Despite spending nearly one billion dollars on homelessness over the past decade, Seattle’s unsheltered population continues to rise. Critics attribute the increase to the “homeless industrial complex” that perpetuates the problem. Some argue that cities and towns struggling with homelessness are shipping their homeless populations to places like Seattle and Portland, further exacerbating the issue.
In the span of 11 years, Seattle has spent nearly one billion dollars on homelessness programs, with budgets ballooning from $33.5 million in 2013 to $166.48 million in 2021. Despite these investments, homelessness has not decreased, prompting some to call for a focus on the root causes of homelessness, such as mental health and addiction treatment.
The Point in Time (PIT) count, a federally mandated count of the homeless population, has often been criticized as an undercount of the actual number of people living homeless. Some estimates suggest that the PIT count could be underestimated by as much as 25-35%. King County, home to Seattle, has the third-highest homeless population in the United States.
Critics argue that the current system incentivizes maintaining high numbers of homeless individuals, as reducing homelessness would result in decreased funding for the organizations and entities working to address the issue. With the current system in place, many believe that the cycle of homelessness in Seattle will continue indefinitely, despite the billions of dollars spent on the problem.
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