One Table Addresses Root Causes of Homelessness
New regional effort is finding broad, inclusive strategies that will decrease homelessness
March 20, 2018
By Tom McIntire, Community Programs Officer
Seattle Foundation is participating in a bold, new effort called One Table to address the root causes of homelessness in our community. Led by King County, the City of Seattle and the City of Auburn, One Table seeks effective community actions to address the challenges that result in 11,000 people living without shelter on any given day in our region.
I am pleased to serve on One Table’s Criminal Legal System workgroup, while Seattle Foundation President and CEO Tony Mestres is part of the Civic Leaders group. Five Community Action Workgroups are addressing specific areas of Affordable Housing, Behavioral Health, Child Welfare, the Legal System and Employment. There is also a group for elected leaders and another for those with the lived experience of homelessness. The groups come together periodically to mark progress and address questions and concerns that impact the whole effort.
One Table is different from previous efforts in that it is focused on long-term solutions to the root causes of homelessness. One Table is a community approach to address these key issues:
Lack of affordable housing stock;
Limited access to behavioral health services, including mental health and substance abuse treatment;
Higher levels of homelessness among youth and young adults who have been in the child welfare system;
Intersection with the criminal legal system, both through criminalization of homelessness and in poor outcomes for those with prior involvement in the system;
Regional wage gaps and lack of access to living-wage jobs, training and employment.
One Table brings together philanthropic organizations, elected representatives, government, nonprofit organizations, faith communities, business interests and those who have experienced homelessness.
Even as the City of Seattle and King County make gains in moving homeless individuals and families into permanent housing, there are more people becoming homeless than are placed into stable housing each month. We are digging deep into the data to identify underlying factors and come up with strategies to address them. These discussions will help us present concrete solutions and a shared commitment to help our neighbors experiencing homelessness. We all want to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time in King County.
One factor that plays a substantial role in all of the factors is structural racism. The data show a high disproportionality of people of color experiencing homelessness. For example, while one percent of the population in King County is American Indian or Alaska Native, urban native populations constitute six percent of the overall homeless population. While people of color represent one-third of King County’s population, they are two-thirds of the people utilizing emergency shelters and transitional housing. We cannot successfully address homelessness without addressing racial disparities at the same time.
Another key factor at the national level (we don’t yet have comparable local data) is that nearly 50 percent of those experiencing homelessness are over age 50. And 30 to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, even though they represent a small percentage of the youth population overall.
As a community of interdependent people and cultures, we need to take a broad, inclusive approach if we truly want to make long-term headway in homelessness. One Table is doing this by considering the unique characteristics of different populations and a variety of individual circumstances as key factors in addressing the root causes of homelessness.
I have been impressed with One Table’s results-based accountability approach that is working to identify desired results, issues that impede or advance progress, and strategies to address those issues. It helps to break down what seems like an insurmountable task into actionable, informed steps. I am hopeful that this data-driven, systematic approach will lead to effective, compassionate approaches to decrease homelessness in King County. The work will continue through May, when One Table recommendations will be rolled out to the public.