alliance works to meet the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. Our comprehensive services and case-management help set people on the path to stability. Due to the growing needs, we are expanding in several areas:

Permanent Affordable Housing

We opened Ronald Commons in Shoreline a few months ago with our partners at Hopelink and Ronald United Methodist Church to provide housing to families, veterans, and low-income individuals. Hopelink operates an onsite Integrated Service Center including a food bank, family services, and financial education.

We are currently in the design phase for Compass Broadview, another mixed-use development in the Broadview/Greenwood neighborhood.

Enhanced Shelter

When we open Compass at First Presbyterian this summer, we’re not only adding 100 beds to the shelter system, we’re applying our proven, person-centric approach to shelter and support.

Our low-barrier model allows people to stay with their partners and pets as well as store important belongings. On-site support services and case-management connect individuals with the resources they need to find stability.

A grant from the City of Seattle and space provided by Seattle First Presbyterian Church make this shelter possible.

Responsive Housing Solutions

In order to provide more housing at a lower cost and in a shorter amount of time, we need innovative solutions. Steel-frame modular housing allows us to move people into housing sooner. Additionally, we can house people at a lower cost and with lower environmental impact.

We are excited to open our pilot project, Compass Crossing, later this year.

Our region faces enormous challenges. In working together and building partnerships, we can turn the tide on housing and homelessness in our area. We are committed to continuing the vital work of building a world where everyone lives in a safe, caring community.

Interested in following up on this story? For media inquiries, contact: Jacqueline Koch | email | 206.687.8546