HOMELESSNESS: One Night Count results; more about future Highland Park ‘safe lot’

Two notes today related to homelessness in our area:

ONE NIGHT COUNT: Overnight, a thousand volunteers traversed King County to count how many people were sleeping without shelter. This year’s “One Night Count” total is 4,505 people, 19 percent more than last year. Here’s the breakout of where they were found and in what sleeping situations:
You can also see the chart online here.

HIGHLAND PARK ‘SAFE LOT’ SITE’S FUTURE: Questions remain even after new information was provided at this week’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting (WSB coverage here) about the future “safe lot” for RV/car campers at West Marginal Way SW and Highland Park Way: 15 vehicles are expected, none likely to be home to more than three people; referrals will be made to people found vehicle-camping in West Seattle and SODO; LIHI (Low Income Housing Institute) will be managing the lot; Compass Housing Alliance will be providing services. The city will provide toilets and handwashing facilities, as well as trash pickup, and is looking into getting electricity to the lot.

Questions that remain include the site’s status and post-“safe lot” future. So we checked over the past two days with the city’s Finance and Administrative Services department, which manages city-owned land. Spokesperson Julie Moore explained that the paved lot to be used for the RVs/cars is owned currently by the state (WSDOT), and that the city owns much of the rest of the sprawling parcel, home to the original, unsanctioned encampment that called itself “Nickelsville.” She says the purchase of the paved lot already was in progress. And she provided this aerial image – the future “safe lot,” which she describes as a former park-and-ride, is toward the top left:


As you may know, the City owns the piece of land along the top of the triangle, WSDOT owns the other two corner parcels, and the piece in the middle along W. Marginal Way SW with the large building is owned privately. The City was already working to buy WSDOT’s small corner piece (the former park and ride) to make the City-owned land connect all the way to W. Marginal Way SW, as a means of maximizing the value of our land, with the intent to sell. There is not currently a planned future City use for the property.

City reps at Wednesday’s meeting said the “safe lot” would be in operation for up to a year – six months with the possibility of a six-month extension.

30 Replies to "HOMELESSNESS: One Night Count results; more about future Highland Park 'safe lot'"

  • Pile-o-Rox January 29, 2016 (1:54 pm)

    So, by my count, it looks like a 4.5% increase in the count for Seattle over 2015 – a figure I suspect is well within the margin of error given the inexact methodology employed.  Given this data, I am not sure how we got to the “state of emergency” that was declared earlier this month, as it appears we are relatively stagnant in terms of the homeless population.   Of course we want to reduce that number; but not through ill thought and poorly planned boondoggles.  The whole “at least they are doing something” mentality is wholly misguided. When you have limited resources, which we do (despite Mayor Murray’s views to the contrary), spending money on short sighted projects without any real plan actually exacerbates the problem rather than lessening it.     

  • Alan January 29, 2016 (1:55 pm)

    WSB – Thank you for getting an answer as to the city’s reason for acquiring that piece of land.

  • Overthere January 29, 2016 (2:12 pm)

    Get rid of the RVs sweeping sewage and problem solved. It hasn’t really gone up, it’s almost the same. I love politicians tactics to extract money, create a problem by not doing their job (enforcing the law) and then fix the “problem” for a fee.

  • Zerodacus January 29, 2016 (2:41 pm)

    Hang on, almost double the total of men and women combined is gender unknown? How does that work? And before I get accosted for being heartless, and what difference does it make, the math just seems a bit off.

    • PLS January 29, 2016 (4:26 pm)

      They try to do the count without waking anyone, so given the temperatures I’m sure most were heavily bundled up, making non-invasive gender identification all but impossible.

  • dsa January 29, 2016 (2:41 pm)

    No emergency over last year in Seattle http://www.homelessinfo.org/what_we_do/one_night_count/2015_results.php
    Last year Seattle total was 2813. This year Seattle total is 2942. The emergency is we are fed up with the Mayor and council letting the city rot.

  • Gina January 29, 2016 (4:09 pm)

    If the person is wrapped up in blankets or a sleeping bag, might be difficult to observe secondary sex characteristics.  And it would be cruel to wake someone up to ask.

  • tw January 29, 2016 (4:13 pm)

    Have I missed what defines “shelter”? I’m wondering if the people living in tents were included. Some explanation of the chart would be nice – although again, I may have missed it somewhere. Anyone?

  • JTB January 29, 2016 (5:03 pm)

    The Mayor’s declaration was for technical administrative purposes in order to afford him authority he wouldn’t otherwise have.Just because the number of homeless people is only slightly more or even the same as last year doesn’t mean the problem is any less dire. It can be argued that means it’s time to get more serious about dealing with it. 

  • Northwest January 29, 2016 (5:39 pm)

    We have had for decades a resident woodsman who has lived outdoors in the forests that face east above Elliott Bay who I believe there was an article written about him in The West Seattle Herald. I have engaged a little with him over the years I seems he is content in his native element. 

  • DawgtiredWS January 29, 2016 (5:45 pm)

    This isn’t just about the homeless in Seattle and we know it’s a problem. The Mayor is setting the groundwork  for his upcoming levies in the fall. 300 million for affordable housing and an additional 50 million for homelessness. I think the Mayor is pretty confident that the levies will pass if the homeless problem can get enough exposure. 

    • WSB January 29, 2016 (5:49 pm)

      Speaking of which, a briefing on the housing-levy proposal is planned at the Southwest District Council meeting next Wednesday night, 6:30 pm, Senior Center. The agenda just arrived. I’m guessing as a result that the official announcement will be made sometime before then – TR

  • New thinking needing January 29, 2016 (6:04 pm)

    I don’t want to come across as harsh and insensitive but a number of homeless have  said to the media they send money from their wages to relatives in other countries so they choose to live in a tent, they want to save money by not paying rent, they just want to get high/drunk….these citizens are making a choice and forcing the rest of us to use funds to clean up after them or subsidize them in other ways, services….remember the smoke plume under I-5 a few weeks back? How about the recent Jungle murders and ongoing waste clean up at that site? I agree we need to help the homeless but they must also learn to help themselves instead of relying on the social safety net. The safety net is supposed to be temporary and not used for years. Maybe the city should open a campground where the users need to pay for basic services like a shower/toilet house, laundry, food storage.

  • Safety Officer January 29, 2016 (6:45 pm)

    Funny that the the city finally swept out the camps next to I-5 just before the count. Coincidence, I think not.

  • JanS January 29, 2016 (9:33 pm)

    one person homeless is an emergency as far as I’m concerned. You don’t want to seem harsh? Well, look in the mirror because you do. You mother, your father, your brother, sister, child..at any moment they could be out there sleeping in the cold and rain. For the record, the numbers were up 19%.

    This was posted earlier today:

    Graham Pruss14 hrs · Seattle ·Just got back from participating in the One Night Count of unsheltered people in Seattle/King County. This year, over 1100 volunteers in 150 teams worked from 2am to 5am, walking and driving throughout our urban and rural communities to understand the conditions and number of people experiencing homelessness. I have had the honor to participate for four years now and I am continually impressed by the organization and volunteers – it is so empowering to see people understand that they don’t really understand. It is important that people regularly comment, “I never think about what it’s like at 4am out here … I don’t know how I could sleep like this.” Because, these streets are bedrooms at night and we are invading someone’s fragile sense of security. And, tonight was a warm night for late January, it could have been so much worse. Tonight we saw some of our most vulnerable neighbors. We saw people in sleeping bags on the lone dry place amid a flooded bog. We saw people huddled in vehicles loaded with their most valuable possessions. We saw people walking from bus stop to bus stop, trying to keep the chill out of their bones.These nights and these counts are a reminder of the dark side to our dog-eat-dog world. They remind us that not everyone has the opportunities we share, be they from birth, illness, trauma or decisions. They tell us that there is something wrong when people have to sleep outside to survive. They force us to realize how public this suffering really is. I anticipate the number will show an increase from last year, we’ve certainly seen evidence of this around us. Please, carry these moments with you throughout the year – please remember these people as people not numbers or, worse, criminals who leave their “garbage” on our streets. These are lives that have been destabilized and want nothing more than the safety, peace and love we all hold dear. Hug a loved one, please keep each other safe.

  • JanS January 29, 2016 (9:36 pm)

    New Thinking Needing…could you give a link to your information about  someone choosing to stay in a tent and sending whatever money they might have to family, and just not wanting to pay rent. I’d like to know your source for that information. Thanks

  • JanS January 29, 2016 (9:55 pm)

    Safety officer…what are you saying…that they did it to keep the count down? or up? It’s all a big game to you?

    • Safety Officer January 30, 2016 (9:16 pm)

      Sweeping the camps right before the count keeps the count down, it also might explain why areas outside the city like Federal Way had such an increase, 100% in some cases.  I have a feeling that the mayor wanted the count to be lower than reality so he could look like he was solving a problem rather than just throwing taxpayer money at it.  Also I would bet that this count would be much higher if it was done during the summer months. Circumstances have caused me to be homeless in the past, so you can save your crocodile tears. One of the first things you learn on the streets is to avoid other homeless people, they will use you, rob you , exploit you and god forbid if you are female.  Yes, there are some people who are good folks that are down on their luck, but there are many more who are in their current condition because they have burned bridges with their family, friends and any other contact they have had. Believe me they know how to take advantages of bleeding hearts, which is one of the reasons they are flocking to what they call “freeattle.”

  • Kmac January 29, 2016 (11:28 pm)

    Ok Mayor…and bleeding heart jans.  Please explain how almost 3000 homeless school age children, according to our mayor, are actually 11 when counted.  No, don’t say it’s the SPS definition of homeless.  I am all for giving a hand up and supporting such efforts, but this mayor’s blantant lying and blatant self-agenda supporting is ridiculous.

    • Mickymse February 1, 2016 (2:31 pm)

      Do you always ask questions by also dismissing part of the answer? Or do you just hate this Mayor or SPS?

  • wetone January 30, 2016 (10:11 am)

    Could someone explain how counters know numbers of people living per tent, car and motor home ? did counters wake people to ask or open doors ? Or are numbers just a guess. Is it true if you say your homeless you aren’t required to show any legal ID to receive many benefits from city, how can city track people or programs to see if it has positive or negitive outcome ? Don’t want to sound negative but if Murray wants more money from tax payers he better start giving some real info/numbers and start explaining where past and present money is going to be spent. No different than any private  business or home owner trying to stay afloat. If Murray and Kubly spend any more money on fancy colored crosswalks or shows more  irresponsible  spending like buying the losing money downtown bike program you can count me out of ever voting yes for any levy in this city….

  • Walk a Mile January 30, 2016 (10:30 am)

    New thinking, you don’t want to come across as harsh and insensitive, but you do.  There’s an inclination to paint people in dire circumstances as “others” who made bad choices and that’s how they got where they are.  Because assuming they’re different from you means you don’t have to deal with the fact that it could be you living under a bridge.  Because you make “right” choices and people who make “right” choices never end up falling on hard times, right?  I was homeless for a short time as a child and it wasn’t because my mom made bad choices or wanted to use drugs or whatever, she suffers from mental illness which makes it hard for her to hold a job and landlords don’t take goodwill as payment.  It’s as simple as that.  During that time I met plenty of people who were college educated, had good jobs and the like but all it takes is one family emergency or accident couple with a job loss and it can all fall apart pretty quickly.  I didn’t meet drug addicts and people who liked living on the streets when I was staying in a shelter, I met the same kind of people I meet riding the bus into work every day.  It COULD be you.  It could be any of us.  Don’t be so quick to judge.

  • Teri Ensley January 30, 2016 (12:58 pm)

    New Thinking:  I too would like to see the data that reflects the statement about people that chose to live in a tent; work; and then send the money home (to another country?).  What is this groups’ percentage of our homeless?  Not saying it isn’t true. I met one person years ago that was doing this because living in a tent here, was a much better standard of living than the county his wife and children were living in.  I just don’t think people like this man are the largest percentage of our homeless.  Walk a Mile:  Thank you for  your statements.  I do believe the City needs to be transparent in how  they are approaching homeless assistance, plusbe accountable for the organizations that manage various encampments.  I am pleased that the organization and person that ran Nickelsville will not be involved with the Safe Lot.  I witnessed some atrocious decisions on their part and abuse of power.   People have a right to question how money is being spent and to ask for the results.  There are  [some] non-profits that make a lot of money off of ‘serving’ the disenfranchised and homeless…with very little improvement in their clients’ lives.  Besides the organization referenced in the  above paragraph, there is another well known non-profit in Seattle where I have witnessed the emotional abuses of their clients.  Appalling.    I will be checking out LIHI— their reputation.  I will also down at the Safe Lot, assisting people with their pets as for many of them, their pet is their only loving companion. One way to monitor the results of the Safe Lot is to make yourself present.  Talk to the residents. See what is happening.  If something is disturbing, call LIHI or Compass. Let them know so they can take appropriate action.  And if something is working well, let them know that too.

  • alyca January 30, 2016 (2:26 pm)

    This is an UNsheltered homeless count.  This does not include all of the people who made it into a variety of shelters for the night, or those who are ‘couchsurfing’ with a friend or family member for the night.  Most kids will be in a shelter of some sort.  There are even programs for families where they get placed in a (crappy) hotel for a few nights or weeks.   There are thousands of people who do NOT show up in this count who are still homeless.  I work at Harborview in discharge planning and am intimately aware of the variety of places that people end up staying when they have no long term housing.

  • Community Member January 30, 2016 (5:17 pm)

    @KMAC – Here is Seattle School’s definition of homeless children:

    When the school district identifies youth that may need special services or transportation because of homelessness, they include families in motels, families couch-surfing, children waiting for a foster care placement. Of course that is different from counting how many children are sleeping outdoors.

  • sark January 31, 2016 (9:12 pm)

    The 19% increase is for King County. Seattle is  much, much lower- closer to what the previous poster said. The Mayor went to a west coast summit of mayors. Think Davos  for the homeless minus billionaires, big financial institutions, and money.  All the mayors pretty much agreed to call an emergency and asked for more money from the Feds. Obama already gave his big farewell speech and is working on passing TPP to make sure more well paying blue collar jobs are sent overseas. But hopefully he’ll notice the emergency white flag and release something to help these people when they find themselves unemployed and couch surfing. San Francisco shuffled their homeless away from the Super Bowl site and is spending over $5 million to host  the Super Bowl. So I guess spending 1.2 million for a bunch of bikes no one wants to ride seems in line with what the other mayors who have no money for homelessness either. 

    • Kathy February 1, 2016 (3:33 pm)

      I rode “the bikes no one wants to ride” to get from my bus to where I needed to go today. So thanks for calling me “no-one” Snark, I mean, Sark. Could be a great way to get homeless around cheaply to where they need to go. And bike share has better farebox recovery than any other form of public transportation.

  • Real Estate Gals February 1, 2016 (12:21 pm)

    One of the best solutions to homelessness we’ve seen is the work being done by Mary’s Place. They’re a local homeless shelter that helps women, children, and families move OUT of homeless and into permanent housing. They respect people’s dignity and don’t just provide quick “band-aid” answers like a single meal or one night inside. Instead of simply throwing money at the problem, I think the city should look at the example set by organizations like that and either (1) imitate what works, or (2) help FUND those organizations instead of creating new, ineffective “solutions.”

    • Mickymse February 1, 2016 (2:37 pm)

      Mary’s Place is AWESOME… but as you might imagine it costs much more $$ to provide that level of services to the 30 times as many people that they are able to serve right now. So, I agree this would be a good direction to move, but that’s why the Mayor declared an emergency and is calling for more money. It’s also why his proposal to renew the Housing Levy is going to be really large as well.

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