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Washington Homelessness Statistics

Updated: May 5, 2022

As of January 2020, Washington had an estimated 22,923 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that Total, 2,116 were family households, 1,607 were Veterans, 1,777 were unaccompanied young adults (aged 18-24), and 6,756 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.

Public school data reported to the U.S. Department of Education during the 2017-2018 school year shows that an estimated 40,112 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year. Of that total, 2,957 students were unsheltered, 4,993 were in shelters, 2,521 were in hotels/motels, and 29,641 were doubled up.

Who are homeless Youth?

They are caring, loving, respectful people. They are kids. They are a part of your community. They are resourceful. They are afraid of retribution. They are accepting. They are kind. They want a second chance to prove to you they are worth it. They want a community they want to thrive in. Homeless youth, sometimes referred to as “unaccompanied” youth, are individuals who lack parental, foster, or institutional care.

Where are they?

Sleeping at a friend’s house or couch surfing

Riding the subway or staying on the street

Trading work or sex for a place to stay or other needed resources

Living in a car, sleeping in wooded areas, abandoned buildings, or other public places

Staying in a crisis shelter or transitional shelter

Forced to leave their home with nowhere to go

What is the health status of young people who do not have housing?

Climatic conditions, psychological strain and exposure to communicable disease create and lead to a range of chronic and acute health problems, including injury from cold, tuberculosis, skin diseases, cardio-respiratory disease, nutritional deficiencies, sleep deprivation, musculoskeletal pain and dental trouble.

Help Homeless Youth Locally

Here are four suggestions to help homeless youth in your community:

  • Be an ally.

  • Find youth-specific services.

  • In many communities, youth-specific services are hard to find. Find an organization in your community that works to support young people living in poverty. Ask them what kinds of things they are doing to support young people. If they do have services, offer to volunteer.

  • Break down stigma for homeless young people.

  • Advocate for change.

Why does homelessness generate so much debate and confusion?

The confusion is due to conceptual imprecision, fuzzy boundaries, the influence of political agendas, the heterogeneity of the homeless population, and the assumptions and attitudes of the housed population. This confusion is caused by two factors- one political and one practical.

Most people will never know what it is like to try to survive without housing. Homeless persons and the people who assist them list the following as just some of the realities: • inadequate food and nutrition; • shortage of appropriate clothing; • sexual victimization; harassment and physical assault • inadequate medial services; • negative or low self-esteem; • social isolation; • development of mental health and/or substance abuse problems; and • poor prospects for employment and appropriate permanent housing.

Don't they choose to be homeless?

The overwhelming majority of young homeless people want to get off the street and into stable adequate housing. A homeless existence is characterized by demeaning environments, numerous threats to survival, and the most abject poverty affecting every aspect of daily existence.

Young homeless people often become homeless

in order to escape violence or abuse happening in their homes such as physical and sexual abuse and neglect. This includes LGBTQ youth (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning).

The consequences faced by youth experiencing homelessness

are vast and require coordination across the education, child welfare, juvenile justice, health and human services systems. Runaway and homeless youth are vulnerable to multiple threats, including not having their basic food and shelter needs met, untreated mental health disorders, substance use, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection, sexual exploitation (including survival sex to meet basic needs), physical victimization and suicide.

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