According to data from King County’s 2020 annual Point In Time (PIT) Count, 15% of the total homeless population is American Indian or Alaska Native. This is an increase from PIT’s 2019 report, which stated that Native people represented 10% of the homeless population in King County.
The advocacy to collect more accurate data related to Native people experiencing homelessness may be attributed to efforts led by the National Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness (Coalition), a collaboration between service providers working with King County’s Native community including, Chief Seattle Club, Seattle Indian Health Board, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, Mother Nation, and Urban Indian Health Institute.
In 2018, Native organizations were excluded from the PIT Count survey collection, and as a result, the analysis found that only 3% of the homeless population identified as American Indian and/or Alaska Native. In 2019, the Coalition advocated for more involvement in the distribution of surveys, leading to a more accurate count of 10%. That year, the Coalition also advocated for All Home to eliminate “multi-race” as a racial category, which has led to undercounts of Native populations in the past.
In 2020, the Coalition advocated for there to be no limits to the number of surveys their organizations distribute to the community, and they mobilized Native organizations to make a concerted effort to collect more accurate counts.
The following statement from leaders of the National Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness can be quoted in part or in full.
“Because of our efforts to collect more accurate data related to American Indians and Alaska Natives experiencing homelessness, we believe we are getting closer to truly understanding the scope of the work ahead.
In the past, we have expressed concerns about gaps in the outreach and sampling methodologies used in the PIT Count because Native service providers and researchers were not consulted through the design and implementation. This contributed to inconsistent, inequitable, and culturally incompetent practices that resulted in an undercount of the American Indian and Alaska Native community.
But the reality of these more accurate numbers is saddening. These are our relatives, and they are part of a system that creates barriers for them at every turn. They are part of a housing system that is anti-Native.
We need more resources for Native-led organizations, and we will continue to advocate for policy change that begins to remove the barriers that have led to our relatives experiencing homelessness disproportionately.
It is important to remember that the PIT Count is only a snapshot and does not accurately reflect the whole picture of people experiencing homelessness in King County. However, this data is used throughout the year to inform funding decisions, policy and systems strategies, and shapes the narrative of the homelessness crisis in our community.
We know that culturally specific programs are part of the solution to solving homelessness for everyone. Since the City of Seattle and King County have begun funding our agencies, we have seen an increase of Native people being housed through Native providers.
We are housing more people in our community than ever before.
Without accurate data that tells the truth about the astonishingly high rates in the Native community, the narrative is inequitable. We cannot break down barriers in the homelessness crisis without accurate information.
If, together, we can figure out how to solve homelessness within the Native community, we can figure out how to solve it for all.”