The number of homeless people in Yakima County is dropping. That according to a survey done by the Homeless Network of Yakima County.   The "point in time survey" found 899 people who were homeless in the county. That is down almost ten percent from 2012. Tim Sullivan with the Homeless Network said "this is a trend, since we started doing the count in 2006 it's been going down quite a bit."  The total count was broken into two primary categories: sheltered and unsheltered.  This year only  47 people were found to be unsheltered in Yakima County, an 11 percent drop from 2012. On average about 650 individuals are sheltered by various agencies in Yakima County.

While the overall numbers are down, the numbers of homeless youth are up. This year the number rose from 297 to 335, an increase of almost 13 percent from last year and the second year in a row the network has recorded an increase. Most of the youth documented during the count are  under 12-years of age and accompanied by family members.

The inability to pay rent or mortgage remained the number one cause of homelessness and actually increased 42.5 percent from 2012.

Sullivan also says the survey also clarifies several misconceptions about homelessness in Yakima County.  One of the misconceptions is that local programs act as a magnet to bring homeless from other communities to Yakima. The survey found that nearly 90 percent of the local homeless are from Yakima County.

Another misconception is that all panhandlers are homeless. Sullivan said, "Only three households counted in the survey had income from panhandling.  That's less than one half of one percent.

Sullivan says the top myth is that people chose to be homeless.  He said "Of the homeless, 37.2% of the 899 homeless individuals were youth in families under the age of 18.

The data obtained through the survey enables service agencies and local governments to spot trends in homelessness and to evaluate the success of existing programs.

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