Events - One Night Count
Operation Nightwatch started counting homeless people in Seattle in 1982. Using paid homeless informants and the community service officers from the Seattle Police Department, the original count covered the central business district in downtown Seattle, looking for people who were surviving outside at night, sleeping in doorways, bus stops, or just wandering around. These early counts were conducted in a different section of downtown each night for four nights.
In 1996, there was a major shift in the counting process.
"I decided it was silly to spend $200 paying homeless people to do this work when I could just as easily find a group of volunteers to do the work for free," says Nightwatch Executive Director Rick Reynolds. Twelve hearty volunteers counted the entire downtown area in one night.
Every year since then, the One Night Count has grown. Beginning n 2008, volunteers numbering in the hundreds counted an expanded area from lower Queen Anne to south of Spokane Street, the waterfront to Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill. New outlying areas have been added through the years, including Ballard, the University District and White Center. Suburban cities (Kent, Shoreline, Bellevue, Federal Way, Woodinville, Renton and Auburn) are also now conducting a street count, with new areas on the horizon. New sources and methods were introduced in 2007 including interviews of people in south and east King County as well as callers to the 211 Crisis Clinic Community Information Line.  Homelessness is no longer a downtown problem.
The One Night Count is now coordinated by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness ( with Operation Nightwatch and the Compass Housing Alliance acting as host agency.

The One Night Count for 2016 was conducted on Friday, January 29, beginning at 2a.m. On that early morning, 4,505 people were counted on the streets of King County.  For a complete report , click here. 


P.O Box 21181 . Seattle, WA 98111 . 206-323-4359

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