Countywide ‘One Night Count’: 5 percent more without shelter

January 25, 2013 at 9:14 am | In West Seattle housing, West Seattle news, White Center | 12 Comments

Early this morning, the hundreds of volunteers who fanned out for the annual One Night Count of homeless people in King County found five percent more without shelter than a year earlier, according to a news release just sent:

2,736 men, women and children had no shelter in King County last night, a small increase over those found without shelter last year. Last year, volunteers found 2,594 people surviving outside without shelter.

Teams of volunteers with trained leaders are dispatched from ten locations throughout the county to count every person they see outside overnight on one night in January. Approximately 800 volunteers counted people trying to survive in cars, tents, all night buses, hospital emergency rooms, or curled up in blankets under bridges or in doorways.

The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, an independent coalition of organizations and individuals that works on homelessness issues in our region, organizes the count, now in its 33rd year.

A breakdown of how many people were found in what circumstances – cars, doorways, etc. – is in the second half of this document. While West Seattle is not broken out separately from the city at large, White Center has its own column, with 51 people found unsheltered this time. P.S. We checked with organizers, and the count does include those found in “tent cities” such as the West Seattle encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville.”

12 Comments

  1. My bus stop downtown, 3rd and Main is a regular hangout for the homeless since it is located next to the Union Gospel Mission.
    On a number of occasions I personally have heard discussion about moving to Seattle from other parts of the country to receive many of our free services.
    While I believe we need to support the homeless what bothers me is that other cities are not and thus we are seeing an increase in our numbers.
    I also observe a number of homeless that are overweight, smoke, do drugs and/or alcohol and have cell phones. One couple had three cell phones between them.
    More needs to happen to help the homeless get off the streets.
    I am skeptical that give always without motivating help to resolve why they are homeless is not solving the homeless problem, only perpetuating it!

    Comment by Terry Graham — 10:08 am January 25, 2013 #

  2. Terry – since you clearly have considered the situation and have concerns, you might be interested in this local discussion coming up:
    .
    http://westseattleblog.com/ai1ec_event/community-forum-the-stages-of-homelessness
    .
    Also, while I won’t speak to smoking/drinking, I would say you can’t judge people by (a) their weight and (b) cell phones. You can get the latter quite cheaply, with pay-as-you-go. And weight is no indicator of hunger or malnutrition; as food advocates point out amply, high-calorie, empty-calorie food is dirt cheap (think Kraft mac and cheese, Top Ramen, junk-food snacks, huge Big Gulps of corn-syrupy beverages), while truly nutritious food – fruits, vegetables, etc. – costs a lot more AND is not conveniently available. Hungry, broke people are not all skinny.
    .
    Today’s announcement, by the way, does make other suggestions about how to get involved and help tackle the problem. Please follow the link toward the end of the story to see the entire news release. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 10:25 am January 25, 2013 #

  3. I would like to make a few comments on this. First one should never make assumptions on a person based on what you see. The phones may not work, or perhaps a program gave the person a phone. Next the current available inexpensive food has horrible nutritional value. Next I am involved with a nonprofit, president of the board and we provide housing to people with severe and chronic medical issues. Our annual funding has been cut by 1 million dollars which is resulting in our need to close 2 houses next month. That puts 12 people without housing who were previously homeless. I suspect we will see increases as funding is cut more and more in the future.

    Comment by coffee — 11:06 am January 25, 2013 #

  4. Actually, I think there are some valid points to be parsed out of Terry’s argument. While it can be uncomfortable to compare relative poverty it is interesting to at least consider how some people might have access to certain comforts (including cigarettes and large pets) if not excessive amounts of calories while living well below the poverty line. Empty calories are cheap and plentiful. Though I thought this info graphic from last year very aptly demonstrated how it is possible to eat balanced, healthy meals for well below what it costs to eat fast food or cheap empty carbs: http://thefw.com/healthy-eating-infographic/
    .
    The City of Seattle spends $35-$40 million annually on homeless services. I expect this funding is partly derived from the $145 million property tax levy passed in 2009 and earmarked for addressing the problem of homeless people in Seattle. Tens of millions more are spent by King County, the federal government and the private sector on services, medical care and housing for the homeless. And yet this problem seems strangely persistent.
    .
    Media reporting on homelessness always seems to leave me asking questions that never seem to get answered. Are we approaching these problems in an intelligent way? Are resources being wasted by government bureaucracy? Why with all of the resources available for homeless people are there still people who choose or are forced to live on the streets? Is it a matter of lack of space? Is it possible that we could continue to throw money at this problem and yet only ever maintain and never solve homelessness due to the persistence of addiction, mental health issues and things like the devastating effects of calamitous medical costs?
    .
    I’d like to think that is the exception to the rule that there are some out there working the system to take advantage of City and County services. But anecdotally, there have been a few times when I’ve personally tried to directly help homeless people only to discover that there was much more to the story. I left those experiences feeling naive and burned. And it is interesting to hear Seattle Police officers, who deal with homeless people daily, talk about their first-hand perspective on homelessness in Seattle, like Officer Tom Burns did at a controversial Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting back in 2010: http://westseattleblog.com/2010/05/junction-neighborhood-organization-crime-concerns-closeup
    .
    No one wants to see people out on the street. But I lack confidence that what government is doing is working.

    Comment by cjboffoli — 11:27 am January 25, 2013 #

  5. If the homeless advocates REALLY wanted to do something for them they would be doing MORE than just organizing fund raisers and donation drop offs.
    I know of a place in Seattle that has three/four buildings that can house OVER 1000 people in SAFE, DRY, WARM and SANITARY conditions. There is even a building that has kitchen facilities to serve them food 4 times a day.
    The city OWNS them and for the last 10-15 years have ignored them. Yet they, and the county, spend $ MILLIONS on programs for the homeless that do VERY little for them.
    If the groups like “Share/Wheel” and their ilk TRUELY cared about the homeless, instead of getting face time with the media, they would be asking the city about these buildings and why they aren’t being used for that purpose.
    I have my own idea, but I’ll let you see if you know about them and where they are. If you do know where they are, that might clue you in on why we’ll never see them used for that purpose.
    The site is right on a MAJOR bus line and within 5 miles of adult and child medical facilities, downtown and the resources that would be needed for those that REALLY want to get out of the homeless life.

    Comment by Ex-Westwood Resident — 11:50 am January 25, 2013 #

  6. CJ – I know you realize this, but I must point it out.

    The graphic that shows how you can feed someone with ‘real’ food cheaper than processed food forgets one thing -

    Most homeless don’t have a stove, fridge, kitchen, etc.

    Comment by westcoastdeb — 12:48 pm January 25, 2013 #

  7. westcoastdeb: Obviously. But that’s not to say that there aren’t homeless people out there with some access to basic cooking supplies. Considering the LONG list of homeless food resources available in Seattle there would probably be no need to cook. But if one were so inclined, just off the top of my head there are cooked canned beans (an excellent source of protein), canned vegetables, tuna, sardines, etc. that can be obtained cheaply and that are healthier options than prepared foods. With a hot plate or the ability to boil water there is cheap and nutritious rice, oatmeal, raisins and even eggs (another high quality protein). Clearly, addiction and/or mental health issues will complicate the ability to plan and prepare meals. But that’s a whole different episode of Oprah. Overall I don’t think it is unreasonable to say there are options other than fast and overly processed food.
    .
    During the Dust Bowl and Depression era the majority of poor and destitute people were thin and malnourished. It is interesting anthropologically how the post 1950′s industrialization of our foodstuffs has altered the human architecture of even the most disadvantaged now.

    Comment by cjboffoli — 3:27 pm January 25, 2013 #

  8. I agree that there needs to be / should be a different solution – and I am mostly ignorant to the resources available.

    Comment by westcoastdeb — 4:36 pm January 25, 2013 #

  9. Re: cell phones. Many homeless people (particularly people who have recently lost houses/jobs) have them so they can try and get jobs. You can’t get a callback from a potential employer without a phone.

    Comment by Laura — 9:27 pm January 25, 2013 #

  10. The problem is worse than “strangely persistant.” It is a 30 year epidemic that will continue in perpetuity until we address what Terry G bravely speaks of: There are too many people who come to Seattle from other places, every day, because we offer services other areas don’t. I.e., as ridiculous as it sounds, Seattle is just easier, by comparison, to be homeless in than other cities and places. I had my business in Pioneer Square for 11 years, then 3 near Pike Place, before relocating it to W.S. 3 years ago, so I’ve dealt with the homeless, the missions, the advocates, the programs, donated money, clothes, etc., and many saintly people trying their best to deal with a problem that is seemingly unsolvable. I recall years back, when Mark Sidran, city attorney at that time, took a beating from my liberal, politically-correct brethren for daring to push through the “sidewalk ordinance” which simply allowed business people to shoo homeless persons away from their doorways during business hours, because, until that ordinance was passed, homeless people were passing out and camping in front of businesses for hours, refusing to leave, and police hands were tied and restrained from dealing with the problem.

    We’re more than a decade into what’s called the “20 year Campaign to End Homelessness” which started under Mayor Nickels and isn’t working, as many of us expected, for the exact reason TG sites.

    The issue is this: We are doing more than our share, as a city and region, and other regions aren’t, so Seattle pays the homeless tax other places don’t, and it barely makes a dent.

    I’ve spoken directly to City Council members and their staff about this problem, and they are, in large part, talking point driven brick walls, content to keep doing the same things, year after year, at ever greater expense. Instead of warehousing large numbers of homeless persons outside of downtown, in a dry, safe setting (As Mayor Schell did during a severe cold snap one year, they will instead pay millions for prime real estate downtown, and divy up 12 to 20 units to a homeless person who qualifies, leaving the rest of the burgeoning population to fend for themselves until more units are acquired. When I ask city staff why they only take care of 12 to 20 people in apartments, when they could care for dozens or hundreds in Sodo or thereabouts, they push back with the same argument: “You just want to push them out of downtown,” to which I reply, “No! I just want them to get warm and dry instead of sleeping on the street.” To no avail, after almost 25 years. And so it goes, in Seattle.

    Comment by pjmanley — 10:50 am January 27, 2013 #

  11. I hate to sound like my Conservative Father-In-Law, but the homeless problem in Seattle does seem to be a prime example of the government spending more and more on a problem without coming up with any lasting solutions, and which will keep costing more and more, year after year, with more inebriates passed out in Pioneer Square, near the Courthouse, and all over downtown, “confirming” what most conservatives “believe” about “government:” It’s can’t solve anything. After three decades of doing a lot, we’ve barely made a dent in the larger problem. It’s time this problem is addressed regionally and nationally so all areas have a stake in the solutions, the costs, and the outcome. Til then, we’ll continue to try doing “the right things” and the problem will just get worse.

    Comment by pjmanley — 10:57 am January 27, 2013 #

  12. I am glad that I found this blog. First let me tell you something about myself. I have been battling with homelessness for about 5 years or more. Government program saw to it that I was homeless within 3-6 months. HUD HPP Homeless Prevention Program. Went through the process suppose to help me with security deposits etc. I had savings account, did all the footwork, found several apts they then later after 5 months claim that I was never eligible for program. Yes, after I was already on the street, still battling to get a roof over my head for my family. Months of filing out paperwork and rental leases and expenses.

    Found us in a uhaul with items in storage trying to find a place to live. that state was PA and now I am in NJ with some of the same problems. I have been working, had no problems with getting a new job. Its hard to get work when homeless. I have cell phones (2 = husband has one, I have the other) from Safelink free govt program which provide little assistance limited minutes and job interviews, and support groups, etc. The phones don’t generally work well if at all more for the security of having a number you can be reached for food banks, govt programs, or employment messages.

    Govt programs are being scammed right now unfortunately not being of service to those truly in need. The bad guys always get there first. Most programs for shelter want to separate the family. Everywhere so far, dad across town mom and child at different facilities. Its worse than ever now because of the latest disaster ‘Sandy’. None of our programs have funding they blew it all during the crisis. All shelters are turning away people. They aren’t able to help on the basic levels. Because of our employability (is that a word) we will again find jobs and move on to somewhere bigger and better. That is what they use to do in the old days, right. When resources dry up and employment is neither here nor there. You go find it. Most of us don’t want to be homeless and would rather cut off a foot than have to deal with the hoop jumping involved in the programs that don’t work. When the fail they fail hard. There is not much legal recourse, I’m homeless right ? We have been wiped out in PA, NJ, OR, CA. Yes, we travel for better opportunities of employment not to mooch of system resources. I have several interviews coming to Seattle soon on their corporate dime. Its either feast or famine here. Homelessness is a disease that is hard to cure. Govt programs give us high sodium canned meats and other deadly unbalance food alternatives. We use our money for good food fruits, veggies, milk for the kid. But as the adults we suffer in nutrition always. The mission programs only give you what others have donated not what is needed.

    The homeless take on many different shapes and sizes, please don’t assume that we are all out to get you or your money. I am not a junkie or addict. I smoke cigarettes. Cost about $20 every 2 weeks to roll my own. There are government entities and others who also take advantage of the homeless. We are merely statistics to get more funding and then the funding is used elsewhere and not where it counts. Everyone’s pointing the finger at the homeless like we have a choice in the matter. Some of us are in the system wish we weren’t. They have already tried and failed to take my daughter away. No justification, ask the system for help with assistance and they sent DHS to inspect. Obviously case was bogus smoke screen, case closed. We actually got some assistance for DHS NOT the County assistance people who we actually applied to and asked for help. Go figure. The people running the programs don’t know what they are doing, some of the programs are new and run by idiots. I see no end. On the East coast they just treat you like you stole something so people don’t want to bother with asking for help. It becomes a hardship.

    Comment by ac — 2:58 pm January 29, 2013 #

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