New report shows increase in East King County homelessness

East King County includes Mercer Island, Bellevue, Kirkland and Issaquah.

Data from the 2020 count of people experiencing homelessness in King County shows a climb in unhoused residents living in East King County, which includes cities like Mercer Island, Bellevue, Kirkland and Issaquah.

The count was conducted the morning of Jan. 24, before the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

Some 446 people (or 8 percent of the total population) across East King County are experiencing homelessness, without shelter, in 2020 — a jump from the 337 counted in 2019, data shows. Of those experiencing homelessness, 586 people are currently living in shelters.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in King County as a whole has increased in 2020. This year, 11,571 people are homeless, the count found. Last year — the first time in seven years the number had decreased — there were 11,199.

About 41 percent of those experiencing homelessness in King County are female. Fifty-six percent is male. One percent and 2 percent are transgender and gender non-conforming, respectively.

Twenty-one percent of those experiencing homelessness in 2020 are employed. This number has remained relatively consistent over the last past four years.

Of the self-reported reasons for homelessness, a lost job, at 16 percent, was the most common cause of homelessness. Alcohol or drug dependence (11 percent), mental health issues (8 percent) and an unaffordable rent increase (8 percent) constitute other top causes.

Among those experiencing homelessness in King County, 54 percent self-reported that they were experiencing depression or schizophrenia. Forty-seven percent reported suffering post-traumatic stress disorder; 44 percent said they were struggling with drug and alcohol dependence, the data shows.

Those experiencing chronic/long-term homelessness also notably increased in King County in the last year, going from 2,213 individuals in 2019 to 3,355 in 2020 (or 29 percent of the total number of people experiencing homelessness).

In line with previous years, 2020 data shows that people of color are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Even though Native Americans and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders make up 1 percent of the King County population, they respectively constitute 15 percent and 4 percent of those experiencing homelessness in the area.

Black residents comprise 7 percent of the King County population but represent 25 percent of those experiencing homelessness.

Of all services provided by homelessness resources, free meals were most often used at 58 percent. Bus passes followed at 41 percent, with hygiene services closely behind at 40 percent. Thirty-nine percent of those experiencing homelessness said they used emergency shelters and day-shelter services.

Adults with children make up 32 percent (about 3,743 members) of the total population of those experiencing homelessness in King County. Seventy-one percent are living in shelters. This marks a prominent leap from 2019, when 2,451 families with children were experiencing homelessness. Data shows that this is the first increase seen in this category since 2017.

Contrasting with the uptick in various categories, unaccompanied youth and veterans facing homelessness decreased this year. However, this number has been declining in recent years.

For a more comprehensive look at 2020 point-in-time count findings, go to the full report.


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