By Ashley Gross, KPLU.org
Later this week, volunteers will fan out across King, Snohomish and Pierce counties to try to tally all of the people without a home as part of annual counts that take place at the end of January.
King County’s One Night Count has been going on for 35 years — since before counties were even required by the state and federal governments to keep track of the numbers.
Alison Eisinger of the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness says about 1,000 volunteers participate in the count. She says even people who work day-to-day on the problem of homelessness are surprised by what they discover during the event. Eisinger remembers one volunteer who thought she already had a good understanding of the issue of homelessness.
“But she was surprised at how emotionally devastating it was for her to realize that there were families in their vehicles parked in the parking lot of the place where she does her family’s grocery shopping every day,” Eisinger said.
Eisinger says volunteers have found people who have planted gardens around their camp sites, or even constructed small makeshift houses. Some people are found sleeping in hammocks or treehouses.
Last year, more than 3,100 people in King County were found with no shelter during the three-hour period in the middle of the night. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says he expects the numbers this year to be even higher.