Spokane officials released results of the annual Point-in-Time count of the homeless population on Wednesday.
The data seem to indicate progress is being made in specific areas in reducing that population.
The overall number of homeless counted during the last 10 days of January climbed slightly over last year, with 1,309 homeless, compared to 1,245 last year. Officials say they believe the methodology used in the count was much more accurate this year.
Volunteers canvassed emergency shelters, warming centers and transitional housing projects, and also spoke to those known as “unsheltered” who were living in their cars or outside. In all, 211 locations in the city and county were included, as opposed to 173 locations last year.
Tija Danzig, the program director for the city's Department of Community, Housing and Human Services, says the demographic breakdown of the numbers showed some positive signs.
“We saw a decrease in chronic homelessness again this year, so that’s a 21% decrease over the last two years. That’s incredible to me. A chronically-homeless person is someone that’s experienced homeless for a year or more or four instances or a disabling condition. Those are folks that have a lot of needs and are struggling, and so our programs are helping them to find housing,” Danzig said.
Other bright spots include an 11.5% reduction in homeless veterans from 2018, and an 8% decrease in the number of families with minor children.
On the downside, the survey showed a 7% increase in the number of young homeless adults, and a 10% increase in the number of youth, ages 17 and younger, who are homeless.
Danzig said, overall, the data indicated that some 3,000 people were tallied as leaving the ranks of the homeless population in the last year.
At the roll-out of the numbers, Mayor David Condon took the opportunity to plug the new EnVision resource center, which will open its doors next week. The center is described as a one-stop shop for those in need of services. He said that center will be available for everyone who needs assistance, including those who are no longer homeless.
“We’ll have legal assistance. Maybe someone is eligible for Medicaid, and didn’t realize it. Maybe someone had gotten below the threshold and didn’t realize it and now CHAS is there, and you could have a new medical home at CHAS. We see that as a challenge that someone might graduate but we don’t want them to go through the life changes to have to experience homelessness just to access services again. How can we plug them into those resources?” said Condon.
Information from the Point-in-Time count is used by the city as part of grant applications and reports required by state and federal homeless service funders.