If I Ran the Zoo


February 7, 2024

It’s heartbreaking to be updated on how many homeless people there are in Skagit County.

Fortunately, they are no longer camping out on sidewalks in our towns. I can no longer visit my friend in San Francisco who has a nightclub because it is so upsetting for me to see so many homeless people camped out in the most expensive parts of that city.

Skagit County has provided very nice grassy areas for people to pitch their tents. Some of the homeless people have addictions to alcohol and drugs, but many are simply people who cannot afford a place to live as rental prices have skyrocketed. So many people have moved up to this county from the Seattle area lately because it is so expensive and crowded down there. The rental vacancy rate in Skagit County is less than 1%. That’s the lowest in the entire state.

Skagit County released a Point-In-Time Count of People Experiencing Homelessness in May 2023. The PIT count identified a total of 533 people experiencing homelessness, a 70% increase from 2022. For unsheltered individuals, the count increased 191% from 75 people in 2022 to 218 in 2023. In our climate, being unsheltered is a tremendous challenge. Outreach workers say the lack of affordable housing is the biggest factor driving homelessness in Skagit County.

According to former mayor Ramon Hayes, La Conner doesn’t have many homeless people compared to other parts of Skagit. “We do see it arise from time to time but we don’t have issues larger cities do because we can’t offer services,” said Hayes. In contrast, Anacortes has a large number of homeless people.

Despite these very sad numbers, outreach workers see reason for hope. Twenty-one new affordable housing units will be on the market in Anacortes in July. “Being able to provide housing that is affordable, accessible, close to services, close to healthcare is absolutely integral to saving families,” says Dustin Johnson, executive director of the Anacortes Family Center.

The 21 new affordable housing units are now a reality because Skagit County voters approved a one-tenth of a percent sales tax—helping everyone join in and become a part of the solution. A partnership between Anacortes Family Center and Community Action of Skagit County is bringing a resource center to help with job, mental health and addiction services. It is part of a campus in downtown Anacortes that also offers emergency shelter as well as transitional permanent housing.

One thing we can all do to help is provide funds to these groups that are totally dedicated to helping the homeless.


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