Volunteer Paul Olson (left), of Everett, completes a survey with a man at a bus stop on Smokey Point Boulevard during the annual point-in-time count of homeless people on Jan. 23. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

Volunteer Paul Olson (left), of Everett, completes a survey with a man at a bus stop on Smokey Point Boulevard during the annual point-in-time count of homeless people on Jan. 23. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

Corrected: Overall, homelessness is on the rise, county says

Counters found 378 unsheltered people in January. Since 2013, that’s a 9.9 percent increase.

UPDATE: Snohomish County on Wednesday said it made an error in reporting that new numbers suggest homelessness has decreased here over the past five years.

The number of people interviewed who were homeless was down about 27 percent compared to the prior year — a year-to-year fluctuation, the county said in a news release.

Still, “the overall trend since 2013 is upward with an increase of 9.9 percent,” the county said. That’s the opposite of what officials said on Tuesday, and the county acknowledged it mischaracterized what the data show.

The biggest decrease appears to be among chronically homeless people. In 2017 there were 313 counted compared to 270 this year.

“We are encouraged that our efforts to eliminate homelessness seem to be making progress in one critical area, but there is still much work to do,” County Executive Dave Somers said in a prepared statement.

EVERETT — Homelessness appears to be on the decline in Snohomish County, though serious problems remain, early findings from the annual Point-in-Time Count suggest.

Hundreds of volunteers helped to carry out the count Jan. 23. They interviewed 378 people who were unsheltered, a decrease of about 27 percent from last year, according to figures Snohomish County Human Services released Tuesday. That suggests an overall decrease of about 10 percent over the past five years.

“The biggest thing we’re seeing is that the people who are still out there are facing significant issues,” county human services director Mary Jane Brell-Vujovic said. “We’re seeing a higher percentage of individuals who are chronically homeless.”

About 71.4 percent of those surveyed had been homeless for at least one full year in the past three years. Many suffer from a combination of mental health disorders, substance abuse and chronic medical conditions.

There has been some apparent progress in lowering the number of homeless women and veterans, as well as youth and young adults.

Several factors are likely at work. Among them, social service professionals are getting better and quicker at targeting people with the most urgent housing needs, Brell-Vujovic said.

Programs to team up social workers with police also might be showing results, she said. Social workers are now embedded with police in south and east Snohomish County, and in Everett. Another team for the Arlington and Marysville areas is expected to hit the streets in March.

An improving economy has probably made it easier for some people to afford housing as well.

“We are encouraged that our efforts to eliminate homelessness seem to be making progress,” County Executive Dave Somers said in a prepared statement. “But there is still much work to do.”

More detailed findings from this year’s Point-in-Time are expected to be released in the spring.

The count has been carried out locally each January since 2006. It’s more a snapshot of current trends than a census. The numbers help direct social service programs to areas where they’re likely to have the biggest effect on reducing homelessness.

This year, volunteers fanned out from meet-up spots in Everett, Granite Falls, Lynnwood, Monroe and Smokey Point. They worked through a set of questions to learn why people have become homeless. Along with basic demographic information, they asked about drug use, mental illness and domestic violence.

Caleb Hutton contributed to this report.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@herald net.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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