The one-night homeless count tallies people living in cars and tents as well as those sleeping under bridges or in doorways.
  • Kelly O
  • The one-night homeless count tallies people living in cars and tents as well as those sleeping under bridges or in doorways.

Volunteers spent this morning from 2 to 5 a.m. counting homeless people across King County and found 649 more people sleeping outside—a 21 percent jump—than at this time last year. In Seattle, there were 510 more people, an increase of 22 percent compared to last year's count. That'll add fuel to the argument that the city needs to be doing more to address homelessness.

Countywide, the group found 3,772 people sleeping outside; 2,813 of those were in Seattle. Most were sleeping in vehicles or structures like tents. (Here is a full breakdown by location.)

"The numbers are always shocking because we're talking about individual lives," says Alex Becker, Real Change's advocacy program manger.

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The count included two areas that haven't previously been included—Vashon Island and Southwest King County—but that doesn't entirely explain the increase (those regions added 219 people to the count). Homeless service providers have called on the mayor to provide more shelter space and to allow tent encampments to increase safety for people who are already sleeping outside. Now, Mayor Ed Murray has said he'll add 50 new shelter beds and propose a bill to allow three tent encampments in the city.

Representatives from homeless advocacy groups like Real Change are spending today in front of City Hall ringing a gong once for each person counted. They'll do the same thing in Olympia Wednesday.

"Fundamentally, in a city as wealthy as Seattle, we shouldn't have this many people sleeping outside," Becker says. "We're here to help send that message."

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