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Volunteers find 113 homeless people in Federal Way
While many were warm and cozy in their beds early Friday morning, some dedicated volunteers were out walking the streets of Federal Way as part of the One Night Count of homeless individuals in King County.
The volunteers gathered at 2 a.m. at Multi-Service Center (MSC), the annual count’s Federal Way headquarters, for instructions and maps of the areas they were to cover. Once armed with information, flashlights, and warm coffee, the volunteers set out in several small groups accompanied by Federal Way police officers to count the homeless persons in our city.
Federal Way volunteers observed 113 individuals without shelter — a small decrease from last year’s count of 118 homeless people in Federal Way. County-wide, this year’s count found a total of at least 3,117 people without shelter on the night the count took place — an increase of 14 percent in King County over the 2013 total.
Manuela Ginnett, MSC’s director of housing, cautions that these numbers may not be truly representative of all the homeless individuals in either Federal Way or King County.
“The count gives us a good idea of the number of homeless in the area, but homelessness has no boundaries. These are only the homeless that were observed that night — those who found temporary shelter or temporarily moved to another area aren’t counted.”
This year was MSC community relations manager Le Ann Taylor’s first time volunteering for the One Night Count.
“We went around this corner and found three men in a small inset of a doorway. Two men were standing, and one was in his wheelchair. We talked to them for a while and each shared his story of how they ended up sharing that doorway together.”
Later, Taylor and her team started talking with a man they found crouched behind a dumpster. He expressed concern about a fellow homeless man he had seen earlier. When moving some cardboard to use for shelter, he found the homeless man motionless behind it. The young man feared the worst and sent the team to check on the other man. The young man, like several others, preferred to stay awake all night, rather than risk falling asleep in an unsafe location.
While familiar with the needs of the homeless in the Federal Way community, the One Night Count was an experience that has changed Taylor’s perspective.
“I’ve lived in Federal Way for a long time, and I’m aware there are folks who don’t have a place to stay at night. After doing the count, I look at my city a little differently. Now when I’m driving by an area we counted in, I’m thinking who might have to sleep there tonight. It inspires me to work harder to end homelessness in our community.”
One Night Count is an annual event led by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH).
SKCCH’s mission is to work collaboratively to ensure safety and survival for people while they are homeless, and to end the crisis of homelessness in the region.
Its organizational members include agencies and community groups that provide emergency shelter and services, transitional housing, and permanent, supported housing to the roughly 27,000 men, women, and children who are homeless in King County during one year.
Local government departments, public housing authorities, professional associations, religious congregations and social action committees, and advocacy groups are also members of the Coalition, as are people who were or are homeless.