The One-Night Count (Written 11/8/14)

[NOTE: This is an old Facebook post I wrote in 2014 that I recently rediscovered and posted here on the blog. The 2016 One-Night Count just happened a few weeks ago, and (as everyone expected) the number of homeless in King County continued to soar — up almost 20 percent overall from 2015. I’ll write more about this soon; it was a bit heartbreaking and discouraging to write about it when it went down.]

Every year in January, the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness does a One Night Count. Volunteers go around the city/county and count the number of people they find sleeping either on the street or in their cars (the unsheltered homeless). Here are the results from January 2014:

– 3,117 people had no shelter in King County, a 14 percent increase from the previous year..

– 2,392 unsheltered homeless people were counted in Seattle, with about a third staying in cars or trucks. One Night Count does not include those staying in shelters or transitional housing.

Yep, this problem is getting much worse (and pretty much has been every year) despite the lip service that we as a city/county/society keep paying to “eradicating homelessness.” It’s kind of hard to fight the growing rich poor gap in this city and elsewhere, the loss of manufacturing and other good-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree (or advanced degree). Meanwhile, the cost of living continues to skyrocket in Seattle, with rents rising steadily, forcing people out of their homes. We also haven’t built a lot of subsidized housing in the last decade (budget cuts, city bureaucracy, and lenient laws on set-asides and affordable housing requirements).

And of course, there aren’t nearly enough shelter beds for everyone homeless. Those that do exist are sometimes dangerous. And many shelters won’t take couples or families, so these people must choose between a bed for the night and staying with their loved ones.

But we keep building expensive condos and brand-new apartment buildings, don’t we? That’s the free market. That’s the “winners and losers” America you and I live in. We made that — we elected the leaders.

The people that have full-time work at Microsoft, Google, Amazon, UW (where I work), and the city/county/state governments might struggle a bit (or not) but they will be fine. They will have a roof overhead.

But more than 3,000 people in the county at last count (a count that is probably much lower than the actual count — people don’t exactly like to be found and counted when they are homeless and living on the margins).do not. They are living on the streets of our city through the cold winter days and nights.

They have been cast aside by us and forgotten. They are most definitely not fine. And it’s getting colder by the day out there.

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