Initial data show small decrease in county’s homeless numbers

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Numbers collected Thursday during Snohomish County’s annual Point In Time homeless count show a slight decrease over data collected during 2010.

Numerous volunteers spent the day and early evening gathering information on Snohomish County’s homeless population. This year’s total – still incomplete – shows 2,249 individuals in 1,365 households without a permanent place to stay. This compares to last year’s final count of 2,362 individuals in 1,335 households. Of the individuals counted this year, an estimated 798 were homeless children under the age of 18.

“Any decrease is positive news, but there is still work to be done if we’re to end homelessness here,” Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said. “Families are still straining under today’s difficult economy and nationally jobs aren’t returning fast enough to help the unemployed.”

Homeless numbers for 2011 can be divided into three categories: those sheltered in emergency shelter or transitional housing, those that are unsheltered and on the streets, and those that are precariously housed (often referred to as “doubled up temporarily” or “couch surfing”).

Those sheltered the night of the count totaled 1,354 individuals in 674 households. This is compared to 1,403 individuals in 685 households for the 2010 count. There were 583 individuals in 482 households surveyed who did not have shelter, as compared to 615 individuals in 439 households for the 2010 count. Finally, an additional 312 individuals in 209 households were considered “precariously housed.” This compares to 344 individuals in 211 households for the 2010 count.

County staff and members of the Homeless Policy Task Force will spend the next month closely studying and verifying data from the Point in Time count, comparing numbers and demographics collected during past years while looking for trends. Totals may increase slightly in coming weeks as individual agencies that helped collect numbers finish reporting their results.

“Statistics gathered will help the county differentiate between causes of homelessness and how best to help,” said Ken Stark, Snohomish County’s Human Services director.

The Point in Time count is a state and federal requirement. The results help ensure that Snohomish County receives a proportionate share of federal and state funding to fight homelessness. Data from the annual count also is used to understand how widespread homelessness is in Snohomish County and who is most affected.

In 2006, the County approved the “Everyone At Home Now” report, a strategy for ending homelessness here by 2016. The 10-year plan is a means to achieve the vision that every person in Snohomish County has safe, appropriate and affordable housing.

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