Homelessness

A six-year-long decline in the number of homeless people in the U.S. reversed in 2017, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.The report said that was largely because of rising homeless populations on the West Coast.

Homelessness in the United States went up slightly this year for the first time since 2010. During a one-night count in January, 553,742 people were found living outside or in shelters across the country, a 0.7 percent increase from the year before, according to new data released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday.

Will James / KNKX

As soon as Seattle's next mayor takes office, she'll be confronted with a scene like the one on the western slope of Beacon Hill. 

Dozens of tents and shelters, some made of tarps and rugs, rise from the blackberry brambles along I-90. Scattered among them are mattresses, bicycles, dolls, and piles of garbage. 

This is home to some of the estimated 3,900 Seattle residents living outside. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien is proposing a so-called head tax on large businesses to pay for homeless services.

O'Brien sat down with Seattle Times political reporters Jim Brunner and Dan Beekman to talk about the goals of the tax and why he thinks it's time to pass it. 

Courtesy of the New Hope Resource Center

Homelessness is one of the thorniest local election issues in Western Washington this year, even -- or especially -- in the small Pierce County city of Puyallup. 

Five years ago, James Brown moved into his first apartment after more than two dozen years living on the streets of Los Angeles. Brown was housed as part of a joint effort by the federal government, local communities and nonprofit agencies to help tens of thousands of homeless veterans in the U.S.

Will James / KNKX

Leaders in Tacoma say they’re attacking homelessness on two fronts.

Since the summer, they have spent millions of dollars on new services while also cracking down on people sleeping outside.

Five months into what officials describe as an emergency plan, they're now talking about doubling down on both strategies next year. 

Will James / KNKX

Pierce County's proposed 2018 budget includes a number of programs aimed at combating the interconnected crises of homelessness, addiction and mental illness. 

Among them: A plan to offer homeless people jobs as day laborers. 

Ashley Gross / KNKX

People who have been camped in tents along Spokane Street in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood have to find a new place to live. The city has begun clearing out an enormous encampment that stretches multiple blocks from close to the Duwamish River to Airport Way South.

As Seattle and Portland struggle with how to accommodate homeless residents, Spokane is catching flack for it’s “tough-love” approach to homeless camping.




Will James / KNKX

The City of Tacoma is three months into an emergency plan to address homelessness, estimated to cost $3.4 million by the end of the year.

On Tuesday, city leaders released some data showing how those efforts are working out. The numbers tell a story of successes and roadblocks.

A count of Oregon's homeless population shows a 6 percent increase in the number of people living in shelters or on the streets. The tally takes place every two years in January and is meant to be a snapshot of a specific point in time.

Elaine Thompson / AP

The City of Seattle is once again considering how to help people living in their cars and motor homes.

To find out more about the debate over the city's latest moves, The Seattle Times City Hall reporter Dan Beekman asked his colleague Vernal Coleman, who covers homelessness issues, to break it down.  They spoke for "The Overcast", The Seattle Times weekly politics podcast recorded at KNKX.


Will James / KNKX

Leaders in Tacoma are months into a citywide effort to address homelessness. 

Their next step: Hiring an artist. 

City officials are conducting a nationwide search for Tacoma's first artist-in-residence. Whoever gets the job will work specifically on issues related to homelessness.

Simone Alicea / KNKX

While some people use their back yard as a garden or a place for kids to play, one group in Seattle wants homeowners to consider another purpose for the space behind their homes: An opportunity to provide housing for those experiencing homelessness.

Will James / KNKX

A fee that funds services for homeless people in Washington state is scheduled for a large cut in 2023. 

Washington residents pay the $58 document recording fee when they buy a home or perform other real-estate transactions.

In five years, it's scheduled to shrink by more than half, to $28. That means a cut of tens of millions of dollars statewide for anti-homelessness programs. 

buzzlab / flkr/Creative Commons

The Presiding Judge of King County Superior Court says open air drug dealing and harassment outside the county courthouse in downtown Seattle has reached a crisis point. The court is asking that measures be taken to make the environment safer for jurors and other courthouse visitors.

Will James / KNKX

Tacoma officials are at a critical point in their new plan to manage homelessness.

This week, city leaders are attempting to move an entire encampment of homeless people to a new site overseen by the city, much of which will be covered by a gigantic tent.

That means convincing dozens of people to voluntarily pack their belongings, abandon their shelters, and accept the rules of the sanctioned encampment, located a mile away.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Like communities across the Puget Sound region, Bellingham and Whatcom County are struggling to deal with homelessness and housing affordability.

Bellingham city officials are hoping to address some of those issues in a June 13 town hall meeting. Residents have until Wednesday to submit questions beforehand about housing and homelessness.

"I think the main thing we're looking for is to open up the line of communication on one of the most pressing issues," said council president Michael Lilliquist.

Paula Wissel / KNKX

Seattle and King County have released a report on the area's homeless population that will be used by officials and service providers to determine how resources should be allocated.

The 2017 point-in-time count was taken on Jan. 27. Volunteers canvassing the county counted 11,643 people living outside, in cars, in emergency shelters and in transitional housing. 

Will James / KNKX

Tacoma officials' plan to reduce the impacts of homelessness on public health began this month with the installation of a water line and portable toilets at one of the city's largest encampments.

But those amenities are scheduled to be on-site for six weeks at most. City leaders are still figuring out exactly what happens next. 

Paula Wissel / knkx

In many ways, the region’s homeless crisis is very visible, from tents on sidewalks to panhandlers in the street. But, artist Xavier Lopez remembers feeling invisible when, as a 10 year old,  his family was homeless. His exhibit, "Hope/Home" runs through June 16 in Seattle's Municipal Tower in downtown Seattle.

Will James / KNKX

Water and bathroom facilities are making life a little more bearable for people who live in one of Tacoma's largest encampments of homeless people.

City officials installed a water line and spigot last week, along with a row of portable toilets and sinks, near a few dozen tents and makeshift shelters in Tacoma's tideflats.

It represents a shift in the way Tacoma leaders manage a growing homeless population. Instead of forcing people off vacant lots like this, they say they are trying to make conditions cleaner and safer while they work toward longer-term solutions. 

PAULA WISSEL / KNKX

Tacoma leaders are signaling a shift in strategy in their fight against homelessness.

City Council members passed a resolution Tuesday calling for an "emergency temporary aid and shelter program." They said it may involve providing trash pickup and sanitation services to homeless people living in encampments -- or even creating a sanctioned tent city for the homeless. 

Michael Treadwell sat at the back of a courtroom in New Hampshire. He wore a windbreaker and khaki pants and leaned over his work boots with his elbows on his knees. At first it looked like he was chewing gum — a bold choice in a courtroom. But when he spoke it was clear: He wasn't chewing gum, he was chewing his own gums. Michael doesn't have any teeth.

Taxpayers in Hillsborough County, N.H., have spent $63,000 over the last six years keeping Treadwell in jail for little more than trespassing.

Courtesty of The BLOCK Project

A Seattle organization wants people to open up their backyards to homeless people.

Facing Homelessness is managing the BLOCK Project, which aims to put 109-square-foot homes in backyards in residential neighborhoods around Seattle to help house the homeless.

PAULA WISSEL / KNKX

Pierce County's social services seem to be keeping pace with a growing homelessness problem, but they aren’t making headway.

That’s one conclusion from the county’s annual census of homeless people, the results of which were released this week. 

Tess Colby, who oversees Pierce County’s homelessness programs, said the county is getting better at moving people into housing.  

Will James / KNKX

Instead of a property tax to fight homelessness, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says he will now pursue a countywide sales tax increase.

Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Monday that Seattle and King County will coordinate to provide homeless services. 

That effort includes a proposed 2018 ballot measure to increase the sales tax by 0.1 percent.

Will James / KNKX

Treating homeless people takes special training, but it's not something doctors, nurses, and other health care providers typically learn in school.

That's according to Lois Thetford, a physician's assistant with decades of experience working with the homeless. 

Pages