No Big Homeless Increase in Yakima Despite Growth in State
Look around Yakima. Do you see homeless people everywhere? Homeless tents on sidewalks and parking lots? That's the case in larger cities on the west side of the state but not in Yakima. Mike Johnson, The Executive Director of the Yakima Union Gospel Mission says despite a report of growing homelessness in Washington State he's not seeing that increase in Yakima. In the recent annual report to Congress Washington State was the standout seeing one of the largest estimated increases in homelessness between 2019 and 2020. The state reports an increase of 6.2 percent between 2019 and 2020. That's the third largest increase in growth when compared to all the other states. But Johnson says the numbers are only estimates and are never fully reliable because of the many variables that happen when people try and count the homeless. He says its obvious in the larger cities in Washington State where services are maxed out and homelessness is a big problem. But Johnson says there's been no noticeable growth in cities like Yakima and other smaller cities and towns around the state. Johnson says, an annual surveys also estimate that on average Yakima has about 650 homeless people. Johnson says that's been the average number for the last 10 years. Over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic Johnson says while he hasn't seen an increase in the number of homeless people in Yakima he's seen an increase in 'bad behavior' of the local homeless population because of the restrictions put on arrests and placing people in the Yakima County jail because of COVID-19 concerns.