Blogs

"It Would Actually Be Very Simple to End Homelessness"

Ben Miksch, Affordable Housing Policy and Advocacy Specialist

Have you read Bryce Covert's ThinkProgress article "It Would Actually Be Very Simple to End Homelessness" yet?

The in-depth article features our executive director Rachael Myers and Emerging Advocates Program graduate Kirk McClain and focuses on what it would take to actually end homelessness.And I have a positive update to the article: Kirk has moved into an apartment, thanks in part to some support from the programs that we all advocate for every year. Unfortunately, as we all know, there are still far too many people who need support, but aren't able to get it.

One of the solutions highlighted in the article is the United For Homes campaign. This is the proposal to provide the affordable housing our country needs by modifying the mortgage interest deduction to fund the National Housing Trust Fund. You can read more about the specifics of this proposal here.
As Bryce states in the closing of the article, "The solutions are there. The public is moving in the right direction. What is lacking is political willingness to spend money."

If your organization supports the idea that legislators should stand up for our most vulnerable, consider joining the Housing Alliance and 60 Washington State organizations and endorse the United For Homes campaign.

You can see the full list of endorsers here: nlihc.org/unitedforhomes/endorsers.

 


 

A new face at the Housing Alliance...

Haley Jo Lewis, Communications Intern

My name is Haley Jo Lewis, and I am excited to be Washington Low Income Housing Alliance’s new Communications Intern! I am originally from sunny San Diego and moved to Seattle three years ago to attend Seattle University where I am currently in my senior year studying communications.

During my time at Seattle University, I have become aware of many issues in our community and have become engaged in social justice work in a variety of platforms. I have both volunteered with and worked for the Seattle University Youth Initiative as a member of the Redhawk Reading Corp. For this program, I volunteered as a reading tutor in elementary classrooms, where students from low-income families received extra support in learning to read. This work was extremely rewarding. Seeing the progress students made throughout the year because of our program made me realize how possible it is to create change in our communities. Building meaningful relationships with program participants is something I’ll always cherish.

When I saw an opportunity in the Communication Department for work at the Project on Family Homelessness, I couldn’t turn it down. I have always been interested in the issue of homelessness. I’m particularly interested in changing the negative public perceptions of individuals experiencing homelessness. I hope that, someday in the future, we can humanize the issue and build a grand-scale social movement to end homelessness.

My first experience working in coordination with the Housing Alliance was at Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day 2014. I met their “communications guy,” Joaquin, and others from the Housing Alliance and attended a workshop on using social media for advocacy led by Joaquin and members of the local advocacy organization Firesteel. It was my first experience at Advocacy Day, and I was pleased to find that both the workshops as well as the legislative meetings were easy to follow. Although I had very little prior knowledge of the legislative process, I found that by the end of the day I had a better understanding of how it all works, and I felt like I had really made an impact in being there. I am now so excited to attend Advocacy Day 2015. I knew right from the beginning that the Housing Alliance knew what they were doing!

As a Communications Intern, I am excited to assist in social media work, research, data analysis, digital design, and many other tasks for various Housing Alliance staff members. I hope my skills will help keep the Housing Alliance running smoothly and effectively. I also hope to be a bridge between them and the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness on various projects, keeping these two awesome organizations in communication with one another, supporting one another’s work, and working together to end homelessness.

I am eager to gain experience in the communications sector of nonprofit and advocacy work and am honored to be given this opportunity! Hopefully I’ll see you at this coming Advocacy Day on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 in Olympia.

 

Photos: Top: Me at Advocacy Day 2014 (Photo courtesy of Catherine Hinrichsen). Bottom (left to right): Me, Graham Pruss, and Joaquin Uy at Advocacy Day 2014 (Photo courtesy of Catherine Hinrichsen).

 


 

Save the Date for our 2014 Member Meeting & Reception

Thursday, November 20, 2014 from 5:00-7:00pm
At the UW Integrated Design Lab  |  Bullitt Center
1501 E Madison St
Seattle, 98122

Appetizers and alcoholic & nonalcoholic beverages will be provided.

RSVP to Andrea Marcos at andrea(at)wliha(dot)org or 206.442.9455 x212 to reserve your spot! Space is limited.

We hope you’ll mark your calendar for our Annual Member Meeting on November 20. We’ll have a dynamic panel discussion that connects the dots between affordable homes and other priorities like improving physical and mental health, planning for a growing population, and ensuring a quality education for every child.

In addition to the panel, you’ll have the opportunity to meet and vote for board members and to celebrate another year of advocacy. This isn’t a fundraiser. Leave your wallet at home, and come join us.

Hope to see you there!

Special thanks to our Annual Member Meeting sponsor:

 


 

As temps drop, City of Yakima says no to homeless shelter

Housing Alliance Staff

In our ongoing work to reduce homelessness in Yakima, the Homeless Network of Yakima County has been planning to create a permanent homeless shelter.

This truly started as a group effort that included City of Yakima leadership since the day the planning started. Local nonprofit Yakima Neighborhood Health Services took lead on the studies, surveys, funding research, and reporting to increase community support. Admittedly, overall support from city officials was lacking. However, throughout the process, the mayor and council voiced wanting a solution to shelter the city’s homeless population and voiced wanted to be included in the process. This is why the network was shocked when during the final minutes of the October 21st city council meeting, City Manager Tony O’Rourke requested an emergency vote for a moratorium on zoning for any new homeless shelters in the city limits.

At issue, according to Mr. O’Rourke (pictured right) was the proposed shelter location. The site is situated just outside of a designated business corridor in an area he considers a possible site for “gentrification.” Based on research compiled by different agencies, we believe the site is ideal for a permanent shelter because it’s located within walking distance of other service provider locations as well as the main transit center. The proposed site is also in an area where people who are homeless have historically congregated. When surveyed about the potential shelter, residents in the neighborhood were overwhelmingly supportive. The majority of comments spoke to the benefit of offering an alternative to sleeping in parks, doorways, or in empty houses. Because people have nowhere else to go, we believe the city will have a difficult time finding investment in this neighborhood. Our studies indicate the shelter is a positive step in the community’s urban renewal.

In addition, the lack of shelter has resulted in the city’s ongoing criminalization of homeless people. Increasingly police have been arresting individuals for loitering in parks or trespassing in the areas where they camp. Members of the city council have expressed their frustration with the issues of homelessness. But their solutions are to make ordinances, such as the recent panhandling law, with the philosophy that the homeless will simply “go away” if they fear law enforcement.

Fortunately, city council members questioned why the city manager presented the moratorium without community or council input. They further protested that the item was never on the agenda. Council members Kathy Coffey and Rick Ensey voted against the moratorium. The moratorium passed. However, this lack of consensus means the moratorium won’t go into effect for another 30 days. This means Yakima Neighborhood Health Services can still submit their request for the shelter zoning considerations. Also, there will be a public hearing at the November 18th city council meeting.

Homeless Network of Yakima County members, the ALPHA Team (a group of currently and formerly homeless advocates), and other community supporters are rallying to organize advocacy efforts to show the city that Yakima residents truly support a permanent shelter. Please help us tell the Yakima City Manager and Yakima City Council Members why a permanent shelter benefits the entire community:

Please join us to overcome this barrier to making a permanent shelter a reality in the City of Yakima!

Photos: Top Right: Yakima City Manager Tony O'Rourke (Photo Credit: City of Yakima). Middle Left: Emerging Advocates Program attendees in support of the homeless shelter. Bottom Right: Homeless Network of Yakima County Annual Picnic (Photo Credit: Homeless Network of Yakima County).

 


 

When even a full-time job isn’t enough for rent…

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

The National Housing Conference recently released an update to their online tool that compares wages with the cost of housing in cities across the nation. Their interactive Paycheck to Paycheck database reveals what many across Washington already know: an affordable home continues to be an impossibility for many with full-time jobs.

All Washington residents should be able to afford a home and still have enough left over their basic necessities, like healthcare, food, and transportation costs. By the numbers, this means that one should only pay no more than 30% of their income for housing costs. However, as Paycheck to Paycheck shows, this is clearly not possible for many workers across the state. Take for instance the occupation of a home health aide. As our nation’s population ages and baby boomers live longer, home health care is one of America’s fastest growing professional fields.

When you examine the Paycheck to Paycheck numbers for home health aides, you find that out of the seven major Washington cities included in the database, home health aides can only afford a rental home in one of those cities (Kennewick, see left). Additionally, a home health aide could not afford to buy a home in any of these cities. In fact, if a household consisted of two home care aides (double the average salary), even then this family couldn’t afford to buy home in all seven of the areas studied (see left).

Both renting a home and owning a home has become an impossibility for more than home health aides. When you poke around the Paycheck to Paycheck tool, you’ll find that a surprisingly diverse array of occupations are also priced out of the market across the state.

This is why the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance works to ensure the state legislature passes sound policy and legislation to increase affordable homes. The state has a widening affordable housing gap. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, for every 100 extremely low-income families in King County, earning less than $23,400 a year for a family of three, only 30 affordable apartments are available. Clearly, not only do wages need to keep with rents, but we also need more homes affordable to the entire spectrum of wages in Washington.

Stay tuned, as we’ll be soon releasing our legislative priorities focused on protecting renters, ensuring a disability doesn’t result in homelessness, and utilizing the capital budget to help increase opportunities for safe, healthy, affordable homes.

Housing Alliance endorses Initiative 594

The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance believes that everyone in Washington should have the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home in a thriving community. Gun violence hurts communities and undermines that vision. For that reason, the Housing Alliance endorses Initiative 594.

Reducing gun violence in our state will help build healthier, safer, more thriving communities. Please vote yes on I-594 when you vote your General Election ballot.

What does I-594 do?

The initiative makes sure anyone buying a gun in Washington State passes the same background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from. It requires the same background check for private purchases, including those at gun shows, as are currently required at licensed gun dealerships.

For more information, visit: wagunresponsibility.org.

Center for American Progress Gun Background Check infographic.

I-594 Frequently Asked Questions form.

 


 

Class Matters

Irene Basloe Saraf, Guest Blogger

On September 20, a group of Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund staff and board members joined with many other social justice activists and advocates for an all-day workshop titled, “Class & Social Change: Harnessing the Strengths of Diverse Class Cultures.” Real Change, Housing Alliance, Social Justice Fund NW, and Class Action came together to sponsor the workshop.

From the very start, the facilitators – Anita Garcia Morales, Alan Preston, and Betsy Leondar-Wright – created a safe space so that we could all open up about our own class identities. And that was a good thing because I had expected a somewhat abstract discussion of the effects of class on social justice work. But Anita, Alan and Betsy created a workshop encouraging us to think about class in a very personal way. And they approach class this way because, as they note, “[a]cknowledging class privilege is an important step towards becoming an anti-classist ally.”

We spent the morning in class caucuses, established by our class status at around age 12. The facilitators believe that our class experience at that formative time in our life strongly influences how we operate today. We divided into class groups based on a variety of measures: our parents’ educational attainment, our parents’ economic and career status, the type of home we lived in, our parents’ influence in the community, among others. We were then asked to discuss, list, and then present to the whole group what our particular class background brings to our social justice work.

All of the groups were insightful in noting how a particular class background could both help and hinder social justice work. There were lots of differences across the classes. But I was really intrigued by the similarities. For instance, most of the classes were willing to take risks – those who had been poor or working class because they were accustomed to having nothing to lose, and those who had been middle, upper-middle, and owning class because they had a cushion if the risk didn’t work out.

Later in the day, we worked on creating messages on various social justice issues that would resonate and persuade across classes. The issues included housing, the environment, and school-to-prison pipeline to name a few. We learned that poor and working-class activists tend to use colorful sayings, metaphors, and analogies and first or second person stories, while college-educated activists tend to use abstract terms to explain and analyze a situation. Both of these descriptive traits are strengths; the most persuasive messages utilize elements of both, picking the most accessible of all the abstract terms associated with an issue and then creating a short and vivid message around that term.

We also explored how class can impact internal conflicts in groups. Each class leans toward a particular pitfall in conflicts. And we talked about how to navigate around those pitfalls and instead raise disagreements in ways that are both humane and assertive and resolve conflicts with collaboration rather than antagonism.

I found it enlightening – if sometimes a little uncomfortable – to spend a day poking at my own class privilege. And it was valuable to learn about the impact of class and classism on social justice work. Given that one overt class indicator is housing type, advocacy around housing and homelessness will invariably intersect with issues of class. The workshop showed me the value of addressing those issues head on, rather than avoiding or deflecting them.

By the end of the day, I appreciated the truth in the words of the late founding co-director of Class Action, Felice Yeskel: “Gaining greater awareness about how class affects what we do and how we do it is an ongoing process. The more contact we have with folks from across the class spectrum, the greater the opportunities for gaining awareness.”

To learn more about Class Action’s unique analysis, check out classism.org.

Photos. (Right): The pink sign indicates your class background when you were 12-years of age. The yellow sign indicates your class status today that is connected to your class background. (Bottom): This pink sign indicates another category of class background.

 


 

An amazing summer of emerging advocacy!

Alouise Urness, Community & Member Organizer

 

 

 

 

 

Since I last wrote about the Emerging Advocates Program, a lot has happened.

  • Alicia met with her state senator over coffee.
  • Dawnell recorded her experience of homelessness with StoryCorps.
  • Mindy arranged a meeting with her representative on her way down to Olympia.
  • Julia pulled her legislator off the House floor to try to change her mind about a bill.
  • Nick M. and Susan were named Real Change Vendors of the Year.
  • Robin volunteered at a fundraiser for housing champions.
  • Lisa ran into a legislator at a community event and knew what she wanted to say.
  • Kirk was interviewed by a reporter.
  • August is in Washington, D.C. advocating on federal homelessness issues.
  • Rebecca is speaking out on tenants’ rights.
  • Andrea now uses social media to advocate for homelessness issues.
  • Shelby was featured in a press conference and is working to help get a bill introduced.
  • Nick R. is active with the Real Change Speakers’ Bureau and Path with Art.
  • Jamal now knows the staffer for his state senator.
  • Glenda is finding new ways to support her peers.
  • Kim has arranged to lead local legislators on a tour of the only homeless shelter in her town.

These are some of what advocates have been up to since completing the program. It’s exciting to get calls, emails, and visits from the 38 individuals who have completed the program so far. I get to hear about and support their endeavors and, I’m excited to see the Housing Alliance’s connections growing through the grassroots work of our enthusiastic program participants!

The advocates aren’t the only ones who’ve been busy! This summer, Housing Alliance staff ran the Emerging Advocates workshop series not once, but three times due to increased demand. We worked with one group of Emerging Advocates who met on Monday evenings, and another group on Tuesday afternoons. They heard from Housing Alliance and Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund staff on a broad range of issues including the importance of political work and using social media for advocacy. We brought in community experts as well. Nancy Amidei of the Civic Engagement Project taught advocacy skills. Western Regional Advocacy Project’s Paul Boden shared a history-based framework for understanding homelessness. And several former EAP participants returned to share what they had learned. A state representative even stopped by one of the sessions to meet participants.

In early September, these two groups joined together for a day trip to Olympia, where our own Ben Miksch (formerly a legislative staffer) led them through the journey of a bill becoming law as they moved through the spaces where the process occurs. Next came a mock hearing in a senate hearing room where several advocates practiced testifying, others tried out the lawmakers’ roles, and all got a deeper look into the legislative process. To wrap up the day, we pulled chairs into a circle in that same hearing room for a wide-ranging conversation with the Housing Alliance’s lobbyist and two legislators’ aides. Tara Jo Heineke, of Senator Karen Keiser’s office (33rd District-Kent), shared an incredibly moving story about a letter she wrote long ago as a young advocate and labor organizer, which was instrumental to passing a bill. Senator Adam Kline’s (37th District-Seattle) aide Bryn Houghton tirelessly answered questions. Lobbyist Nick Federici helped us see that laughter goes well with advocacy.

Just one week later, Housing Alliance trainers headed for Yakima. Ellie Lambert of the Homeless Network of Yakima County, herself a former EAP participant, had arranged for us to offer a third installment of the Emerging Advocates series. This was to be a weekend-intensive version of the workshops. Nine emerging advocates convened in a church basement for the same 12 hours of workshops that other participants experienced, but all in the course of 3 days! We had the added treat of learning from local advocacy leader Mateo Arteaga and enjoying lunch with a candidate for state senate.

These emerging advocates put their skills into practice on the final morning, some choosing to hone their public speaking by presenting to the congregation upstairs, others leading Housing Alliance staff on a tour of places and services important in surviving homelessness in Yakima. The sessions finished with a round table conversation among the emerging advocates and local housing development leaders. The advocates talked about their barriers to accessing affordable housing, and the nonprofit leaders shared some of their challenges in building it. There appeared to be a lot of common ground.

Much has happened, and there is so much more to do. I’m looking forward to working with these advocates, as we approach the next legislative session and beyond.

Photos: (Top): The combined Monday & Tuesday Emerging Advocates groups in Olympia. (Right): Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (43rd District-Seattle) meets the Monday group. (Left): Monday group participants talk advocacy. (Below): Yakima emerging advocates on their lunch break with Housing Alliance staff, Mateo Arteaga, and Gabriel Munoz.

Edited 11/11/14.

 


 

Organizations All Over Washington Oppose Funding Cuts & Elimination of Services Affecting Thousands of the State’s Disabled Individuals

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

In recent budget proposals released by state agencies to the Governor’s Office, three programs that help thousands of disabled individuals across the state are slated to receive substantial cuts.

The state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) released a budget document proposing to eliminate the Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) program. ABD, an outgrowth of the former “Disability Lifeline” program, helps extremely low-income adults with permanent mental or physical disabilities with $197 per month while they are applying to the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. This application process can take many years. This is why DSHS also provides SSI Facilitation services to assist disabled individuals through the lengthy process of applying for federal SSI benefits. DSHS has proposed that both ABD and SSI Facilitation services be eliminated, effective July 1, 2015.

DSHS also recommends that once ABD is eliminated, people at-risk of or experiencing homelessness who would have otherwise qualified for ABD, be allowed to apply for the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) program. Administered by the Department of Commerce, HEN ensures that people with temporary mental or physical disabilities can access stable housing when facing extreme economic hardship. Recipients are also able to access essential basic needs, including transportation assistanceand health/hygiene items.

This will expand the HEN-eligible population from 7,303 to 30,702 per month.

However, Commerce has submitted a department proposal to cut the HEN program by $7.4 million (out of the $59 million allocation), which is a 13.1% cut. According to Commerce’s calculations, they could only serve a fraction of the ABD recipients who would be newly eligible for HEN. This would leave thousands of disabled adults, who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness, without housing assistance. Commerce itself bleakly noted the impact of HEN cuts on existing HEN recipients (not including the added ABD caseload) on page 298 of the Department of Commerce 2015-17 Operating Budget: “If this proposal is adopted approximately 580 additional people will be living unsheltered. Some of these 580 unserved people may become hospitalized and some may die of exposure.”

According to Washington Low Income Housing Alliance Executive Director Rachael Myers, these cuts come at a terrible time, “These services literally mean the difference between living in a home or on the street. We’ve been making progress on reducing the number of people living without shelter, but this year that number increased. Instead of reducing programs that keep people off the streets, we should be expanding those services. If our current tax structure is inadequate to meet basic needs of the people in our state, we should fix that by closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing revenue, not by making more people homeless.”

Reducing these services comes just after the U.S. Census released the American Community Survey showing that Washington was one of only three states that saw an increase of people living in poverty from 2012 to 2013. That’s a jump to 970,000 vulnerable residents who could be impacted by eliminating these programs. January 2014’s Point in Time count of people experiencing homelessness found 18,839 people without a stable, permanent home. 

This is why 81 organizations in Washington State have quickly joined the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance in signing onto a letter urging Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington State Legislature to protect these three crucial lifeline programs. According to the letter, DSHS and Commerce "have proposed cuts that would, by their own figures, eliminate housing assistance each month for 580 extremely low‐income, incapacitated people with disabilities, and eliminate the only source of income for 23,449 others on July 1, 2015." The undersigned believe more needs to be done to address this problem, but the proposed cuts promise to set our state backwards.

You can read the full contents of the letter to the Governor opposing the cuts here.

Photo (right): Shelby Powell credits the ABD program for helping her stay in her home during the year-long process of applying for SSI. Shelby is now receiving SSI benefits and continues to be stably housed.

Edited 10:14pm on September 22.
Edited 2:42pm on September 23.

 


 

Why hello there...

Honah Thompson, Social Justice Intern

I’m Honah (pronounced “HAH-nah,” both A-sounds are soft) the fresh meat of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. I was born and raised in Santa Rosa, California (in Sonoma County’s wine country). I recently graduated from Chapman University in Southern California with a B.A. in sociology and religious studies and an emphasis in social work. I come from a busy summer of internships and volunteer work relating to HIV/AIDs, child abuse, and hospice care at various agencies in Orange County. The time I spent with each agency affirmed my desire to continue with social justice work before entering graduate school for a master’s degree in social work.

While I would like to say it was a natural urge to embrace the rain and public transportation that brings me to Seattle and the Housing Alliance, it is actually the United Church of Christ’s Young Adult Service Communities program. For a year, I will live in community with some pretty stellar folks and engage in social justice issues such as homelessness, living wages, and so many more as the year goes on. As someone interested in equity and fair access to basic human needs, I feel everything I learn this year will be extremely fulfilling.

My first experience with the Housing Alliance was in Yakima at the Emerging Advocates Program. I had an amazing time learning oodles of great information about how advocacy works in the world of housing and homelessness. Hearing the stories of the participants as well as the presentations of our guest speakers was greatly inspirational and put me in the right mindset to begin this internship. Some of what I learned was eye-opening and some shocking. But what I have taken away from the many new statistics and stories shared at Emerging Advocates is that homelessness is a grossly misunderstood social problem. Another takeaway is that there is a huge need for advocacy if we are bridge the state's affordable housing crisis and end homelessness. If you wish to learn more about what I am talking about, I would suggest looking into the document Without Housing: Decades of Federal Housing Cutbacks, Massive Homelessness and Policy Failures produced by Housing Alliance partner agency Western Regional Advocacy Project.

As the Housing Alliance’s dedicated intern I will be involved in supporting the many projects, plans, and proceedings that we are whipping up and working on in the office and around the state. I will help in the planning for the Conference on Ending Homelessness as well as Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day. So look for me in Tacoma and Olympia next year. (I can’t wait to go to Olympia.) Word on the street is that I will also be helping with state and federal advocacy, which I am very excited about after spending so much time on direct services wondering how the nitty-gritty of advocacy and legislation go down.

I am all kinds of excited to be here and can’t wait to see what this year has in store for me. Let the advocacy and action begin!

Images
Top: Honah posing with the Yakima Emerging Advocates Program participants.
Bottom: Honah participating in the social media and advocacy component of the Emerging Advocates Program in Yakima.

 


 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - blogs