Let’s focus on what our homeless neighbors truly need and bring the full breadth of this region’s resources, ingenuity, creativity and compassion to bear in a plan to end homelessness once and for all.

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In the debate currently engulfing Seattle over the proposed head tax for homelessness, important truths are being ignored and pitched rhetoric on both sides has obscured the larger, more important discussion we need to have about how we are going to solve the problem of homelessness in our community. I’m worried that our homeless neighbors’ needs are getting lost in this debate.

For the good of the order, I’d like to suggest that we collectively take a few deep breaths, look at the facts and get back to solving this problem together. We owe it to the people experiencing homelessness in our region to set aside our differences and to insist upon solutions guided first and foremost by data and the voices of those with lived experiences.

Fortunately, a new analysis from McKinsey & Co. brings much-needed clarity about what’s driving homelessness in the region and what it will take to solve the problem.

In a nutshell, McKinsey’s analysis shows that the rapidly rising cost of living in King County is pushing thousands of men, women and children into homelessness, and while the region’s response to homelessness has improved markedly, there simply isn’t enough funding or capacity to keep up. McKinsey’s analysis shows that there is a 96 percent statistical correlation between the dramatic rise in rents in King County in recent years and the growth of the region’s homeless population.

For example, the fair market price for a studio apartment has increased by roughly 30 percent since 2014, coinciding with a 42 percent increase in individuals experiencing homelessness in King County. In 2014, there were seven Seattle neighborhoods where the median rent was affordable for a family making between $52,000 and $79,000 a year. In 2017, there are no neighborhoods where that is true. Zero. In fact, since 2011, units that are affordable for families making $48,000 a year or less have decreased by almost 50 percent.

At the same time that rising costs of living have pushed more and more people into homelessness, King County and state funding for homelessness services have decreased, the McKinsey analysis found. While the number of homeless individuals countywide increased by 42 percent from 2014 to 2017, total funding to address homelessness only increased 7.5 percent.

Critics of increasing spending on homelessness say our local government has mismanaged its funds, but data show the city and county services have become much better at helping people find permanent housing in recent years — our crisis response system moved 35 percent more households into permanent housing in 2017 than 2016. That’s not to say there’s no room for improvement, but increasing efficiency alone is not going to keep up with the dramatic influx of new people falling into homelessness every year.

There is just no evidence to support the notion that the region has all the funding and services it needs to address homelessness, particularly as more and more people fall into homelessness each year. And as the supply of affordable housing continues to decrease, the response system’s ability to help people find permanent housing will be hamstrung.

The inconvenient truth is that regardless of whether the city passes the “head tax” and regardless of any continued increases in service efficiencies, we’re going to need to do much more to solve our homelessness crisis. We need to examine our permitting and zoning laws, incentivize construction of affordable housing, and do more to protect people from being evicted and commit to more funding. Most of all, we need to engage those who have experienced homelessness or who are currently homeless to guide our solutions.

I moved here in 1981 to work for Microsoft, where I met my wife Tricia, a native of Seattle. I believe we’re fortunate that companies like Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft call our region home. These companies and many others have steadily brought an infusion of high-paying jobs to the area and have contributed to a historic economic boom. At the same time, these high-paying jobs have changed the region by driving up rents and the overall cost of living. We must work together to grapple with the unintended consequences of rapid economic growth if we’re all going to be able to call King County home.

That’s why we need everyone at the table — government, business, labor, activists and residents — working toward a regional, comprehensive and well-funded solution guided by a shared commitment to end, not just manage, homelessness in King County. Each day we spend drawing lines in the sand and pointing fingers prolongs our neighbors’ homelessness — a consequence that costs them their health, well-being, dignity and, for some, their lives.

As philanthropists, Tricia and I have committed ourselves to ending youth homelessness, and we’ve seen how powerful it can be when the business community, philanthropy and government work together to tackle complex problems. We’re worried that Seattle is becoming a city we no longer recognize — a place that no longer has the qualities that attract new businesses and where people no longer feel a sense of responsibility for their neighbors.

Let’s focus on what our homeless neighbors truly need and bring the full breadth of this region’s resources, ingenuity, creativity and compassion to bear in a plan to end homelessness once and for all.