You can see it almost everywhere you travel around the Tri-Cities. Our homeless problem is growing fast, but what is the cause?

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4,000 Homeless in Tri-Cities Washington

I see it illustrated on multiple street corners I drive by every day and I know I am not the only one that notices. The Tri-Cities homeless problem is getting worse and it is happening quickly. There are at least 4,000 homeless 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 Tri-Cities homeless problem is growing faster than the rest of Washington State as a whole.

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Study Identifies Reasons for Homeless Growth in the Tri-Cities

The Benton & Franklin Community Needs Assessment for 2022 was completed and in it they identify some reasons for the large increase in homelessness in the Tri-Cities area. The study was started in 2019 and finished in 2022 with a collaboration between EWU and Benton & Franklin counties to "better understand the housing and homelessness gaps and needs within the community." One startling fact they found was a "two-fold increase" in the average amount of days a person experiences homelessness in the Benton & Franklin counties.

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Reasons Identified for Tri-Cities Homeless Problems

One issue they identify is a lack of access to multiple kinds of low-cost housing. The study identifies a "low supply of multi-family units, low vacancy rates for rentals, and increased rental costs" as contributing factors to Tri-Cities' low-cost housing issues. They also find that the housing production rate is not keeping up with the population growth of the area, causing prices to rise and availability to shrink.

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Tri-Cities Homeless Rate is 3x the Rest of Washington

There are just over 300,000 people living in the Tri-Cities area according to the report and 4,000 of them are homeless. For perspective, out of the entire 7,656,000 people in the state, only 22,000 are homeless and 1/5 of those are from our area. That makes just over 1.3% of the population experiencing homelessness in the Tri-Cities area, almost 3 times the rate for all of Washington State.

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Lack of Low-Barrier Solutions

One point the study makes is the lack of low-barrier solutions to bridge the homeless gap in the Tri-Cities area. Low-barrier solutions are defined as "a minimum number of expectations or requirements are placed on the people who wish to stay there" according to the Union Gospel Mission. They are not removed for substance abuse of alcohol or drugs and no requirement that they work towards being sober.

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What Groups Define Homelessness in Tri-Cities?

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

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Where Can People Go for Help in Tri-Cities?

There are multiple places identified in the study where people can go seek help in the Tri-Cities area for homelessness. Some places listed are Housing Resource Center, Safe Harbor’s My Friends’ Place, and the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission. There is another location that just opened off Lewis Street and 20th in Pasco that was built by the Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington. The new building can house 60 people but is expected to fill up quickly. With 4,000 people needing housing, that just puts a small dent in the actual need hidden in plain sight in the Tri-Cities. Read the entire Community Needs Health Assessment by clicking here.

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LOOK: Here's where people in every state are moving to most

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