Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Survey indicates Spokane’s homelessness increased by 36% since last year

Point-in-time volunteer Lee Taylor, left, goes through a list of questions with Tyrone Hunter, a local rapper who said he performs under the name Buggzy Mack, at the downtown bus depot in January.  (Emry Dinman /The Spokesman-Review)

Volunteers counted 2,390 homeless people in Spokane County this January, a 36% increase from the same time last year, according to the annual countywide point-in-time count.

This figure has climbed since 2016, when 981 homeless people were counted.

While the number of homeless people is on the rise from last year’s 1,757, the new number is likely a significant undercount. The state Department of Commerce’s Snapshot of Homelessness estimates that Spokane’s homeless population in 2022 was more than eight times larger than were counted in that year’s point-in-time tally.

Teams in communities across the U.S. perform these counts each year, working toward a snapshot of the homeless population in the middle of winter. Spokane’s is organized by the Spokane Regional Continuum of Care board in partnership with the city, and its more than 170 volunteers led by Kimberly Babb, this year’s point-in-time count coordinator, as well as Daniel Ramos III, a social services data administrator for the city of Spokane.

Of the homeless tallied this January, 1,435 were either in shelters or emergency housing, up from 934 last year. In the interim, the city has opened the area’s largest homeless shelter on Trent Avenue, which housed around 300 people during the time of the count. The sheltered homeless has increased dramatically since 2013, when only 60 people were in some form of shelter or emergency housing.

This means 955 homeless people tallied were living outside in the freezing weather when the count occurred, up from 823 in early 2022.

Not every trend has increased, however. There was a 26% decrease in chronic homelessness, defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as having been homeless for over a year with some kind of disability, which can include physical or mental disability but also drug addiction, problems keeping or finding a job and other factors.

“We’re curious about this (decrease) and will be looking to do more analysis,” Ramos said in a Thursday presentation to the Spokane City Council.

Single people were the most likely to be homeless and saw the largest increase since last year, jumping from 1,457 in 2022 to 2,061 in January. Homeless couples or families increased from 290 to 329 people, making up 105 households.

Men were nearly twice as likely to be homeless. There were 1,532 homeless men and 806 homeless women. Men were also more likely to be unsheltered, with nearly 43% of men sleeping outdoors compared to 34% of women.

When asked for the primary reason behind their homelessness, 20% listed a lack of affordable housing, compared to 13% listing a lack of family or support network, and another 12% stating drug abuse was a primary factor.

Another 12% listed unemployment, another 10% listed mental health problems and 7% listed eviction, the last of which was a new category introduced in this year’s survey, Ramos noted. Other reasons, such as COVID-19, domestic violence and health care costs, made up the rest of the responses.