Homeless Crisis Response System

Accurate, reliable data is a critical tool for monitoring performance and measuring results. Data dashboards help us evaluate the effectiveness of our homeless response system while building transparency and accountability. Using these interactive tools can help us identify strategies to prevent and end homelessness.

Monitoring Homelessness

Thousands of people in need utilize the homeless crisis response system each month.

Whether someone comes to an emergency shelter to stay the night or receives rental assistance funds to remain in their home, they are served by Pierce County’s homeless crisis response system. Since 2015, over 30,000 people experiencing homelessness have been served, meaning they were staying in an emergency shelter, transitional housing, or utilizing another service for people experiencing literal homelessness. The number of individuals accessing any of our services is more than double; over 67,000 people have received housing or homeless support from the homeless crisis response system since 2015.
Homelessness affects people of all races, but most minority groups experience it more than White residents.
Black and/or African American residents comprise only 7% of the Pierce County population but accounted for 21% of all people experiencing homelessness in 2022. In contrast, White residents comprise 62% of the Pierce County population but accounted for just 39% of all people experiencing homelessness. These racial disparities are often due to long-standing historical and structural racism.

For more information about the definitions, calculations, and date ranges for these measures, click here for documentation.

Our Results

"We are targeting functional zero – a state where any person starting a new homeless episode has immediate access to shelter and a permanent housing intervention."
-Pierce County's Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness
Since 2015, thousands of people have successfully exited homelessness into permanent housing.
Access to permanent housing, such as a home or an apartment, ends the crisis of homelessness. Permanent housing can be achieved through services like diversion or rapid rehousing and supports the resident’s stability and self-sufficiency. Street outreach brings access to these permanent housing services directly to people experiencing homelessness. Through these outreach efforts, we hope to increase exits from homelessness to permanent housing and reduce the duration of homelessness.
Many variables affect homelessness, making it important to collect the numbers and characteristics of people experiencing homelessness and information about services provided to them.
By separating the data, we can learn more about racial disparities in outcomes and the structural factors that contribute to them, including:
  • Poverty
  • Redlining
  • Mental and physical health
  • Incarceration

Typical Stay in Temporary Housing

Temporary housing refers to emergency shelters and other places meant for short-term stays such as safe parking sites, transitional housing, and hotel voucher programs. The goal of temporary housing is to provide safety and access to services such as permanent housing programs, employment programs, and case management.
Homelessness disproportionately impacts people of color.
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders and Black or African Americans had the longest stay in temporary housing, compared to demographics of others in the same type of housing. 
When we look closer at the data, we can see the disparities in outcomes. Populations that also had longer stays in temporary housing include:
  • Youth under 18 years old
  • People with disabilities
  • Females
  • Veterans

Housing Retention

Roughly 1 out of every 4 times a household has left the homeless crisis system and moved into permanent housing over the past 10 years, they have later returned to the system for support within just two years. There are many reasons people experience homelessness, but the top 2 reasons reported by unhoused residents in Pierce County include a family crisis and/or lack of affordable housing.
Returns to the homeless crisis system peaked in 2020 when hundreds of households needed homeless services again after previously exiting the system.
Despite the success of entering permanent housing, some people return to the homeless crisis system if they are at risk of becoming homeless again. Since 2020, return rates have decreased, and we are seeing fewer returns to the homeless crisis system within two years after individuals exit.
For more information about the definitions, calculations, and date ranges for these measures, click here for documentation.

These dashboards are created by Pierce County as an informational resource on the issue of homelessness.
The data is gathered by the Tacoma/Lakewood/Pierce County Continuum of Care and homeless service providers.