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Regional work group ‘One Table’ attempts to address homelessness

The project brings together governments, nonprofits, and corporations

A scattering of tents are visible under a curvy freeway bridge, leading to a dense urban center full of skyscrapers. EB Adventure Photography/Shutterstock

Back in December, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Auburn mayor Nancy Backus, and others announced a task force to come up with solutions to King County’s escalating homelessness problem.

On Monday, the first meeting of that group, which they’re calling “One Table,” convened—and the 75 members of the team were announced. Those individuals represent labor, government, business, activist, educational, and nonprofit groups across King County. That includes the University of Washington, the State Legislature, food banks, service providers like Plymouth Housing Group and Pioneer Human Services, tech giants Amazon and Microsoft, the Seattle City Council, and others.

According to the County, One Table is “a high-level work group with an aggressive timeline for developing community action steps to confront the root causes of homelessness.”

The task force raised questions, reported Erica C. Barnett at C is for Crank, about whether this committee will replace All Home, which already coordinates efforts to address homelessness across King County but has no ability to implement policies. Nobody gave a direct answer as to what this would mean for All Home, but two representatives affiliated All Home were appointed to One Table.

It’s at this first meeting that Mayor Durkan announced Pearl Jam’s “home shows,” which commit at least $1 million to the issue. They also shared some statistics from the city’s needs assessment survey, and other sources.

One harrowing figure: King County estimates show the number of people experiencing homelessness as much higher than the most recent point-in-time count, with 29,462 people entering homelessness and 24,952 “exiting” homelessness in 2016. That second number can be a little murky; as Barnett reported, “exiting” just means an individual hasn’t sought out any county services for a few months.

A task force is far from a groundbreaking idea in the Seattle area. Soon after the initial announcement, the Stranger’s Heidi Groover (under the headline “Tables Aren’t Homes”) pointed out the Ed Murray administration’s task force on unsheltered homelessness from 2014 and housing affordability task force from 2015. The city is currently task-forcing a plan to tax businesses to fund homelessness-fighting program.

And it was in 2005 that a task force convened and created the 10-year plan to end homelessness in King County—a plan that officially failed two years ago.

At a press conference before the first meeting, Constantine acknowledged that this process sounds similar to an attempted regional effort last summer.

“We are, in part, picking up that conversation where it left off,” said Constantine. “But also, a lot of our efforts have been at different tables and even our broadest regional efforts have not included all the people who are necessary, including business and philanthropy.”