The One Night Count: Community-powered assessment of our regional crisis

Photo by Aaron Piazza

Photo by Aaron Piazza

The One Night Count of people who are homeless in our King County communities is just 3 days away.  Nearly 1,000 volunteers will disperse across the county in the early pre-dawn hours this Friday, January 25.  They will stay quiet, check their maps, and count every single person they see huddling under a blanket, staying in a tent, and sleeping in a car.  Volunteer counters will bear witness to people’s ingenuity and desperation as they try to survive another cold winter night outside.

Later that morning, after each team’s results are compiled into our big spreadsheet, we will all feel sorrow and amazement at how many people we have counted.  Whether the numbers are slightly up or slightly down, it is a near certainty that well over 2300 people will have spent the night outdoors.  For many people, indignation and sadness will turn to inspiration and determination, as people who have volunteered to help with the Count resolve to take action, to make it a personal and public priority to bring down the numbers of people without shelter, and without housing.

The Coalition plays a unique role in organizing the One Night Count.  We begin work with our partners in October, work that culminates in late January when more than 130 team captains gather their teams, pick up maps and flashlights and waterproof tally sheets, and head out into the cold night. This “street count” is the largest of several projects that the Coalition coordinates for the One Night Count.  We also implement several special projects including: our Veteran’s Interview Project, a survey conducted the day after the street count to help us know more about veterans who lack basic shelter;  special sleepovers for homeless youth and young adults; and our Bus Count of people who ride all night on buses, attempting to stay warm and safe.