Tennley Noble’s Final Project – Seattle’s Unsheltered Homeless

My project is an interactive data visualization that illustrates the number of unsheltered homeless in the Seattle area. It shows how the number of unsheltered homeless people in Seattle has changed over time and how it has increased dramatically in recent years. Every year there is a “one night count” in Seattle and surrounding areas where all of the unsheltered homeless are counted. The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness publishes a summary of the data collected which keeps track of the number of people found in different places throughout the city. This is the data I used to create this project.

In my project, each scene shows a number of images which each represent a place where unsheltered homeless people are living. Each image is labeled with the number of homeless people living there. As the directions instruct, you can use your keyboard to change the scene to a different year. The dimensions of each image change for each year in accordance with the number of homeless people found living in each location that year. This project illustrates data from 2006 through 2015 so that we can see how the number and distribution of unsheltered homeless has changed over time.


As a Seattle native, the visibly large increases in homelessness are troubling to me. But I think that this issue is being largely overlooked by people in the greater Seattle area, specifically those from the more affluent cities surrounding Seattle who have more resources with which to try and stop this homeless epidemic. By creating a visual representation of the number of people living in the different unsheltered areas throughout the city I hope to help others understand how big of an issue this is. I think that my project is both informative and visually stimulating. I think that is does a good job of showing the increase in homelessness and I am proud of the time and effort that I put into it. If this were a longer-term project I would add more detail to the images and the overall scene, but what I have done so far meets my goal of communicating an important message.

A number of different projects inspired me and helped me to come up with my project idea. The first is Nathan Yau’s project on FlowingData called “Years You Have Left to Live, Probably” which is an interactive graph that shows the user the range of statistical possibilities for how much longer he/she will live. The second is a visual simulation of traffic patterns done by Lewis Lehe called “Gridlock vs. Bottlenecks” which uses graphics to simulate the processes that cause traffic congestion. The third, called “Dencity,” is a data visualization of population density across the world done by 3rd Floor at Fathom. I was inspired by how these projects use simple visual elements to display data in an interesting and informative way. I admire how these projects help people to understand the data that surrounds them in their everyday lives. With my project I wanted to use visual elements based on data to “paint a picture” for people that would help them to understand the issue of homelessness that is surrounding their daily lives. And I think I have done this.

Note: The canvas width is too large to display fully here, but the video above shows the canvas as it should appear.
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