King County homeless count drops for first time since 2012

SEATTLE (AP) — Recent counts show King County's homeless population dropped for the first time since 2012, but officials aren't celebrating yet.

The Seattle Times reports about 11,200 people were counted as homeless, living in shelters or outdoors, in King County on one night in January, a drop of 8% from 2018.

There was an even more precipitous drop among people living outside -- in tents or cars -- down 17 % from last year.

But officials say it doesn't necessarily mean overall homelessness is decreasing because other data shows a growing number of people asking for aid.

All Home is the county's coordinating agency for response to homelessness. The agency's acting director, Kira Zylstra, says more than 11,000 people without a permanent place to be at night is still far too many, and unacceptable.

"This is definitely signs of progress and we want to dig into understand where that progress is happening," Zylstra said.  "We also know that more than 11,000 people without a permanent place to be at night is far too many and we have a lot of work ahead of us."

Seattle has the third largest homeless population in America, according to Forbes, behind New York and Los Angeles, the two largest cities in the United States.

Zylstra says the new numbers highlight the need to examine what's working to alleviate the crisis. And more important, she says, is that the work cannot slow down.

"We've been really focused on housing first services - making sure we are engaging with people at the point they're experiencing crisis - with problem solving and flexible resources to try to get them into safe and stable housing as quickly as possible," she says.