After nearly $200 million spent on problem, why is homelessness getting worse?

SEATTLE -- Many have asked why the many millions of dollars Seattle has already spent on the homeless crisis doesn't appear to be making a difference.

Just take a look at the numbers...

Last year alone, Seattle and King County spent nearly $200 million on homelessness, when you combine all government and private philanthropic sources.

But the number of people without a home is not dropping. About 11,000 people in King County were considered homeless last year, and when the results of a new count come out later this month, those numbers aren't expected to go down.

Two leaders of United Way of King County say they know what it will take to really tackle the homeless crisis -- and say it's not just about the money.

"We can do better for people who need it and that's why we have a sense of urgency," said Jon Fine, CEO of United Way of King County.

In his 17 years as CEO, Fine has seen the region's homeless problem grow.

"We can see it visually with the tents on the street and we can see it in the numbers that we're counting them up," he added.

Fine and Peter Orser -- the United Way's chairman of the Homeless Impact Council -- have also had a front-row seat to the proposed solutions -- good and bad.

Which is why last Sunday Orser and Fine did something they've never done together -- they co-wrote and published an op-ed in the Seattle Times offering four solutions.

But when Q13 News sat down with them, they focused on one main priority -- a joint city-county government entity with the authority to address homelessness.

"We're concerned that a lot of good-intentioned ideas and organizations are asking for money in an uncoordinated way," Fine said. "We would make sure that whatever amount of money the city and county are generating would be spent in a coordinated way."

"We're in a war," Orser said. "The mayor and executive have declared an emergency. When you declare an emergency, that's not just day-to-day, that is an all-out effort that needs some tactical planning to execute at all levels."

Both agree it will take money. Right now, King County is spending about $200 million a year to address homelessness. A study released this week says it would take double that amount to really make an impact.

But Fine and Orser say it's not that simple.

"It's hard to say precisely what that number should be," Fine said.

"We need more supply and we need more service to support," Orser said. "Now we can get some of the more out of efficiency, effectiveness and leadership and courage to act. But at the end of the day, because of the scope of the problem, there's the likelihood for the need to be more."

They agree more money is needed, but so is a better plan about how to spend it.

"Whether it's a contribution to the United Way, whether it's a property tax or a sales tax or a head tax, it needs a plan. It needs a comprehensive plan," Orser said.