While you were sleeping: The One-Night Count

Friday, January 28, 2011

How do you gauge homelessness in King County? People who are homeless move around a lot - from shelter to shelter - so those counts are unreliable as the same people are turned away from multiple full shelters the same night. Those who are outside move from place to place as situations change.

Thirty-one years ago, an advocate for the homeless figured it out. Count everybody in one night. Get volunteers. The shelters have counts, so wait until the small hours of the morning and check all the places outside where you know the homeless can sleep for a night. Check the cars on the street, the bushes on empty lots. Count the all-night bus runs.

Do the count in January, when the emergency warming centers are open and the cold weather shelters in churches and city halls are open. You won't get everyone, but you can come pretty close.

The good news is that there are four Tent Cities. Tents aren't warm but they are safer than sleeping under freeways. Nickelsville residents are now inside, housed in the old Lake City Fire Station.

Shoreline is part of the One-Night Count with volunteers from the Compass Center, the City of Shoreline Human Services, church groups, and others. Volunteers went out in the cold, starting at 2 am on Friday, January 28 and finishing by 5 am. Other volunteers kept the coffee and snacks going. They were part of hundreds of volunteers in 13 King County cities. Major funding for the One Night Count is provided by the King County Committee to End Homelessness, the coalition of government, business and nonprofits responsible for implementing our community's Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.

Stay tuned for the numbers.

--Diane Hettrick

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