Each year, the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness organizes a swarm of volunteers to canvass King County in the middle of the night and count shelterless people—people in cars, buses, tents, or just under blankets outside. This year there were 800 volunteers, and the 2,736 people they counted represent a 5 percent increase over the 2,594 people counted in 2012. There were 1,989 people in Seattle alone.
This morning, at City Hall Plaza, a coalition of homeless people and advocates including Real Change and SHARE/WHEEL are gathering to strike a gong once for every person counted last night. With guest gong-ringers—city council members, "members of the faith community," and others—taking five-minute shifts ringing the gong at 5 second intervals, the event, which started at 9 a.m., is expected to last until around 1 p.m.
All this serves to remind us that the city's 10-year plan to end homelessness, which was completed in 2005, only has two years left.
"One unsheltered homeless person in January is one too many," says Real Change founding director Timothy Harris. "The One Night Count isn't just a number. It's about individuals who are suffering. It's our job to make some noise."