Annual Snapshot of Spokane County Homeless Population Reveals Two-Year Increase

Brian Walker, Communications Manager, 509.655.1387

Friday, May 6, 2022 at 11:30 a.m.

The 2022 Point-in-Time Count, conducted in compliance with federal funding requirements to provide an annual snapshot estimate of the county’s homeless population, revealed a two-year overall increase of 13 percent across all populations.

A total of 1,757 people from 1,513 households were counted this year compared to the 1,559 people in 1,244 households counted in 2020, the last time a complete count was conducted due to public health limitations related to the global pandemic. In 2021, the count was limited to those people staying only in emergency shelters and transitional housing projects due to the pandemic.

As a comparison, homelessness was up 42 percent in King County, 33 percent in Clark County, and 27 percent statewide in 2020. Point-in-Time Count data this year is not yet available in those communities or statewide. However gradual, this year’s count marks the fifth consecutive year with an overall increase. The Spokane County report attributed this year’s increase to a change in the Point-in-Time Count methodology, the limited ability for operators of deposit and rental assistance programs to spend their budget due to housing affordability and availability constraints, and the increased cost of housing.

“Listening to the data will provide a foundation in which regional partners can build resources to meet the needs of our most vulnerable population,” Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said.

Woodward announced a Homelessness Plan 2.0 last month, the next evolution of a plan she announced in July 2020. The plan is built on community collaboration and relies on resources from providers, nonprofits, private industry and government to further build a regional system of assets and resources that meet people with services, prevent them from becoming homeless or get them temporarily housed, and move them out of homelessness. It is based on the universally shared belief that sidewalks, alleyways, and other outdoor spaces are not safe, healthy, or humane for those struggling with mental health, substance abuse, or other conditions that require emergency interventions and a permanent housing solution to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring by fostering shared responsibility among stakeholders.

As a recipient of federal and state funds through the Continuum of Care that supports homeless services, all communities are required by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development to conduct counts. Using HUD methodology, surveys for the sheltered population were conducted on Feb. 24, followed by the unsheltered population Feb. 25- March 1. The count is typically conducted in January and was delayed this year due to a surge in COVID cases and ongoing pandemic concerns.

“Beyond the requirement, the point-in-time count is an important tool used to inform the delivery of services and programs for people experiencing homelessness in Spokane.” said Daniel Ramos III, Data System Administrator for the City of Spokane, which organized the countywide count in cooperation with other government agencies, homeless providers, community volunteers, educators and others.

“Despite the pandemic, and extreme conditions, this year’s count was complete, accurate and couldn’t have been done without the community’s involvement and support.”

The count is among several data points agencies rely on to develop and refine strategies to move people into permanent housing. Although the survey provides an estimate of how many people are homeless in the county, it also provides partners with valuable information about who is living in homelessness and barriers and information that can impact the design of new programs. 

“The City of Spokane Valley recognizes that homelessness is a regional issue, and it will take regional cooperation to address it,” said Eric Robison, Housing and Homeless Coordinator for the City of Spokane Valley. “We believe it is important for us to understand what is happening in our own community and help provide an accurate picture throughout Spokane County. We’re thankful to be contributing to the countywide PIT count to survey as much of our area’s unhoused population as possible.”

As with previous years, the City will present PIT Count results to community stakeholders over the coming weeks. The presentations will leverage experts in technology and analysis from the City of Spokane’s Information Technology and Services Division, as well as input from community experts into a story map format that will incorporate local housing affordability data, geographic information and other information on regional conditions to provide context to this year’s count.

“This interdisciplinary approach to presenting the results will help to answer many of the questions that are being asked and make use of the data we have to move the conversation forward in a way that’s never been done,” Ramos said.

Other PIT Count data highlights included:

  • the sheltered population total was 934 and unsheltered 823;
  • the sheltered count was a 6 percent decrease from 2021;       
  • the unsheltered count was a 52 percent increase from 2020;
  • 82 percent of those counted this year were 25 years of age or older;
  • 48 percent (or 495) of adults reported having a serious mental illness; and
  • 9 percent (or 157) of adults reported being a survivor of domestic violence.

More PIT Count data will be posted on the City’s website in the next month.