January 27, 2023

You can see it almost everywhere you travel through the Tri-Cities. Our homeless problem is growing fast, but what’s causing it?

4,000 homeless in Tri-Cities Washington

I see it on several street corners I drive by every day and I know I’m not the only one noticing it. The problem of the homeless in Tri-Cities is getting worse and worse, and it’s happening fast. There are at least 4,000 homeless people in the Tri-Cities area and that number is growing, according to the Homeless Management Information System. A recent study has identified some of the reasons why the homelessness problem is growing faster in Tri-Cities than in the rest of Washington state overall.

Study identifies reasons for increase in homelessness in the Tri-Cities

The 2022 Benton & Franklin Community Needs Assessment has been completed and it identifies some of the reasons for the surge in homelessness in the Tri-Cities area. The study was begun in 2019 and completed in 2022 in collaboration between EWU and Benton & Franklin counties to “better understand the gaps and needs related to housing and homelessness in the community”. A startling fact they found was a “two-fold increase” in the average number of days a person experiences homelessness in Benton & Franklin counties.

Identified reasons for homelessness problems in Tri-Cities

One problem they note is the lack of access to multiple types of affordable housing. The study identifies “a low supply of multifamily housing, low rental vacancy rates, and elevated rental costs” as factors contributing to Tri-Cities’ affordable housing problems. They also note that the rate of housing production is not keeping pace with the region’s population growth, causing prices to rise and availability to fall.

The Tri-Cities homeless rate is three times higher than the rest of Washington

According to the report, just over 300,000 people live in the Tri-Cities area, of whom 4,000 are homeless. For perspective, of the entire 7,656,000 people in the state, only 22,000 are homeless and 1/5 of them are from our area. That puts a little over 1.3% of the population in the Tri-Cities area homeless, nearly three times that of Washington state as a whole.

Lack of low-barrier solutions

One point the study highlights is the lack of accessible solutions to bridge the homelessness gap in the Tri-Cities area. According to the Union Gospel Mission, accessible solutions are defined as “a minimum of expectations or requirements for the people who want to stay there”. They will not be removed from alcohol or drugs for substance abuse and there is no obligation that they work towards getting sober.

Which Groups Define Homelessness in Tri-Cities?

They define homelessness not only as living without a home, but also as “living in their cars or RVs, couch surfing, and moving around a lot.” There are four main groups that need help in these areas that they identified in the study: young people, veterans, people with disabilities and the elderly. Each group has their own specific needs and treatments that make the situation complex at best.

Where can people in Tri-Cities find help?

The study identified several places where people in the Tri-Cities area can seek help for homelessness. Some places listed are the Housing Resource Center, Safe Harbor’s My Friends’ Place, and the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission. There is another location that just opened at Lewis Street and 20th in Pasco that was built by the Catholic Charities of East Washington. The new building offers space for 60 people, but is expected to fill up quickly. With 4,000 people in need of housing, that’s just a small dip in the real needs that are hidden from view in the Tri-Cities. Read the entire Community Needs Health Assessment by clicking here.

LOOK: This is where most people move to in every state

Stacker analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey to determine the top three most popular destinations for people moving out of each state.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *