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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Spokane homeless tally down, but chronic cases rise

Spokane’s homeless population dropped 10 percent during the past year, according to the most recent Point-in-Time homeless count. The one-night count was done Jan. 29 and counted 1,033 people, ranging from 1 month to 83 years old.

Homeless families with children dropped 17 percent, according to a Spokane Community Housing and Human Services Department report released Monday. The number of unsheltered persons dropped 15 percent.

Despite the overall decrease, the chronically homeless population increased from 151 in 2014 to 198 this year. The chronically homeless are those who’ve been without housing for more than a year or at least four times in three years. Additionally, the number of homeless veterans, a population the city specifically focused on this year, increased by 19 percent to 101.

Dean Whisler, social services manager at Union Gospel Mission in Spokane, said this year’s count focused on counting a portion of the homeless population, the chronically homeless, who actively avoid counting. Counters made an effort to check in harder-to-access areas, like underpasses and in bushes. This, he said, might explain the increase.

“They don’t want to stop their drinking or drugging or panhandling,” Whisler said.

As for the increase in the number of veterans, he attributes that to the overall increase in the veteran population.

“We have a new load of vets coming from the Middle East,” Whisler said.

Whisler expects the number of homeless veterans to drop during next year’s count, as the city makes more funds available through its nine-month initiative to end veteran homelessness. 

Although the Union Gospel Mission doesn’t run or fund the Point-in-Time count, it does provide volunteers. The city’s Community, Housing and Human Services department didn’t return calls seeking comment.

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