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Putting politics aside, Seattle’s ‘Third Door Coalition’ hopes to help end chronic homelessness

SEATTLE -- “I don’t want to sit here a decade later when my kids are graduated from college and see that the problem is worse. So why not do something different?” asks Chad, Mackay, CEO of Fire and Vine Hospitality.

Mackay was not alone in wanting to help end chronic homelessness. And that is how The Third Door Coalition came to be.

Sara Rankin is a co-chair of the coalition and law professor at Seattle University, where she also serves as director for the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project.

“From the fallout from the head tax, people were really feeling pushed to one side of the debate or another. The Third Door represents for us the refusal to be pushed into either edge of the debate,” says Rankin.

Rankin says the Third Door coalition is comprised of local business leaders, researchers and service providers, all with very different viewpoints. Some were for the head tax and some against, but that’s all in the past now.

“It was a no-brainer when we sat down together and said I’m tired of fighting, are you tired of fighting? Everybody at the table is tired of fighting,” says Rankin.

The coalition aims to produce a funded plan by the end of this year, with the goal of ending chronic homelessness in Seattle within five years.

“Chronic homelessness grew 28 percent last year on top of previous growth and it is the group that is most likely to not ever exit homelessness without a solution. The exit is death,” says Mackay.

“Let’s put aside our feelings about the head tax, let’s put aside that we don’t agree about things politically and just work together on getting some solutions done. There’s reason to be optimistic. We know how to fix this. What we don’t know is how to work together and so that is what everybody has to decide to do,” says Rankin.

The Third Door Coalition says they are prioritizing “housing first” approaches, focused on permanent supportive housing, which they say has consistently shown to be the most cost-effective means of ending chronic homelessness.

They say they are crafting more systemic plans for the future, as well.