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March 2017

Forum airs concerns and ideas to help solve homelessness

It's a disturbing problem that demands a solution, proclaimed a consultant whose company helps communities and organizations tackle complex issues by using a collaborate approach and mutually reinforcing activities.

Speaking at a State of Homelessness in Seattle forum, Barbara Poppe told her audience, "You are the most innovative business community... You are smart, you are caring, you know how to get stuff done. I don't know why you don't get it done," lamented Poppe, who has worked with Seattle to produce "The Path Forward" report that addresses the crisis in the city.

At the same forum, homebuilders emphasized they want to help solve the region's homelessness crisis and presented what they said was a straightforward solution to increase the production of affordable housing. The group of private builders urged local governments to consider waiving or reducing their development fees, which can add as much as 30 percent to the cost of a project.

Development costs ultimately cut the number of affordable homes that can be built, explained Leanne Woodland, executive director of HomeAid Puget Sound, a group of private homebuilders that works with nonprofits to develop and remodel emergency shelters and transitional and permanent housing.

"Sometimes the building industry gets blamed for the high cost of housing," she commented. "We're part of the solution," she reminded the audience, while acknowledging cutting development fees can affect the budgets of various local jurisdictions.

HomeAid has planned $8 million worth of projects this year, with builders donating up to half the cost of materials and labor. Among those projects is a $2.3 million expansion for Acres of Diamonds, a nonprofit that serves homeless women and children in Duvall.

Starbucks and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce are working to engage the business community, service providers, City of Seattle and King County in efforts to address unsheltered families. At the end of the forum, a senior vice president at Starbucks offered Starbucks stores as meeting places for local businesses, government and community organizations to keep pressing for answers. He also announced two additional forums will be planned in the near future.

Joining Starbucks in sponsoring last month's forum was the Chamber, the Downtown Seattle Association, Visit Seattle and the Alliance for Pioneer Square.

HomeAid America logoIn March 2015, HomeAid America, a national nonprofit provider of housing for homeless families and individuals, announced it was reestablishing HomeAid in the Seattle-Tacoma area with the creation of HomeAid Puget Sound (HAPS). It was previously a program of the Master Builder Care Foundation.

Through the generosity of builders, their trades and their suppliers, HomeAid has completed more 400 housing projects nationwide valued at more than $200 million. Nearly 220,000 people have been sheltered by these housing projects since its founding in 1989. With 17 chapters around the country, HomeAid has more than 50 additional projects in development across the country.