Earlier this year, Mayor Jenny Durkan came under fire for presenting unclear numbers on how well the city was doing to move people out of homelessness and into permanent housing.
Durkan had said the city had helped more than 7,400 households move from homelessness into permanent housing in 2018 — but that figure gave a false impression. It included duplicated households that accessed multiple programs before finding a permanent home.
The number the mayor cited in February referred to the number of exits from various city-funded homelessness programs. Figuring out the true number of individual people or households that moved on from homelessness with the help of city-funded programs would be a significant, and separate, undertaking, officials said at the time.
On Tuesday, the city touted its latest exit numbers — this time including information about how many unique individuals and households the city had helped move into permanent housing in the first six months of the year.
“Because there was so much confusion about that last year, we changed our methodology,” said Meg Olberding, spokesperson for the Human Services Department.
The city’s new accounting method shows 1,936 households moved from homelessness to housing since Jan. 1 and the end of June, a 6% increase over the same time frame last year.
The city did not, however, provide unduplicated numbers for specific programs.
The city also said 461 households, representing 704 people, were prevented from becoming homeless.
Another 2,127 households remained in permanent supportive housing, a program that provides intensive services for people that have disabling conditions. The city is no longer counting these as exits, though it did in 2018.
The new data on the city’s homelessness investments arrives just before the commencement of Seattle’s annual budget deliberations. It also comes as local politicians debate the creation of a new regional homelessness authority and amid the Durkan administration’s intensified efforts to remove homeless encampments deemed hazards or obstructions.
The city data indicates some forms of shelter seem more efficient at getting people into permanent housing. The rate at which tiny house villages move households into permanent housing, for example, more than doubled between the first six months of 2018 and this year.
The rate at which enhanced shelter — shelters with wraparound services that are open 24/7 — moved households into permanent housing landed at 14 percentage points below the rate of exit from tiny house villages this year. Still, enhanced shelters moved far more people into permanent housing overall. Increasing the availability of enhanced shelter beds has been a major focus of the Durkan administration, though data from 2018 showed that many were missing their contract targets.
The city’s data also suggests that programs are getting better at serving people of color. Rates of exit from city-funded homelessness programs for American Indian/Alaska Natives increased from 21% to 33% between last year and this year, and for Hispanic/Latinos increased from 18% to 27%. Exits for black people increased from 31% to 37%.
The rate of exit for whites was the lowest this year at 23%, but that increased from 17% last year.