The number of unsheltered homeless people in Snohomish County jumped 9 percent from 2016, and has doubled since 2013, according to the 2017 Point in Time summary report released Wednesday, March 8.
Numbers have also spiked for people who are chronically homeless, and who have disabling conditions.
“It’s disturbing that even with our expanded efforts to prevent homelessness, more people continue to fall victim to the housing market, mental health challenges, addiction and economic dislocation,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers in a news release.
The summary report breaks down some of the groups experiencing short- or long-term homelessness. Nearly one in nine unsheltered people surveyed said they slept in Monroe or the Sky Valley the night before the one-day count; nearly one in 13 said their last permanent residence was in the area.
This year 8.5 percent — 44 of the 515 unsheltered homeless people surveyed in Snohomish County —were families. Of the 14 families, 11 had slept in their vehicle the night before. Twenty-nine individuals were under the age of 24, and 24 people were under the age of 18.
The average age of adults living unsheltered without children is 41, and 66 percent are male. Ten people surveyed were unaccompanied youth under 18, and 50 were young adults living alone.
More than half of the unsheltered homeless surveyed were chronically displaced.
The summary report is a preliminary assessment of the results of the annual PIT survey. The full report will be made available at a later date and include the results of the survey of sheltered homeless, or those residing in an emergency shelter or transitional housing the day of the count. The unsheltered summary report is the “data gathered about persons who are experiencing homelessness on the streets, in abandoned buildings, tents, or other places not meant for human habitation.”
Snohomish County Human Services grants and program specialist Robin Hood said the numbers outlining the unsheltered population may change a little once everything from this year’s count has been assessed. He said every year the county analyzes the survey results as effectively as possible.
“It is hard to determine where (exactly) the 9 percent came from because there are so many variables,” he said. “It may have been that there were more volunteers, it may have been there was better weather. It may have been better marketing or advertising beforehand, it may have been there was better coordination with people about where encampments are. It could be there are 9 percent more homeless (people).”
Hood said the county adopted a survey format five years ago to complete the federally mandated count. The questions are revised and updated annually to ensure relevancy, he said.
Job loss is one of the biggest life events that cause homelessness, but there is often more going on in a person’s life that contributes to displacement, Hood said.
By understanding the compounding factors, it is easier to develop more effective, targeted approaches for curtailing homelessness, according to the report. The county has identified a lack of housing, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment and access to those available services as some of the biggest factors since the count began.
The number of people with one or more disabling condition has increased by 132 percent since 2013, according to the report.
“Chronic homelessness is tough to fight when affordable rental units are nearly non-existent,” Somers said in the news release. “To relieve human suffering, we need to find innovative ways to help our fellow residents find a place to call home and get the treatment they need.”
The number of chronically homeless placed in long-term housing rose by 151 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the report. The achievement is due to the variety of assistance methods used by various community organizations.
“ I think it (the report) really justifies our plans that we have for reducing homelessness, and ultimately for trying to eliminate homelessness,” Hood said.