A team from the Seattle Office of Housing covered a large portion of Queen Anne during the annual Point in Time Count of people experiencing homelessness early Friday morning.

“We definitely did more (than last year),” said Robin Koskey, Office of Housing communications manager.

Around 1,000 people volunteered for King County’s 2019 Count Us In, a one-night snapshot of those living unsheltered coordinated by All Home.

The data affects federal grants provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which requires Point in Time Counts once every two years all around the nation. King County has conducted its count annually for more than a decade.

While people across Seattle and other King County cities fanned out during the wee hours of Jan. 25 to count tents and vehicles where people might be sleeping, data from shelters and transitional housing was also collected. The count is being followed up with a survey of people experiencing homelessness.

A more full picture of the homelessness situation from a single night in January is expected to be available when a lengthy report is published in May.

“We don’t need to know the exact outcome of the count to be reminded today that the experience of homelessness is far too common in a community with such prosperity and opportunity,” said All Home acting director Kira Zylstra in a news release that followed the conclusion of Friday’s count. “This reality is an important call to action for the days and months ahead, knowing that we not only need to respond to those in crisis tonight, but must also come together as a community year-round to prevent the experience of homelessness whenever possible.”

The Office of Housing team met at the Metropolitan Market around 2 a.m. Friday, where Koskey displayed maps for staff, which split into three groups to cover two census tracks.

Koskey told counters to mark tents seen together — any more than two qualified as an encampment — and to count vehicles that appeared occupied. They were to keep flashlights low and not disturb anyone.

Across the street a man without a tent, all of his belongings surrounding him, wailed as he suffered through a mental health issue.

“That’s our buddy Mike,” said John, one of a number of people experiencing homelessness hired by King County to serve as guides during Count Us In. “He’s been out here for a long time.”

Two people experiencing homelessness were found near each other, but divided by a parking lot off Mercer Street.

Koskey suggested checking the Metropolitan Market parking garage, but no one was there. John said he’d like it if empty garages were made available as overnight shelter, because they work well in the winter and summer.

No one was sleeping in the plaza at St. Paul Epiphany Church on West Roy Street, where John had expected to see some old friends.

Most of the blocks just off Mercer had at least one new construction project underway. John said construction sites used to be good places to sleep, but security is greater than it was even a few years ago.

“They’re fencing off more and more places, so it’s not accessible,” he said. “They used to be a lot more lax about construction sites.”

After walking several blocks north of Mercer, Koskey’s team got into their vehicle to explore uphill neighborhoods and along Aurora Avenue. John told Koskey there was no need to check the Mercer Street Garage because of security, which he knew had previously run out a few of his friends sleeping there.

Count Us In teams also had portions of their maps blacked out, including some parks and greenbelts, which were checked in the daytime.

“That’s one of the challenges,” John said, “is keeping your tent camouflaged.”

After circling around and down Aurora Avenue North, the team got out to check an alcove off Dexter Way North, just outside a greenbelt. The area had trash and used needles scattered about. One tent was counted further up the hillside.

“I feel like we’re seeing more people than last year,” Koskey said.

Cleaning up encampments along slopes and hillsides often doesn’t occur during winter months, Koskey said, because crews have trouble rappelling them in the mud.

Koskey’s group counted another person sleeping in a bus shelter on Taylor Avenue North, using a turned-over shopping cart and blankets as added protection.

Koskey was surprised to find a tent in the bushes of a small city park next to expensive Queen Anne homes; that was a first in the six years she’s participated in the count.

The group meticulously checked the various stairs connecting streets on Queen Anne, but found no one.

A young man sitting on a bench with a suitcase in Kerry Park was counted among those unsheltered early Friday morning. A group of people was nearby taking selfies at 4 a.m., and was soon greeted by the Uber they’d ordered.

Office of Housing staff regrouped at Metropolitan Market around 5 a.m.

One group counted just two people. OH director Steve Walker’s group counted four tents and two people unsheltered.

“We saw tents that we know will be packed up and not be there when daylight happens maybe,” he said, “and then there are tents that will be there as long as they can.”

Walker said his office will continue doing its part to build more permanent housing in Seattle as the Count Us In report is generated over the next several months.

“We expect it to reinforce what we already know to be true, is we have a very challenging issue as a city, as a region, as a country,” he said.