The number of homeless people living on the streets of Seattle declined by a promising 11 percent from last year, according to Seattle/King County Coalition for the Homeless. The data was collected in this year's annual One Night count, conducted Jan. 28.
Each year a team of dedicated volunteers work through the night counting the number of people living on the streets in King County. This year's 886 volunteers began their One Night Count at 2 a.m. and working in teams they counted every person they could find: huddled in doorways, sleeping in cars, camped in parking lots, or sheltered in makeshift campsites.
Alison Eisinger, director of The Seattle/King County Coalition for the Homeless, cautioned that although these numbers are hopeful, many factors could cause them to rise dramatically in the coming year.
Why does she say this? Eisinger explained that although the numbers show a decrease when compared to last year, several factors could force the numbers up dramatically in the coming year. One factor for the drop in this year's number was that winter shelters, which were not open during last year's count, sheltered 149 extra people this year. More importantly, special programs – funded through the American Recovery Act (ARRA) – which have helped prevent people from becoming homeless, are being cut out of state-wide budgets, along with a host of other services.
Eisinger said she was particularly troubled by the results of a survey her department conducted last year. The survey counted how many people were turned away from shelters because they were already at capacity. In a single 24-hour period 247 adults and 307 kids were turned away. She believes these numbers will only rise, as shelters struggle to operate under the current budget restraints.
In Oregon, Portland's One Night Count was conducted on January 26th. But Kris Smock of the Portland Housing Authority said those numbers will not be released until early April.