‘One Table’ discussions begin to try to curb homeless growth in King County

SEATTLE — Monday marked the first time local government leaders, outreach services, business owners and rich donors met to come up with new ways to tackle our region’s homelessness crisis.

It’s being touted as a new plan to treat homelessness regionally rather than as it is now – fractured between cities and King County.

The new approach is being called “One Table.” The goal this time is to identify the root causes and stop people from falling into homelessness in the first place.

“Everybody’s expressed a willingness to help but nobody knows where they’re supposed to be on the field,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

The people part of ‘One Table’ is expected to identify and commit resources to address systemic factors like affordable housing, mental health and drug treatment options, child welfare and criminal justice failures and employment accessibility and wage gaps that proponents say all work together to increase homelessness.

“If you look at the criminal justice system, we are housing a shocking number of people who have mental health or drug problems on low-level offenses,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said. “It is the most expensive, most ineffective means of treatment we have.”

“We cannot forget homelessness is a symptom of the underlying factors including behavior health, juvenile justice system, the justice system as a whole and so many other issues,” Auburn Nancy Backus said.

The promise of One Table is to include business leaders and philanthropists – to see what ideas they have to reduce the growing number of people finding themselves on the street.

“For every 100 bucks that rent goes up per month, homelessness increases 15 percent,” said Nick Hanauer,

So far none of the ideas discussed new taxes. Instead, they talked about the possibility of combining city and county spending on homelessness instead of seeing government agencies compete or overlap services.

“When we get through this process, one of the products may be a clear statement from the community that we need a new way of organizing ourselves, and if that’s the case we certainly should not hesitate to do so,” said Constantine.

The One Table discussions and brainstorming will continue for several months – and by April, participants are charged with recommending strategies to address the root causes of homelessness.

One Table is focused King County and the cities inside it – but Pierce and Snohomish counties are not part of the conversation.