Third Door Coalition is a Seattle-based organization dedicated to solving chronic homelessness in King County through housing-first solutions. You can show your support of Third Door Coaltion by signing their letter and sharing their mission on your own social media! Find out more about the organization and efforts below in a letter from co-owner Matt Galvin, who serves on the board of Third Door Coaltion.
In retrospect it seems obvious: homes cure homelessness. So often the focus is on feeding programs, jobs, social programs, public assistance, drug treatment or temporary shelters. That’s where my head was as I drove by the ever-growing number of tents by the freeway entrance ramp. Then a voice on KUOW said, “There is a data-driven solution to end chronic homelessness.”
Huh? Can we really end this?
The speaker was Sara Rankin, an associate professor of law at Seattle University and founder of the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project. She spoke of the impossible challenges so many of those who are homeless in our city face—unexpected health challenges, evictions, mental illness, drug addiction, physical trauma—not to mention the ever-rising cost of housing in our city and a shortage of affordable mental health services. She talked about a housing first approach—permanent living spaces with support services, also known as wraparound housing—and provided compelling data to demonstrate its effectiveness in combatting chronic homelessness. Research shows that a housing first approach is far cheaper than what we’re doing now. The cost of funding emergency room visits, police work and a rotating series of temporary shelters can add up to the tune of about $50,000 per year versus $18,000 for a housing first approach.
The chronically homeless are those who have experienced homelessness for at least a year, or who have been repeatedly homeless while also struggling with a disabling condition like substance abuse, a physical disability or mental illness. They are the most vulnerable and the most expensive to care for.
The more I learned, the more viable a housing first approach seemed. Seattle already has two national leaders developing permanent supportive housing: Plymouth Housing and Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC). In other words, we already have programs in place that work. We just need more of them.
So where does the money come from?
I got in touch with Sara Rankin, spoke with homelessness experts throughout the region, and met with community leaders and business leaders. In time we decided to form a group called Third Door Coalition. Our goal is to help end chronic homelessness in King County within a decade through permanent supportive housing.
Third Door Coalition is composed of Seattle-based researchers, business leaders and service providers. Partners include Paul Lambros, the Executive Director of Plymouth Housing; Daniel Malone, the Executive Director of DESC; Professor Sara Rankin; and local business and community leaders.
Our first step is to undertake a feasibility study. Once the numbers are vetted, we will turn to business leaders, philanthropists and foundations to generate capital. We intend to develop a funded plan in early 2020.
Ending chronic homelessness will take more than our efforts alone. Fortunately, other organizations like Facing Homelessness, led by Rex Hohlbein, are doing powerful work toward similar goals. Many other capable organizations are working with the episodically homeless, and governmental organizations are working on expanding affordable housing and transitional housing. While the challenges are significant, progress is being made.
I am proud to be a part of Third Door Coalition and increasingly believe that we can come together as a city and a region to do something both radical and compassionate: provide permanent supportive housing for those most in need of our compassion.