Dec 21, 2022 - News

Washington homeless population surpassed most states in 2022

Tents in front of a fence.

An encampment in Seattle shown on March 12, 2022. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

As winter weather blankets the region, a new federal report ranks Washington as having one of the largest populations of people experiencing homelessness, with half of those people living unsheltered.

Driving the news: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's annual homelessness assessment, released this week, shows that Washington is second only to California when it comes to its number of residents living outside with no shelter.

  • Among urban areas, only New York City and the Los Angeles metro had larger total homeless populations than Seattle and King County in 2022.

Why it matters: More than 250 people experiencing homelessness died in King County this year — a record number, according to KUOW, with hypothermia one of the common causes of death.

The big picture: While local numbers have similarly shown an increase in homelessness in recent years, the federal report helps us know where we stand in comparison to other places.

Details: This year's one-night point-in-time count found a total of 25,211 people experiencing homelessness in Washington — an increase of 10% from 2020. That number includes people living in temporary housing or shelters, as well as those living unsheltered outside.

  • Only California, New York and Florida had larger total homeless populations than Washington in this year's count, per the HUD report.
  • Nationwide, more than half of all people experiencing homelessness in the country were in those four states, the report said.

Yes, but: While the sheer number of people without homes in Washington eclipsed most places, other states and regions saw their homeless populations grow by much larger percentages.

  • Tennessee, for instance, saw its homeless population rise by about 46%, while the number of people experiencing homelessness in Louisiana more than doubled, jumping by 132%.

Meanwhile, in Seattle and King County, the homeless population rose about 13.8% from 2020 to 2022.

What they're saying: Gov. Jay Inslee, as well as local officials, have said that the main driver of the region's homelessness crisis is a lack of available housing.

  • To try to address that, Inslee wants voters to approve $4 billion next year to pay for affordable housing projects, he announced last week.
  • Jamie Housen, a spokesperson for Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, said the city is working to address the problem by putting an "unprecedented" $250 million toward affordable housing in its 2023 budget.

What we're watching: Whether state lawmakers will advance Inslee's affordable housing plan in the spring — and if they do, whether voters will sign off on it.

Of note: A vigil is being held Wednesday in honor of those experiencing homelessness who died in King County this year. The ceremony will take place outside Seattle City Hall at sunset, expected at 4:21pm.


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