Spokane’s homeless count shows slight increase, could be due to better data collection

Spokane’s homeless count shows slight increase, could be due to better data collection

The City of Spokane released results Monday morning from this year’s Point-in-Time Count, which is a census of people who are homeless in the Spokane community.

This year’s census was done differently than in years past. Volunteers used a new app that allowed them to directly input data into the system and reach deeper into the community than ever before. This year’s census also had more volunteers, revised questions, and youth-focused count. Dawn Kinder, with the City of Spokane, said the mobile data collection was a big win for the community compared to the pencil and paper reporting style from previous years.

“I think we are doing a great job. We are not perfect, by any means, but overall our trend continues downward, so I think we are headed in the right direction,” Kinder said. “I think Spokane is lucky to have some really innovative non-profit providers and elected officials who are willing to try new things.”

The count, which happened on January 25, 2018, was divided into two main categories: sheltered and unsheltered people. The total number of counted was 1,245, which amounted to 1,012 households of homeless in Spokane. Of those surveyed, 38 percent were women, 62 percent were male, and 76 percent were older than 24.

In this year’s census, the total of homeless people went up 14 percent from 2017. Organizers say this increase could be due to expanded outreach. New technology and additional volunteers helped reach homeless people in areas as far away as Cheney and Loon Lake. The unsheltered count saw the greatest increase, going up by 125 percent. Unsheltered people accounted for 25 percent of those surveyed. The numbers of chronically homeless people decreased this year, with 256 total people listed as chronically homeless.

The census found that the top reasons for homelessness were: fleeing domestic violence, lack of affordable housing, and lack of income.

The City says it’s usually hard to count people living in their cars, but because this year’s survey happened on the same day as another homeless outreach program, it was easier to get those people counted.

This information will be used to evaluate and allocate funding to best serve the homeless population through city and non-profit programs.

“We’re mandated to do the work, but most importantly at a local level, it helps us figure out how we intervene and stop that cycle of homelessness and more importantly to try and prevent it as well,” Kinder said.

You can find the full details of the census here.