People experiencing homelessness camping on Smith Avenue in Everett, Washington on March 11, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

People experiencing homelessness camping on Smith Avenue in Everett, Washington on March 11, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Homelessness in Snohomish County at highest since 2012, count finds

Volunteers around the county surveyed people in January, finding 101 more people than last year’s count.

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s unhoused population increased by an estimated 8.5% in the past year to its largest number since 2012, according to data released Wednesday.

Conducted in late January, the 2023 point-in-time count deployed 247 volunteers, as well as county officials and other agencies in partnership, to interview those living on the streets, in shelters or transitional housing. The annual count’s goal is to get a snapshot of the number of people without homes at a particular point in time.

Last year, 1,184 people were identified as unhoused in Snohomish County. The 2023 count found 1,285 people in 1,028 households in Snohomish County. The total count increased from last year by 101 people.

“Without a home, a person in recovery will struggle to stay clean, children cannot learn and reach their full potential, a single parent cannot pursue education and career pathways that will improve their family’s outlook, and veterans who have faithfully served our country will continue to suffer and die on our streets,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said in a press release.

So far this year, the count of people living in shelters decreased by 1% to a total of 594 people, while the unsheltered count increased by 18.3% to 691 people, according to county officials. The county’s cold weather shelters were not open on the night the count took place, which likely affected the results, officials said.

The increase in the homeless census comes after the county increased investments to address the crisis, according to county officials. The county purchased two motels to convert into 129 new units of emergency housing, partnered with nine cities on projects to expand access to shelter and other social services, increased behavioral health and substance use treatment capacity and authorized an affordable housing effort.

The PIT count is required to inform state and federal governments on the scale of homelessness, but it is an imperfect measure. People are only counted if they agree to be surveyed, meaning the number could be far below the actual total.

During the count this year, for example, Rita Jo Case, the regional director of housing services at Catholic Community Services, went to talk to a group of five people, and only one agreed to be surveyed.

Households with at least one adult and one child saw the greatest percentage increase in the last year, at 14.1% higher.

People experiencing chronic homelessness represented almost half of the total count. Throughout that rainy January day, volunteers would gather information from people who would talk.

“Out of the five of you,” a man named Leroy pointed out to a group of volunteers under an overpass, “I’d say three of you don’t make it out here. And everyone is one missed paycheck away from being here.”

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486;; Twitter: @EDHJonTall.

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