SEATTLE — The city of Seattle has spent nearly $1 billion on homelessness in more than a decade, and the number of unsheltered people continues to rise.
The city of Seattle’s Budget Office provided the adopted budget amount dating back to 2013 to KOMO News, which includes the amount spent on Human Services Department (HSD) contracts and the citywide spending on the department, including labor costs.
The total adds up to nearly $1 billion in the 11-year span.
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Between 2013 and 2018, the city spent a minimum of $33.5 million on HSD contracts. After then-Mayor Ed Murray declared a homelessness state of emergency in 2015, the spending started to rise. By 2018, the citywide budget ballooned to $85.2 million. By 2021, that number had doubled to $166.48 million.
The city started tracking the homelessness budget, including labor, in 2018. The totals do not reflect unspent amounts carried forward from a previous year into another year. But they also do not include other housing levies or spending on affordable housing.
During that 11-year period, the Regional Homelessness Authority’s Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, which was handled by different organizations over the years, shows the number of people experiencing homelessness or staying in a shelter in Seattle and King County was higher than ever.
There were 13,368 people experiencing homelessness in King County in 2022, according to the PIT results. That number was less than 9,000 in 2012.
The PIT count has been often considered an estimate and not an accurate assessment of the actual amount of people living homeless.
According to the King County Regional Homeless Authority, the "PIT is widely understood to be an undercount, especially as it represents a single night rather than a full year."