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Count Us In brings new approach to counting Seattle, King County’s homeless

Officials and teams of volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County early Friday morning in the area’s annual count of homeless people living on its streets. But a new approach means results of the survey won’t be available until spring.

Now known as Count Us In and organized by the county’s All Home coalition, Friday’s count featured 1,000 volunteers and 150 paid team guides, “who had experienced homelessness themselves and were key to our ability to find people sleeping outdoors,” organizers said.

In 2016, under the old method format, the One Night Count found 4,505 people living unsheltered in the streets of King County, a 19% increase over 2015. In Seattle, the count found 2,942 outside, up from 2,813 in 2015, a 4.5% jump. But for 2017, the new approach for the count sought a more complete look at the streets outside Seattle.

This year, teams of three to four volunteers, led by the paid guides, fanned out by census tract throughout King County. Around 200 teams participated and tried to cover as many of the county’s 398 census tracts as possible.

The new approach will likely produce a more complete view of the region’s issues with homelessness but will also make comparisons with past tallies a challenge.

Sponsors of the annual count included the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, King County, WA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Vulcan Inc.

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