Homelessness in King County rises

William He , Reporter

Since 2019, King County’s homeless population has nearly doubled, growing at the second-fastest rate in the country behind Washington D.C. A report released in May 2021 by Challenge Seattle showed that the homelessness rate has surged 42% in King County over the last six years, despite a 21% annual increase in funding for homelessness services over that period. 

To help this, King County announced on Feb. 1 that they are considering purchasing the La Quinta Inn in Kirkland as a permanent supportive housing site for those experiencing homelessness. Kirkland City Manager Kirk Triplett said in a press release that tenants will also have connections to health treatment and services, including rehabilitation, 24/7 on-site staffing and a case manager to help navigate community systems. In response to community concerns over the usage of drugs at the site, Triplett assured residents that the hotel would not act as a safe injection site — a controversial program that provides a hygienic environment to prevent the spread of disease by those who use illegal drugs. Onsite staff will directly engage with anyone exhibiting problematic behaviors due to substance use and offer treatment services.

Separately, King County has also chosen to skip the annual Point In Time Count, which assesses the number of people in the region experiencing homelessness. The King County Regional Homelessness Authority believes the methodology of the count brings an inaccurate number of homeless individuals. They are working with data partners to explore other ways of collecting a more accurate number. In the meantime, the agency says it will collect qualitative data from homeless individuals enrolled in their services and system to assess their needs.