Spokane point-in-time count shows targeted homeless services may be good investment

click to enlarge Unlike last year, when surveyors like Bob Peeler recorded homeless residents' answers on paper, this year the city is upgrading to a smartphone app. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Unlike last year, when surveyors like Bob Peeler recorded homeless residents' answers on paper, this year the city is upgrading to a smartphone app.

This year's "point in time" count found 1,309 homeless people in Spokane County, a 5 percent increase over last year. The annual count is intended to give a snapshot of homelessness in the county and is required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

During the count, 318 adults self-reported a serious mental illness, 159 reported substance abuse, and 125 reported surviving domestic violence. (Some people may fall under multiple categories.)

The primary reason people cited for being homeless was family conflict, followed by lack of income, lack of affordable housing, job loss, eviction and drug use.

Overall, homelessness among single adults continues to rise, with that group making up 75 percent of the total. Meanwhile, family and veteran homelessness has gone down. Part of the city's strategy is to continue focusing resources to targeted groups, in the hopes they can replicate successes like reductions in veteran homelessness, says Tija Danzig, the city's homeless services program manager.

To help reduce the number of homeless single adults, the city plans to open another shelter this year, with access to trained staff who can help people transition into permanent housing.

There's also a new center designed to prevent homelessness by offering resources in a one-stop shop. The Spokane Resource Center — a HUD EnVision center — opened this week and will provide access to job training, educational materials, medical appointments and other social services.

"We want to be able to help prevent their homelessness in the first place," Danzig says.

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...