Whatcom County 2022 Point in Time Count Shows Modest Reduction in Homelessness following Record High Numbers in 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 22, 202
Housing Specialist, Whatcom County Health Department
Director, Whatcom Homeless Service Center
View the 2022 Point in Time Report Infographic (PDF)
Bellingham, WA -
The Whatcom County Health Department, in partnership with the Opportunity Council, published the 2022 Point in Time (PiT) Homelessness Count report today, Friday, July 22. The report provides a snapshot of persons experiencing homelessness in Whatcom County based on annual surveys that have been conducted each year since 2008. The PiT is normally conducted in late January, but the 2022 count was delayed until Feb. 24 because of a January COVID-19 surge.
With COVID-19 still a concern, the counting effort relied heavily on homeless service providers to safely collect information about people experiencing homelessness in Whatcom County - both in shelters and outdoors.
“I really want to thank our many partners for their diligent work to ensure the 2022 Point in Time numbers were as complete as possible, despite the challenges caused by the pandemic,” said Chris D’Onofrio, housing specialist with Whatcom County Health Department. “It is also worth noting that many housing support programs expanded in the last few years to provide additional units of permanent supportive housing, more rental assistance, and a huge increase in eviction prevention support.”
There were 1,352 households with 2,335 individuals who received some form of housing support through one of Whatcom County’s partner organizations. These critical programs have likely contributed to Whatcom County’s lower Point in Time count numbers in 2022 by assisting individuals and families to transition out of homelessness and also keep people from losing their homes in the first place. This was made possible by a cooperative funding approach that included federal agencies, the Washington State Department of Commerce, the City of Bellingham, and local resources from Whatcom County.
For those at risk of homelessness, resources are available to help. Households who have fallen behind on rent payments should visit the Opportunity Council Rental Assistance webpage at https://bit.ly/3RPITjv
or call 360-746-3826. Notable findings from the 2022 Point in Time Count include:
Challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to make the counting process difficult. It is also difficult to predict how homelessness will change as Whatcom County emerges from the pandemic. “Programs that were expanded during the pandemic made a difference in our efforts to reduce homelessness. We were fortunate to receive additional funding from the federal government to offset some of the pandemic’s worst economic impacts,” D’Onofrio said. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that the nationwide Point in Time Count occur on a specific night every year. In Whatcom County, this effort is the result of coordination between housing service providers, outreach specialists, and administrative staff. This year, surveys were abbreviated and outreach was limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the full report online.
- 3% decrease in individuals who were counted compared to last year, from 859 to 832.
- This is likely due to expanded support programs during the pandemic.
- 2% increase in the number of homeless households from 625 in 2021 to 639 in 2022.
- This represents a decrease in larger households who are homeless, and a slight increase in the number of households with only one person.
- 72% of homeless people counted were staying in some sort of emergency shelter or transitional housing (places like Basecamp, a hotel voucher, etc.)
- 28% were unsheltered (places like: tent, car, or RV).
- This represents a 17% decrease in people who were unsheltered from last year.
- Emergency shelter and transitional housing resources were expanded as part of the pandemic response and this expansion likely contributed to the larger number of people accessing shelter.
- Unaccompanied (single) adults remain the majority of individuals experiencing homelessness and made up 84% of all households counted in 2022.
- 13% of homeless households were families with children.
- Compared to last year, there was a 15% decrease in homeless households with children. This is attributed to sustained efforts and resources to resolve homelessness for families with children and a special emphasis on ending unsheltered family homelessness.
- In total, there were 77 families with children in interim housing facilities- either traditional emergency shelters, motel rooms being used as emergency shelter, or in transitional housing. Five families with children were unsheltered.
- 39 - median age of all homeless persons.
- Infant less than one year old - Youngest homeless person counted.
- 83 - oldest homeless person counted.
- 11% children under 10 years old.
- 7% children 10-17 years old.
- Race and ethnicity continue to be correlated with homelessness. American Indian and Alaska Native populations account for about 5% of Whatcom resident in poverty, but they account for 7% of people experiencing homeless. Surveys were not conducted on site this year with either of Whatcom County’s two tribal communities because of the pandemic, suggesting that the undercount of non-white individuals may be significantly higher.