The 2020 Census was designed to count every person living in the United States, including the homeless or those living in transitional locations.
Data has recently been released that includes the number of homeless people, which allows us to look at the numbers at the district level.
Before we look at the numbers for King County, I must explain one important caveat regarding this data.
Homeless people are considered to be the “group neighborhood” of the population – this is the Census Bureau’s terminology for everyone who does not live in a dwelling unit (for example, a house, apartment or condominium, mobile home or SRO). There are many types of group rooms. Some are called institutional, such as prisons and nursing homes. Others are considered non-institutional, such as college dormitories and military barracks.
The homeless population is classified as living in “other non-institutional settings”. This category includes both those who sleep in missions, shelters and other homeless facilities, and those who are not in a shelter.
Caveat: This category is combined. In addition to the homeless, this includes the counts of several other population groups. These are people who live in adult group homes or treatment centers, sea / merchant ships, hostels / employment centers, and disaster resident accommodation.
These are all fairly small populations in King County, I believe, and the vast majority of people categorized as “other non-institutional” are homeless.
So what does the data show?
A total of 15,419 people were counted across the county as living in other non-institutional settings.
By comparison, the 2020 King County point-in-time tally found that 11,751 people were homeless on one night in January – however, one important difference is that this tally was done before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. while by the Census Bureau, the count was carried out during the pandemic from 22 to 24 September 2020.
Census data show that the highest concentration of people living in non-institutional institutions is in Seattle’s Pioneer Square area. There were 699 such people in this census area, which is more than 20% of the total population of 3,374.
There are two more districts where more than 10% of the population were people living in non-institutional institutions. They are in downtown Seattle (at the census site that includes the longest stretch of Third Avenue) and in the Sodo area.
There are seven Seattle census districts, where between 5% and 10% of the population was non-institutional. These tracts are located in the center of Ballard, Lower Queen Anne, Interbay, Belltown and on First Hill adjacent to Harborview Medical Center.
But in most of King County’s nearly 500 census districts, this population was less than 1% of the total.
And there were 129 treatises in which not a single person lived.
You may be curious as to how the Census Bureau calculated the homeless population, as this population is difficult to count.
One strategy was to work with local groups throughout the county to identify open and other places where people are known to sleep, whether in a car or van, campgrounds, parks, beaches, woodlands, motorway underpasses. and so on. People staying overnight in 24-hour offices such as self-service laundries and transit stations were also counted.
Counters went to these places and counted people personally.
Enumerators also traveled to homeless service locations such as shelters, missions, hotels and motels used to accommodate homeless people, free eateries, and regular mobile food vans.
(Note: Some homeless people move into the home of a friend or relative. Since these people lived in a housing unit, they will not be considered homeless living in non-institutional settings).