Skagit County releases Point-in-Time Count of people experiencing homelessness in 2023
(SKAGIT COUNTY)- The annual Skagit County Point-in-Time (PIT) count took place on January 26, 2023, led by Community Action of Skagit County in partnership with Skagit County Public Health, many community partners, and dozens of volunteers.
The purpose of the PIT count is to estimate the number people experiencing homelessness in Skagit County based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) definition of homelessness which includes individuals who are unsheltered, and those residing in emergency shelter, transitional housing, and safe havens, according to a news release from the county. It does not include people temporarily living with family or friends, those in detox or other behavioral health facilities, or individuals who are incarcerated.
Though the annual PIT count cannot provide an exact number of people experiencing homelessness in Skagit County, outreach efforts targeted known areas of unsheltered people and included general canvassing around the community to capture the most complete picture possible. This year's PIT count findings reveal an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness, particularly for unsheltered people and individuals defined as "chronically homeless" with long histories of homelessness.
Key findings for the 2023 PIT count include:
- The PIT count identified a total of 533 people experiencing homelessness (a 70% increase from 2022).
- For unsheltered individuals, the count increased 191% from 75 people in 2022 to 218 in 2023.
- In comparison to the 2022 count, the number of identified unsheltered chronically homeless people increased by 241%, from 39 to 133.
- 19% (103) of identified individuals experiencing homelessness were 18 years and under - 84% were sheltered.
- Roughly 4% of those experiencing homelessness identified as veterans.
- The number of identified sheltered individuals also increased from 239 to 315 (32%), likely due to an increase in the number of shelter beds available, including seasonal cold weather shelters and motels.
"While the increase in the number of sheltered individuals is encouraging, we still have a lot of work to do and too many Skagitonians are unsheltered. We need to work together to build more effective systems of care and invest in housing so that every member of our community has a place to call home,” said George Kosovich, Skagit County Public Health Community Services Manager.
Addressing the issue of homelessness is of top priority for Skagit County. In July 2022, County Commissioners and the Mayors of Anacortes, Burlington, Mount Vernon, and Sedro-Woolley signed a call to action to address homelessness and behavioral health challenges in our communities. Consecutively, North Star was established, a long-term effort to align resources and implement cross-sector solutions, including but not limited to expanding housing options and creating more effective systems of care. Since the call to action, robust assessment and asset mapping have taken place to identify gaps and opportunities, and an advisory group and multiple task forces have been formed and activated to improve the various aspects of crisis response, coordinated care, and housing.
Additionally, in May of 2023, Catholic Housing Services of Washington opened Martha’s Place in Mount Vernon, providing 70 units of permanent supportive housing to individuals who have long histories of homelessness and struggle with mental health, substance use, or a disability. These housing units will help to address the increase in the number of individuals who are unsheltered or experiencing chronic homelessness and provide a community of support for individuals to live more stable lives.
It is important to note that the annual PIT count results do not provide a complete and definitive picture of the scale of homelessness or housing issues in Skagit County. PIT counts rely on self-reported data and can miss segments of the homeless population, particularly those who are unsheltered and youth experiencing homelessness. Additionally, there are different definitions of homelessness. For example, school districts identify youth experiencing homelessness as those who lack a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence”. Some examples of children who would fall under this definition include children who are “doubling up” and sharing housing, imminently at risk of losing their housing, as well as those in shelters that are unhoused. During the 2021-2022 school year, 605 youth in Skagit County met this broader definition of homelessness.