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Point in Time count tracks Snohomish County's homeless population

Last year's count revealed a 10-year high.

EVERETT, Wash. — On Tuesday, teams of volunteers fanned out across Snohomish County inspecting alleyways, street corners and storefronts in search of homeless people.

As of last year's count, there were 1,184 people without a proper place to rest their heads. That's the most in a decade.

The actual number is likely much higher.

The teams collected data which is shared with county and federal agencies that can allocate funding to help with the crisis.

"We're getting an idea of what people who are on the streets need," said volunteer Thomas Stensland. "That's a way for us to figure out how to help our community."

While last year's numbers were up 42% from a low of 829 homeless people in 2015, progress is being made.

Over the past year, federal COVID funds have been used to buy two Snohomish County hotels that are being converted into transitional housing -- 165 beds in all.

An organization called Angel Resource Connection is buying RVs for those seeking shelter, turning them into instant homeowners.

And the city of Everett is expanding its pallet shelter program -- doubling the number of units to 40 with more on the way.

Progress may be slow but it is steady.

"I think we're always making progress every day," said Susan Chriest, supervisor of direct services for Snohomish County's Office of Housing and Community Services.  "Maybe it's not as much as we'd all like to see, but we have people who are coming to housing solutions all the time."

The final tally from this year's Point in Time count is expected in about two months.

On Tuesday, in addition to taking information, volunteers gave hats and hand warmers to homeless people on a cold, damp afternoon. 

For now, they hope the count will simply remind those on the streets they may be unsheltered but they are not unseen.

"This gives us a clearer idea of what our community looks like," said Stensland. "Just because they don't have homes doesn't mean they're not part of our community."

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