Tackling the “Sticky Topic” of Homelessness in Skagit County—A Civil Discussion

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Contributed by Wende Sanderson, Member of the League of Women Voters of Skagit County, and Certified Mediator with the Skagit Dispute Resolution Center

The League of Women Voters of Skagit County and the Skagit County Dispute Resolution Center completed their 2018 Civil Discourse series on October 6 with a Community Conversation on homelessness.  This event was made possible by generous support from Skagit County Board of Commissioners, EDASC Foundation, and Skagit Publishing.

The event featured independent dispute resolution professional Mary Dumas as the facilitator, guiding participants through an exploration of the topic of homelessness in Skagit County.  Participants discovered the many ‘tracks’ in our community which need to be involved in the development of effective sustainable policy.  Through the course of the day, it became clear that the problems—and the solutions— to complex issues must include representation from these many tracks.  Government, social service organizations, business, private citizens, faith community, advocates, research/training/educational institutions, funders—all are interconnected and brought together by media/public opinion which determine the success of lasting policy decisions.

The human tendency to immediately rush to solutions was discussed along with the problems that result when those voices not yet fully represented in our conversations on homelessness are not fully considered.  The participants also evaluated the varying opinions and assessments of the urgency and the ‘hotness’ of the issue and how those factor into decision-making.

Dumas shared tools which can be used by participants to support these difficult conversations, promoting authenticity and honesty, yet maintaining bridges of respect and trust with those whose viewpoints are different.  The audience examined the common ground from 4 smaller work groups to identify the hopes, desires, concerns, fears and needs regarding homelessness in Skagit County that arose in all four groups.

This search for common ground revealed that the policies addressing the issue of homelessness in Skagit County need to include these hopes and desires:

  • Treat people with respect and dignity
  • Seek better public understanding on cost of poverty
  • Develop opportunities for helping one-to-one
  • Support local control and participation over funding
  • Work for affordable housing across all income levels

Solving the problem of homelessness in just one day was not the goal, but instead to explore a process and skills that would be helpful for the community as we work together to seek solutions to this complex human problem.

Category: Capacity Building, EDASC Foundation