Homelessness has reached crisis levels in Seattle.
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Homelessness has reached crisis levels in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW File Photo/John Ryan

Seattle homeless population is third largest in U.S., after LA and NYC

Homelessness increased only slightly across the U.S. in 2018, according to newly released federal data. But it’s a vastly different story in Seattle and Washington state, where increases in the homeless population continue to outpace the national rate.

On a single night in January, more than 552,000 people were counted as homeless across the U.S., according to a report from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that tallies data from cities and counties across the nation. Nationally, that’s a 0.3 percent increase over last year’s count.

Washington state's homeless population saw one of the biggest increases in the country this year, up by more than 1,000 people over last year. More than 22,000 people were counted in shelters and on the streets in Washington on a single night in 2018. The state also had one of the highest rates of people living outside.

The homeless population in Seattle and King County continues to be the third largest in the country by numbers, outranked only by New York City and Los Angeles. More than 12,000 people were counted as homeless in Seattle and King County this year, a 4 percent increase over last year.

The data from annual one-night counts is imperfect and largely recognized as an undercount. Additionally, it’s only required every two years and some jurisdictions, including San Francisco, did not participate in this year’s count.

Federal authorities did tout some wins this year, with some populations seeing a decline in numbers. So how did Seattle and Washington state stack up? Below comparisons for a few populations experiencing homelessness.

Homeless families with children:

Nationally, the number of people experiencing homelessness in families with kids went down by 2.2 percent.

Washington state saw a decrease of about 7 percent in the number of homeless people in families.

In Seattle and King County, the number of people experiencing homelessness in families with kids also went down by 7 percent. However, the number of people counted in families with kids in this area was one of the highest in the country in 2018.

Veteran homelessness:

Nationally, veteran homelessness fell by 5.4 percent between 2017 and 2018, with a majority of vets staying in shelters or transitional housing.

Washington state is one of five states where more than half of homeless veterans were unsheltered in 2018. However, Washington also saw one of the largest decreases in veteran homelessness in the country with 457 veterans counted in 2018 than the year before.

Seattle and King County also saw a staggering decrease in the number of veterans experiencing homelessness. In 2018, 921 homeless veterans were counted, down 31 percent over the year before. Seattle and King County are still listed as one of the locations with the largest number of homeless veterans in the U.S in 2018.

Chronically homeless individuals:

Nationally, the number of people counted as chronically homeless went up by 2.2 percent.

More than half of all chronically homeless individuals were in three states in the U.S., including Washington state. More than 5,700 people were counted as chronically homeless in Washington in 2018, an increase over the year before.

Chronic homelessness also rose in Seattle and King County. The number of people experiencing chronic homelessness went up by 28 percent from 2017 to 2018. More than 3,500 people were counted as chronically homeless in Seattle/King County in 2018.