WENATCHEE — This year’s point-in-time count found 412 homeless individuals in Chelan and Douglas counties, down 15 percent from last year.
The count was performed by teams of volunteers across the state in January and the data was provided to The Wenatchee World by the state Department of Commerce on Friday.
The number of local sheltered and unsheltered homeless both went down, but the number of people experiencing chronic, long-term homelessness went up to 36 from 21 last year.
The count also showed a decrease in the statewide homeless population: 21,621 this year compared to 22,304 people last year.
While the drop was slight, it’s a good sign for the state’s effort to combat homelessness, said Tedd Kelleher, managing director of housing assistance for the state Department of Commerce.
“This seems to be relatively good news that we’re at least holding the line where other places are seeing significant increases,” he said.
California, for example, is still seeing homeless population growth, Kelleher said.
“What I am seeing on the west coast is these fastest-growing economies in the nation, with peak economic performance, there we’re seeing homeless rising significantly,” he said. “I don’t have the official California numbers but, based on media reports, it looks like they’re seeing 20-some-percent increases.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will release final tallies from the point-in-time count later this year, Kelleher said, which should provide a better comparison.
In Washington, the Department of Commerce is working on several initiatives that will help validate point-in-time count data, which can vary widely from year to year.
One of the newest is a statewide coordinated entry system, which will provide “almost real-time data” on counties’ current homeless needs, Kelleher said.
Chelan and Douglas counties already use a coordinated entry system to direct families with housing instability to appropriate resources. The system served 631 households from January 2018 to February 2019, according to the city of Wenatchee.
The Department of Commerce also collects supplementary data from health and housing agencies across the state to provide context for the point in time count. That data should be released later this year, he said.
“It’s better than what we had before, where there wasn’t any date,” he said. “Point in time counts are important, but not sufficient to do good management in our mind.”