Officials: Nearly 1/3 of 2018 Seattle homicide victims were homeless

SEATTLE – New data from Seattle Police shows the number of homicides are higher than they’ve been in a decade.

Records from 2018 show there were 32 homicides in the city of Seattle, a fourteen percent increase from the previous year. Plus, according to the county medical examiner, nearly one third of those homicide victims were people experiencing homelessness.

It’s a number that’s startling homeless advocacy groups trying to help a vulnerable population get back onto their feet and out of harm’s way.

For every person you see sleeping in a park or living in a tent, advocates for the homeless say there are more hidden behind greenbelts, sleeping in cars or even couch surfing.

"Pretty strong evidence that people who are surviving outdoors are far more likely to be victims of crimes than the rest of us are," said Daniel Malone.

Malone is the executive director of DESC, and he says his clients can sometimes suffer from the worst afflictions – mental illness, substance abuse disorder or complex medical issues. Plus, he says for those living on the streets, it makes it that more difficult to get by.

"That kind of living is very precarious for some people," he said. "Not only is their stuff not protected but they’re not protected."

"Just in the last year or two it’s gotten really bad," said one woman who asked Q13 News to conceal her identity. She said she’s been living on the streets for a decade and is hiding from an abusive ex-partner.

"People are dying too much," she said, "There’s too many homicides."

Seattle police says in 2018, of the 32 homicides across the city, a dozen involved people experiencing homelessness. Data from the county medical examiner shows ten of those twelve were victims -- a number greater than ever before.

"It’s extremely disturbing, maybe not that surprising," said Malone.

Malone says housing first is the most effective solution. It’s an idea that the sooner someone gets into housing, the sooner they can more easily begin confronting their other issues.

"There is no intervention that is more effective than addressing homelessness," he said. "Housing first means you get people into housing and then you’re able to address the needs they have."

But until there’s enough housing for the more than 12,000 people living without homes in our region, the streets will remain dangerous and even deadly.

"It’s shocking the homeless are the brunt of it," said the homeless woman to Q13 News. "A lot of us are trying to better our lives."

Tiny house villages like the one in Seattle’s South Lake Union are places where people living on the street have structure and security on their way to more permanent housing. Plus, data from the county medical examiner shows none of the people who were killed last year lived in any of Seattle’s tiny villages.

Seattle police say other types of violent crime are also on the rise. From 2017 to 2018, SPD reported a ten percent rise in robberies, a seven percent rise in rapes and an eight percent rise in assaults across the city of Seattle.