‘It’s heartbreaking:’ Volunteers searching King County streets for yearly homeless count

SEATTLE — Volunteers searched the streets of King County looking for homeless people early Friday morning. The one night count, now known as Count Us In, is used to determine the scope of the homeless problem each year.

“In years past we’ve only counted known areas where we knew people to be. This time we are looking everywhere,” said All Home director and homeless advocate Mark Putnam.

Over the past several years, Putnam says the number of homeless continues to increase. The data from the count is used to improve the community’s response to the growing problem.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Putnam. “However, in the last few years we are housing 25% more people than we were a few years ago.”

This year the count will use improved data collection methods including a street count of people living unsheltered, in vehicles, and those living in transitional housing. It will also include a survey of people experiencing homelessness.

Organizers hired paid guides to help volunteers locate areas frequented by homeless. All of the guides were at one point homeless in Seattle.

A complete report on the count will be released in a couple of months.