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King County, Seattle want to use one table to solve homelessness

Results from a homeless study released in August 2016 show more than 70 percent of those living on the streets became homeless in King County. (AP)

King County officials announced their latest effort to combat the regional homeless crisis, and they are going to do it at “one table.”

“The goal is to create a set of recommendations and action steps that serve the entire region and move individuals and families throughout King County into safe, sustainable, and affordable housing,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said.

RELATED: Former Seattle mayoral candidate hopeful Durkan can solve homeless crisis

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus joined Constantine at a press conference Friday. The “one table” approach aims to bring together leaders from the business and political community, along with nonprofits and service providers. The result will be a task force charged with creating regional solutions for all parties to work on.

If the language about solving Seattle and King County’s homeless crisis sounds familiar, Constantine understands that.

“You may have heard those words when we began this conversation last summer, about three mayors ago,” he said. “We are, in part, picking up that conversation where it left off. It’s important that we now have a solid long-term partner in the new mayor of the City of Seattle.”

“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,” Constantine said. “We are in a very good position now to make pretty rapid progress on a challenge that has frustrated leaders in this area for more than a decade.”

One table

Constantine noted that there are 11,000 homeless individuals in King County, with about 5,500 unsheltered. Under recent programs, there has been a 50 percent increase in people housed last year, compared to 2014. The region housed 15,000 people in 2016. That’s the foundation Constantine says the new task force will launch from.

He wants the one table effort to focus on causes contributing to homelessness, such as: the shortage of affordable housing; lack of housing for people with mental and behavioral needs; youth discharged from the foster care system; and people released from jail with little resources.

“With one table we will determine how to best deploy our collective resources and what investments will make the biggest difference,” he said. “… Government alone cannot solve homelessness. We must all join together with our innovative ideas, our commitment and our compassion.”

Seattle Mayor Durkan added that she would like to see the business community more involved with solutions.

“We can’t just think of this as a homelessness emergency, it’s a community emergency … and that community does not end at city borders,” Durkan said.

“One of the things we are going to ask this task force to look at is how the City of Seattle can better coordinate with the county on this issue,” she said.

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