2019 Point-in-Time Count: Decrease in Washington Homeless

Data compiled by the State Department of Commerce from county reports shows 3.1% decline in total number of people experiencing homelessness statewide, while half of counties posted increases.

Mason County’s numbers show 194 households (273 people) are homeless. That is up from 2018’s numbers of 151 households (232 people).

The Washington State Department of Commerce posted final statewide results of the 2019 Point-in-Time count, an annual one-night snapshot of people experiencing homelessness. Sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the count attempts to provide a consistent set of data from around the country on “sheltered” and “unsheltered” homelessness.

“Availability of enough affordable, safe and appropriate housing strengthens communities and supports economic vitality,” said Commerce Director Dr. Lisa Brown.

In Washington state this year, the total number of people experiencing homelessness on the night of the count was 21,621, a decrease of 683, or about 3.1%. Total sheltered homeless individuals increased by 339, while the total unsheltered count dropped by 1,022, or 9.6%.

Sheltered homelessness refers to people living in a supervised publicly or privately operated temporary shelter, including congregate shelters, transitional housing and hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or federal, state or local government programs.

Unsheltered homelessness refers to those with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designated as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, such as a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport or campground.

About half of Washington counties (21 of 39) saw an increase in the numbers of people experiencing homelessness, with Snohomish County topping the list at 258 more than last year. While King County recorded a decrease of 913 overall, the other 38 counties combined for an increase of 70 unsheltered and 230 overall.

The Commerce summary report notes that across the state, households with the lowest incomes, and fixed incomes in particular, are not keeping pace with rent increases. National research shows that rent increases are associated with corresponding increases in homelessness.

“Homelessness is a statewide challenge, not just an urban problem, and the solutions must be as multifaceted as the causes,” commented Brown. She said the state’s focus on quality, comprehensive data collection and transparency around state and local investments to address homelessness is crucial to effective policy and action.

According to Tedd Kelleher, managing director of homeless programs at Commerce, the more detailed state Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data show an estimated 29,800 people were successfully housed during the federal fiscal year 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017 – Sept. 30, 2018).  He said that state and local homeless services providers have continued to emphasize rapid rehousing approaches – providing housing search case management resources and temporary rental assistance to efficiently move people out of homelessness.

Director Brown said Commerce has made significant progress in the last four years. “Our state and local HMIS data keeps getting better. In the near future we will be able to see trends, evaluate outcomes and analyze costs more effectively,” she said.

Washington state is already recognized as a national leader in making comprehensive homeless data available to the public through county “report cards” and online dashboards. This is one aspect of enabling community-driven priorities and accountability for how effectively state homelessness grant funding is used.

Learn more about Washington state homeless programs at https://www.commerce.wa.gov/serving-communities/homelessness/.

Get the 2019 PIT count detailed results.