I am an advocate.

Margie Quinn, Facing Homelessness Operations Manager

A year ago, I moved from Nashville, Tennessee to Seattle, Washington for a year of service through the United Church of Christ’s Young Adult Service Communities Program. I moved into the third floor of a church with the other interns and began working at the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance a week later.

First, you should meet “Margie-From-A-Year-Ago.” That Margie had never voted. She couldn’t name one legislator from her state. She couldn’t define “advocacy” or even what “public policy” entailed. She had never even been to her state’s capitol. She had never attended a lobby day or met with an elected official to discuss an issue she cared deeply about. She had never canvassed or phone-banked for a political candidate. That Margie had never planned a workshop for a statewide conference or planned a panel for an advocacy day. She had never seriously contemplated the issue of widespread homelessness in our country.

You get the picture. I was fresh from undergrad where I had learned to theorize and analyze the injustices in our communities. But, I had never advocated for these issues myself. The Housing Alliance showed me how to act out and speak up for issues that ignite me. Thanks to Housing Alliance staff and friends, I transformed from a critical and immobile thinker of social justice to a bona fide active housing advocate!

I registered to vote. Then I actually voted…three times this year! I’m going to vote more! I ran around Olympia with Michele, Ben, and Kate B. as they talked to legislators about why affordable housing, tenants rights, and homeless services matter. I helped facilitate sessions of the first-ever Emerging Advocates Program with Andrea and Alouise. From this, I learned how vital it is to build connections with folks affected by these issues in order to understand the depth of complexities that encompass them.

Joaquin taught me how to use social media to advocate and how to connect anti-oppression work with ending homelessness. Brianna brought the fire, showing me that voter registration and voter turnout make a tangible difference. I co-planned an interfaith panel for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day. Then, I co-facilitated a storytelling workshop at the Conference on Ending Homelessness.

I could go on and on about the wonderful, dedicated staff at the Housing Alliance. I could go on and on about how much I learned from each of them and how deeply grateful I am to them for revealing to me just how much advocacy can change my life.

But, I digress. Here is the bottom line: honestly, I am afraid of the person I would have been if I hadn’t worked at the Housing Alliance this year. I have now transitioned into the role of Operations Manager at Facing Homelessness, another organization working toward ending homelessness in Washington State. As I sit at my new desk, writing this blog post, I can’t help but recall my first conversation with a Housing Alliance staffer who asked me what “advocacy” meant to me. I sputtered some nonsense about “ongoing work” and “taking action,” trying to sound more knowledgeable than I was. Now, I know what advocacy is. More importantly, I know how to do it. I know how to organize a meeting with legislators in my district and how to call folks and mobilize them around important issues.

Housing Alliance, you’ve made an advocate out of me. One down, a few more to go. I have no doubt that you will transform the next intern and many more to come.

Margie during the first week of her internship.

Margie during the Gong Action for Homelessness.



Friends of the court, advocates for homeless students

Rachael Myers, Executive Director

On Monday, the Housing Alliance joined Children’s Alliance and Columbia Legal Services in filing an Amicus Curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief with the state Supreme Court. The brief is in response to the McCleary case, in which the Supreme Court found that the state is not meeting its paramount duty to fully fund basic education. In this phase of the case, the court has asked the state why it shouldn’t prohibit expenditures on other matters until education is fully funded.

While we agree that education must be fully funded, we are concerned about the potential to cut or freeze other critical programs that children need to succeed in school. Our brief requests that as the state moves to comply with the Court’s ruling, it refrain from funding education in a way that jeopardizes housing and other basic services for children and families.

During the 2012 – 2013 school year, 30,609 public school students were homeless. That’s one of every 34 students. It shouldn’t be a surprise that homeless students struggle academically. According to research, they are more likely to be below proficiency levels in math, reading, and science than their housed peers, and they have significantly lower graduation rates.

In addition, young people in our state’s foster care system face many of the same challenges as homeless students because of the temporary nature of foster placements. Foster youth have the highest drop-out rate and lowest graduation rate of any student group in Washington.

Even with the existing level of state funding for social programs, students of color often cannot achieve educational opportunity. Students of color are more likely than white students to experience homelessness or poverty and to be in the foster care system. Poverty and lacking a stable, permanent home, compounded with institutional and system racism greatly expands the educational opportunity gap that already exists between white students and students of color.

For students from low-income families, what happens outside school is just as important to their education as what happens inside the classroom. This is why we filed this brief to the Court. Even with the best academic programs available, if students are homeless, hungry, or struggling with their other basic needs, they face unfair and unnecessary barriers to achieving their potential. An all-cuts approach to funding McCleary and meeting our current budget obligations would take a $2.5-$3 billion toll on the state budget. We believe education should be a launching pad for all students and requires a robust investment. But that investment shouldn’t come at the expense of other supports kids need to succeed in school and in life.

There will be what’s called a show cause oral hearing on Wednesday, September 3. Stay tuned to our social media outlets and our blog as developments occur.

You can read our joint press release about the brief here.
You can read the Amicus Curiae brief here.

You might have heard that several other parties filed briefs related to McCleary on Monday. The Education Week blog has this summary of each of the briefs.

The Temple of Justice in Olympia


Grant, R., Gracy, D., Goldsmith, G., Shapiro, A., & Redlener, I. (2013). Twenty-Five Years of Child and Family Homelessness: Where are we now? American Journal of Public Health, Supplement 2 (103), e1-10.

Fantuzzo, J., LeBoeuf, W., Brumley, B., & Perlman, S. (2013). Children and Youth Services Review, 35, 966-972.

The National Center on Family Homelessness,

Hong, S., & Piescher, K. (2012). The Role of Supportive Housing in Homeless Children’s Well-Being: An investigation of child welfare and educational outcomes. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 1440-1447.



Harry Hoffman, always beckoned us to dream and act boldly

Rachael Myers, Executive Director

A lot of thoughtful words have been said about Housing Alliance friend and colleague Harry Hoffman recently, demonstrating the impact he had on so many people in our community.

We were lucky to know Harry and to benefit from his deep personal commitment to creating communities where everyone can live and thrive. Harry was a founding board member for the Housing Alliance’s sister organization, the Housing Alliance Action Fund. Harry joined this board because he knew that while our collective efforts to ensure a home for everyone in Washington were making a difference, the families and individuals who were struggling to keep a roof over their heads needed us to do more. Harry understood that having a home is the foundation for everything else that matters – education, a job, good health. And he believed we could make elected officials pay as much attention to housing as to the rest of the issues that impact people’s lives.

Harry brought his passion and his political savvy to this effort. And he took on the hard work of fundraising and spreading the word among leaders in the housing field that we can, and must, expand our efforts to build legislative champions for affordable homes.

Like many others have said, Harry worked tirelessly even as he struggled. Two weeks before he died, Harry attended a board meeting and helped create the vision and goals for our work in the coming years. He wasn’t well. His words were softer than usual, and he looked small. But his ideas were anything but small. And his soft voice still conveyed the passion that he had for justice. He reminded us all that we need to dream and act boldly because that’s what this movement requires.

Harry’s death impacted all of us at the Housing Alliance in a way that was much more tangible than I expected. Some of us first met Harry when we shared an office, back when the Housing Development Consortium and the Housing Alliance were each small enough to fit in one room of a mostly open suite. Other staff members came on after we had moved into a new space. Most of us didn’t see Harry on a daily basis. So when we all learned of Harry’s death just before a staff meeting, I expected sadness. But I didn't expect tears from so many people on our team, who I assumed had only known Harry in a limited way. At the end of the day, most of us stayed late for an impromptu toast to Harry, and we each shared a memory. Everyone had a story about something Harry did or said that made an impact. Even without seeing him on a regular basis, Harry found a way to connect personally with almost everyone on our team.

Our organization, our movement, and each of us personally are better for having known Harry. We are grateful he shared with us his time, passion, and friendship.


Editor's Note: This blog had listed incorrect information for Harry's memorial service. An event for the housing community is currently being planned. We will post details to our Facebook page once the details are finalized.



Federal Housing Credit Update & Advocacy Alert!

Ben Miksch, State and Federal Policy Associate

Good news about the Low Income Housing Tax Credit! Low Income Housing Tax Credits provide a critical source of funding for affordable homes across Washington State. Need a primer on the Housing Credit? Revisit this guest post from last year.

Reports are coming out of D.C. that long sought-after legislation to improve the Low Income Housing Tax Credit may be moving to the floor in coming months.

This legislation, which is central to producing and preserving affordable housing, comes at a crucial time. Last week, Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies released their 2014 State of the Nation’s Housing stating that nearly 20 million Americans are spending at least half of their household income on rental costs alone.

Representatives Jim McDermott, Dave Reichert, Adam Smith, and Suzan DelBene are all cosponsors of the legislation, HR 4717. In the Senate, the provisions have been included in the Senate’s Tax Extenders Legislation, S 2260, in large part thanks to the leadership of Senator Maria Cantwell, a long-time champion of the Housing Credit.

Members of Congress will be heading back home next week for the July 4th Congressional Recess. This is a perfect opportunity for you to take advantage of this momentum and help push this issue forward!

Please reach out to your members of Congress about this, especially if your representative isn’t a cosponsor. If you have any questions or would like some assistance, don’t hesitate to drop me a line (benm-at-wliha-dot-org) and let me know how the Housing Alliance can help. Don’t know who your representative is? Go here to find out.



Emerging Advocates Program: emerging and...expanding!

Andrea Marcos, Administrative Assistant

“We must also broaden our conception of what it means to be creative. At its best, one of the most creative activities is being involved in a struggle with other people, breaking out of our isolation, seeing our relations with others change, discovering new dimensions in our lives."

-Sylvia Federici

The summer is a creative time for us at the Housing Alliance. But this summer it’s triple time, as we get ready for not one, but three sessions of our Emerging Advocates Program (EAP)!

Over the last few weeks we’ve been working hard getting ready for our second-ever EAP, a curriculum that supports people who have experienced homelessness or housing instability in advocating for positive policy change. Last fall, we had fourteen passionate program participants graduate from our first-ever class. This year, we received more than double the applications, and we’ve decided to not only run two summer programs instead of one, but also a offer a short session in Yakima later this fall!

The 2014 summer EAP sessions will include 26 participants coming from all over Washington State. Folks from the Puget Sound area hail from Snohomish, King, Pierce, and Thurston counties. Other participants from the eastern side of the mountains come from Longview, Yakima, and Spokane. Our six-week program will include topics like the history of how U.S. policy has affected homelessness, the importance of voter engagement, using social and traditional media for advocacy, storytelling for social change, and so much more!

We have a great line-up of workshops and presentations from past EAP participants and advocates, including Nancy Amidei from Civic Engagement Project and Paul Boden from Western Regional Advocacy Project. Our own Housing Alliance staff will also present, including Rachael Myers, Kate Baber, and Joaquin Uy. Brianna Thomas from our sister organization the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund will also be on-hand to talk about the importance of field work in electing housing champions to the state legislature.

For our third EAP program of 2014, we’ll head to Yakima and present a shortened version to advocates there. We’re really excited about making sure the program gets all over Washington State. And we’re especially looking forward to working with our allies on the East Side! More about the Yakima Emerging Advocates Program later. 

We have some great workshops and presenters lined up. But I don’t think it’s only the workshops that make the Emerging Advocates Program such a meaningful advocacy training opportunity. It’s what activist, scholar, and teacher Syvlia Federici  is talking about in that quote above – a transformative creativity. EAP is so important and unique because it is about being in spaces where we come together, work together, and struggle together, a struggle to ensure everyone in Washington State has the opportunity to live in safe, healthy, affordable homes in thriving communities. Since our first round of EAP, I’ve heard back from participants. All felt that the relationships and continuing support networks made in the program are just as meaningful as the curriculum. The program is strong because of the solid creativity that we as advocates bring to it and share with each other. I’m excited to see that quality of creativity play a more active role in the Housing Alliance’s work and in our collective movements for housing justice.

Top image: EAP 2013 participant Glenda Miller giving her final presentation to her fellow attendees.
Bottom image: EAP 2013 participant Ellie Lambert showing a prop from her final project, focused on raising awareness of homelessness in Yakima.



Tomas Villanueva, advocate, activist, and champion for farmworkers

Brien Thane, Housing Alliance Co-founder

Washington State has lost a great leader and housing advocate with the passing of Tomas Villanueva on Friday, June 6. Remembered most for his selfless lifelong dedication to social justice for Washington State farmworkers, Tomas understood the connection between wage and the issues of education, health, and housing. And he connected the dots decades before the McCleary decision, the Affordable Care Act, and the fight for a living wage had brought these linkages to the forefront of political discourse.

As an advocate and president of the United Farm Workers of Washington, Tomas created the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, the first such medical clinic in the Northwest. He also formed a coalition to win farmworkers coverage under the state’s minimum wage, unemployment insurance, labor standards, and child labor laws. Tomas also continued his advocacy while working as a community relations coordinator for the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), where he single handedly repurposed $2 million of federal repayments to the state relating to immigration reform into the state’s first farmworker housing production program.

While working for DSHS in a 2003, Tomas was interviewed for the University of Washington’s Farm Workers in Washington State History Project and eloquently stated the simple truth that many public officials are only now coming to understand: 

I get involved a lot in farm worker housing issues. I’ve been involved with the housing issue since I was with the union, and after that, and my supervisors understand. If people live in a deteriorated and unhealthy house, it’s going to eventually affect medical services involving health and local food banks - people that don’t qualify for food stamps. To me, that’s my job to insure that people don’t fall through the cracks.

As a member of the Washington State Farm Worker Housing Trust, Tomas lobbied for millions of dollars for the construction of community-based farm worker housing.

Tomas served on many boards and committees as the recognized statewide representative of farmworker interests, reminding everyone from state officials to advocacy groups of one simple truth: farmworkers’ needs are no different than anyone else’s.

Advocates and champions are often described as “tireless.” Tomas truly was tireless, barely slowing down even when besieged by health problems. I’ve never met anyone so determined and unstoppable. He was also one of the most gracious and inclusive persons I’ve ever known. He could argue opponents to a standstill and then share a pleasant meal (and maybe make a point or two again in passing).

And the man could dance. Years ago we were at a housing conference, having a drink after sessions were over. A band set up and started playing. Tomas agreed to dance with an acquaintance at our table, and within moments a line of women formed, waiting their turn to cut the rug with Tomas. Turns out he and his siblings grew up winning folkloric dance competitions.

It was an honor and inspiration to work with Tomas. I miss the twinkle in his eye very much.



Reflections on the 2014 Conference on Ending Homelessness

Kirk McClain, Advocate

I received a grant from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance that enabled me to attend the 2014 Conference on Ending Homelessness in Yakima, Washington. As a homeless person, I did not have the financial resources to attend on my own. So I was very excited when I received the acceptance email from the Housing Alliance.

The conference lasted two days, and I had the opportunity to attend six workshops. The two workshops most important to me were Lawmaker Engagement Strategies During The Legislative Interim and Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) Provider Discussion because they were directly related to where I am in life. The two major things I want to do right now are to obtain housing and learn how to become an advocate for homeless services and social safety net programs in the state legislature. My first experience with ever speaking to a lawmaker was a couple of years ago during a community listening session moderated by Kate Baber back when she was working at Seattle-based organization Statewide Poverty Action Network.

Kate now works for Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and was one of the presenters of the engaging lawmakers workshop. I mentioned my first experience with Poverty Action because that was really my first time advocating to a lawmaker. Although I felt really good about the experience, I also was left with a great desire to know how laws are made and how advocacy can affect change in what legislation becomes law. The workshop on engaging lawmakers really got into the details of how to advocate in Olympia and even in my own legislative district. For me, this is what having a voice is all about – learning how to communicate effectively with lawmakers. The two presenters Kate Baber and Michele Thomas spoke passionately and honestly. Both had a great deal of knowledge about topics like one-on-one meetings with legislators, how to organize a site visit, inviting lawmakers to fundraisers, and other events that can provide a great opportunity to build relationships.

The Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) workshop was interesting and helpful to me because it allowed me to see “behind the curtain” of what service providers have to do in administrating the HEN program.

To me, learning how to advocate for the homeless in Olympia and applying that education to help homeless persons (myself included) are simply two points on a continuum that will eventually help me to find myself and to re-evaluate and rebuild my life. The conference helped me to see that the many service providers who work to assist the homeless are caring people who would do more if they could. I believe if we could get better laws passed to help the homeless, more effective homelessness services would inevitably follow. Since attending the Conference on Ending Homeless, I feel more empowered to join with others who care enough make the changes necessary to see more homeless people find homes and get on the path to a stable and productive life.

Pictured (L to R): Emerging Advocates Program graduate Nick Maxwell and author Kirk McClain during one of the conference workshops. 



National Call-in Day for Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure

Call Your Legislators Today and Urge Them to Co-Sponsor the Permanently Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act

Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have introduced legislation in both the House and Senate known as the Permanently Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act. This legislation extends current protections for tenants whose landlords are in foreclosure and adds an important enforcement mechanism.

Act today! Join advocates across the country and call your Representative and Senators to urge them to co-sponsor the Permanently Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act.


Approximately 40% of families affected by foreclosure rent their homes. Prior to the May 2009 enactment of the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA), these tenants could be evicted from their homes with as little as a few days' notice. Thanks to the PTFA, bona fide tenants can now stay in their homes for the remainder of their lease or for at least 90 days, whichever is longer. However, the PTFA includes a sunset provision. Unless Congress takes action, the PTFA will expire on December 31, 2014.


The Permanently Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act would address the ongoing impact of the foreclosure crisis on renters by removing the sunset date. This ensures renters have a basic level of federal protections regardless of when their residence is foreclosed on. The bill also adds a private right of action for tenants whose rights under the PTFA have been violated. This enforcement mechanism would better ensure compliance with the law.


Call your Representative and Senators today! Encourage them to co-sponsor H.R. 3543 and S. 1761, respectively. 

You can find your legislators’ contact information by calling the Congressional switchboard at 877.210.5351, or visiting NLIHC's website and entering your zip code on the lower right hand side.

View a list of current co-sponsors of H.R. 3543:

View a list of current co-sponsors of S. 1761:

You can also participate on Twitter! @NLIHC will be tweeting about the national call-in day. Retweet us or send out your tweets using #PTFA!


Please email with any questions. Please let us know which offices you call and about any feedback you receive.



Senator Patty Murray Tells Success Stories of Washington State Constituents Helped by Housing Alliance

Below is the full text of the speech Senator Patty Murray gave at our recent "Bringing Washington Home" Advocacy Awards Celebration that took place on Tuesday, May 27 in Seattle.


I’m honored to be here to take part in your awards celebration. Your organization has so much to be proud of.

Every day, the Housing Alliance is building a coalition of advocates.

You are educating lawmakers and stakeholders.

And you are organizing, to ensure more residents in our state have access to safe, affordable housing.

Thank you for the incredible work you all do on behalf of our state, the affordable housing community, and all those struggling to find housing.

And thank you for the partnership we have had.

Your knowledge and insight are so valuable to me, and truly help me be an effective advocate for the programs that are so important for residents across our state.

I’m so pleased to join you this evening for this great event.

You know, one of the things that I appreciate so much about the Housing Alliance is your work to share personal stories, and the stories of so many, who struggle with homelessness and housing.

Whether it’s by empowering people through your Emerging Advocates program, or your one-on-one conversations with lawmakers, your stories can have a real impact.

The stories you tell put a face to the issues of affordable housing and homelessness.

They serve as an important reminder that the programs for which you advocate represent a lifeline for members of our communities—our neighbors or friends in need.

That lifeline was there for a woman named Rebecca, a single mom, raising two kids.

After falling on hard times, she said she wasn’t sure how she would keep a roof over their heads.

But thankfully, she was able to access housing services.

And because of those critical support systems, she was able to re-establish a stable home life for her kids and herself.

She says that today, her kids are happy, healthy, and thriving all because those services were there for her family when they needed them most.

And now, she’s become a great advocate for the Housing Alliance.

In our country, safe housing in a thriving community is part of the American Dream.

And a home is more than a roof over someone’s head. It is where families build their lives.

But right now, across the country, and right here in Washington, many families can’t find consistent affordable housing.

Parents drop their kids off at school in the morning, not knowing where they’ll be able to find a safe place for them to sleep that night.

Veterans who served our country can’t access the services and the housing they need.

According to the 2013 Annual Assessment report, there were 610,042 individuals who experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2013.

And the Seattle/King County and Washington State Continuums of Care had some of the highest homeless populations in the country.

The good news is that the work you all are doing is paying off.

Homelessness declined by 9 percent since 2007; veteran homelessness declined by 24 percent between 2010 and 2013; the number of families experiencing homelessness declined by 11 percent between 2007 and 2013; and Washington State had a 24 percent decrease in homelessness between 2007 and 2013—one of the largest declines in the country.

Yet despite this important progress, secure housing and homelessness are still major challenges for many families, here in Washington state and across the country.

One woman, named Susan, who is now a part of your Emerging Advocates Program, said she was on her way home from work one day, when she got into a car accident.

That meant she could no longer work and she fell into debt.

And ultimately, she lost her home.

Another woman named Glenda never thought she’d have to struggle with housing.

She was the owner of a successful small business.

That was until, seemingly overnight, she lost her income.

She had to lay off employees.

She lost her condo to foreclosure, and teetered on the brink of homelessness.

So many of these stories share a common theme that I know you’re all familiar with.

Often times, it’s not just one event that causes a family to lose a home.

It’s the culmination of little things that build up.

Maybe it’s losing a job.

Maybe it’s an injury, or an unexpected medical bill – or a combination of those things that force a family into homelessness.

But what gives me hope is knowing that the culmination of small, positive things can tip the scales in the other direction, too.

Those small steps can build up and help more families find safe, affordable housing.

For example, the work that you do every day to empower volunteers, organize, and mobilize people – that also adds up.

And that advocacy is enormously important in making sure more people in our state can go to bed at night in safe, affordable housing.

That’s why I love hearing stories of people like Virginia Shelby Powell, who is your 2014 Grassroots Leader of the Year.

She’s working with people who are transitioning from living on the street into housing.

And, she’s energizing more advocates to get involved and to talk to their legislators about how important safe, healthy, and affordable housing is for all residents of Washington.

What gives me hope is hearing about one of your volunteers, Ellie Lambert.

This year, she’s earned the title of Individual Advocate of the Year.

For several years, Ellie has dedicated her time and skills to organizing people so they can share their stories about what affordable housing means to them.

And, it’s always heartening to see all the work that the YWCA is doing – your Organizational Advocate of the Year.

Providing a safe haven for women and families to lay their head at night, to access meals, showers, and laundry can be instrumental for them to get back on their feet.

And, of course, the YWCA is a powerhouse of advocacy to ensure we do more in our state to help families in need.

I’m also so glad that the Housing Alliance has strong partners and advocates in the state legislature.

You’re honoring many of them here tonight because of the important champions they’ve been for this movement in Olympia.

In the other Washington – Washington, DC – I’ve been working onto protect critical housing dollars.

Congress has spent far too much time over the past few years lurching from budget crisis to budget crisis, and too often engaging in petty partisan bickering, instead of solving problems.

That uncertainty and the severe budget cuts under sequestration were hurting families.

But at the end of last year, I sat down with House Budget Chairman Ryan to negotiate in a budget conference.

And together, we were able to reach a deal that prevents another government shutdown this year.

It provides some much-needed certainty to the budget process.

And during those negotiations, I pushed to make sure that some of the devastating cuts from sequestration were reversed.

And we succeeded in getting an agreement that provided funding levels for fiscal year 2014 and 2015 above sequestration levels.

As a result of this agreement, we were able to restore critical funding for section 8 housing vouchers,  as well as homeless assistance and emergency solutions grants as part of the fiscal year 2014 budget.

These were important funding increases that helped ensure that the safety net remains available for families that fall on hard times.

But there is more work to be done.

There are still so many families in need and the budget remains tight.

So your advocacy is more important than ever.

I will continue to fight for critical housing programs, while also looking for ways to improve outcomes  for homeless youth, families, and survivors of domestic violence.

We need to continue to look for innovative ways to address the problems families face.

I am constantly in awe of your creativity and innovations.

You are always striving for ways to better serve those in need—to not only provide people with housing, but with ways to improve their lives.

I look to you for feedback on our federal programs and for insight into how to make them more effective.

You are an invaluable resource to me, and I appreciate the partnership we have had—a partnership I hope to continue.

In the Housing Alliance’s tradition of sharing personal stories, I want to close by briefly telling you a bit about why I am committed to making sure we invest in programs that help families who have lost their footing.

When I was in high school, my father, who had served in World War II, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Within a few years, he could no longer work.

My mom found a job.

But it didn’t pay nearly enough to support seven kids and a husband with a growing stack of medical bills.

Without warning, our family had fallen on hard times.

We didn’t know how we would afford to go on with the lives we had known, how we would go to college, or make ends meet.

But our government didn’t turn its back on us.

For several months, we relied on food stamps. It wasn’t much. But we were able to get by.

With the help of a government program, my mom attended Lake Washington Vocational School, so she could get a better paying job to support our family.

My older brother, my twin sister, and I were able to stay in college because of student loans and support from what we now call Pell Grants.

We had lost our footing. But because of this great country, we didn’t lose hope we’d have the opportunity to live out the American Dream.

Today’s families deserve the same – especially when it comes to having a safe, affordable place to call home.

So, in Congress, I’ll be working hard for these priorities.

And I’ll need your help.

Keep sharing your stories. Keep your elected officials informed on these critical issues.

By working together, we can help ensure more families have the opportunity to have safe and affordable housing.

Thank you.


If you missed our advocacy awards celebration and want to support our work of ensuring everyone in Washington State has an opportunity for a safe, healthy, affordable home, you can still help us reach our goal by donating any amount here.



Program returns to help emerge advocates across the state

Susan Russell, Advocate

It’s a new year and another opportunity to become involved in the Emerging Advocates Program!

I’m a graduate of EAP. Here’s how I recently emerged as an advocate through the program. One day on my way home from work as a cement mason I was rear-ended by an uninsured motorist. This accident took away my trade, and I accumulated debt I couldn't pay. This led me to lose my apartment in 2004. At first I couch surfed. I'd get a boyfriend; we'd live together. When things wouldn't work out, I'd find myself homeless once again. I hid my homelessness from my friends and family. But that couldn't last for long. During the last six years I've been homeless, things got a lot harder and more dangerous. Something had to change.

In 2011, a Real Change vendor encouraged me to think about selling the paper. The next year, I finally made the decision to go check it out. This was the start of my journey out of homelessness.

I'll never forget my first day selling the paper, it was truely the hardest thing I've ever done. For me, it was the first public statement that I was homeless. But through selling up at Ken’s Market in Greenwood, I found a community that embraced me. The people at Real Change were the same way. I want everyone to know this because without the support of the communities I've gotten to know as a vendor, I would not be the person I am today. I'm so thankful for all the love people gave me in this process.

In 2013, Real Change recommended me to the Housing Alliance's Emerging Advocates Program, and I was accepted into the very first class. This, my friends, was the beginning of another journey – my journey to help end homelessness. I learned how to interact with politicians and decision-makers to make a change. Also, EAP has given me the knowledge and the confidence I needed to move forward to become more involved in making a change to end homelessness.

Since I’ve lived the life of homelessness, I believe I’m the perfect person to bring the message to people in power who don’t understand what it’s like to be homeless. The way I see it, it is my duty as a human being to educate those who will never experience poverty. 

I invite you to participate in this exciting program that will educate those with an interest to help make a difference in our communities statewide.  When we sit on the sidelines, nothing gets done. Get involved, be part of the solution! 

Emerging Advocates Program brings together a group of individuals who are compassionate and believe that we can make that difference. So join us by enrolling in this wonderful program! Remember, together we can do things that we can never do alone.

Click here for the application and send it in as soon as you can.

Susan Russell saying, "Don't wait! Apply now!"

EAP 2013 graduates August Mallory (R) & Susan Russell (L) at a mock hearing in Olympia.




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