Late one night each January, volunteers fan out across the county to count the number of unsheltered homeless people in King County. This year, the One Night Count found 2,736 homeless people living outside—a five percent increase over last year's count. The actual number of unsheltered homeless in King County is undoubtedly higher, because the volunteers can't find everybody. 

As we noted in Fizz this morning, Real Change director Tim Harris set up a gong on the Fourth Avenue plaza side of City Hall this morning, ringing it once for every homeless person counted in five-minute shifts. 

Here's city council member Nick Licata taking his turn this morning: 

City council member Nick Licata. Photo by Sharon Lee.

Despite the obvious need for emergency shelter (King County has just 1,690 shelter beds available countywide), the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness (now in its eighth year) recommends a focus on long-term housing rather than temporary, emergency shelter beds. As a result, some homeless advocates have protested, basic shelter needs have gone underfunded.

Earlier this week, the Committee to End Homelessness' governing board voted to recommend the development of more emergency shelter space in addition to long-term housing. Licata has more about the housing-vs.-shelter debate on his web site.