count us in
June 8, 2018
King County’s latest homelessness report shows promising signs and a path forward
By Katie Hong
Director, Special Initiatives

Each year our community brings together a small army of volunteers for the Point-In-Time (PIT) count. Coordinated by All Home, the PIT count aims to both tally the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night, as well as gather information about their needs so that our community can improve the homeless crisis response system. 

This year’s report shows that while the number of people experiencing homelessness has continued to increase in our region, there are signs of hope and a path forward. Overall youth and young adult homelessness stayed steady (an increase of only 1 percent), but the number of homeless young people under the age of 18 decreased by more than 20 percent since 2017.

In recent years, many strategies and programs designed to specifically address the needs of young people at-risk of or currently experiencing homelessness launched. The decline shows that efforts to implement solutions targeted to people’s specific needs, rather than treating people experiencing homelessness as a homogenous population, are starting to pay off.

For example, working with YouthCare, staff at detention facilities have been proactively working to identify and address signs of homelessness in youth. Thanks to King County’s Safe Space Initiative, there are now more alternatives to juvenile detention. King County also worked with the juvenile justice system to put in a place a system to screen youth and ensure that when they are released from detention they have a safe place to go.

Last year was also the first full year that the Homeless Student Stability Act was in effect. Combined with grants from Schoolhouse Washington, the law provided funding to improve schools’ responses to student who are experiencing homelessness, as well as to provide housing support for students. The law also required most districts to have a homeless student liaison in all middle schools and high schools.

Legal Counsel for Youth and Children (LCYC) launched a legal services partnership that assisted more than 90 youth through late 2016 and 2017. Young people, especially those under 18, often face substantial legal barriers to safe housing when their home life becomes too untenable or unsafe for them to stay.  LCYC’s legal services advocate on behalf of youth to ensure they have access to safe and stable housing.

This targeted approach isn’t just working for youth, it’s also showing results for another group of people impacted by homelessness: veterans. Veteran homelessness declined by 31 percent in the latest PIT Count, likely due to using real time data to identify specific individuals in need of assistance and investing in a slate of solutions tailored specifically to their unique needs.

The 2018 PIT count shows that coordination and targeted resources and strategies work—the next step is to continue expanding this approach beyond homeless minors and veterans. No two people experiencing homelessness have the same story or the same needs. If we want to see meaningful reductions in homelessness, we need to continue to use data in an actionable way and invest targeted strategies that meet the unique needs of individuals.