Christine Long, HEN Program Manager King County
Since the Legislative session kicked off two weeks ago, I have sat through two budget hearings with the folks at the Housing Alliance, done email blasts, signed petitions, marched, and met with so many inspiring people that it makes my head spin. We’ve waited through four hour-sessions to give two-minute testimonies and sat at our desks compiling email addresses to send out requests for the support of low-income housing and care. All of this, in support of the effort to ensure access to safe, healthy, affordable homes for everyone in Washington.
There are some incredibly intelligent, talented Representatives and Senators supporting this cause but they have a lot of issues vying for their attention. This is where the job of advocates like us comes into play. While you and I know that financial and housing assistance programs like Housing and Essential Needs (HEN), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Aged, Blind and Disabled (ABD) are important, it is up to us to remind the House and Senate of this fact.
Speaking up about these issues is important but it can seem overwhelming. How do you get started? A great activist recently told me that you should gather like-minded folks together and set small, daily goals. Find a part of this larger cause that you are passionate about and set a daily goal of writing a postcard or email to your local officials. The next day, make a phone call to your Senator or Representative’s office and plan to take part in one of the many advocacy days happening in Olympia over the next three months. The important thing is that you get out and testify; send postcards, emails, call your Representatives and Senators, make your voice heard. We may get the word out in different ways but we all support the same issues and the more testimonies we present, asking for the same, larger goals, the more attention we will get.
I would like to share the testimony I gave before the House and Senate on the HEN Program as an example of how easy it is to get started. If you have something to say, we want to hear it and so do the people in power. So get writing!
Testimony is from the House Appropriations Committee Public Hearing (1/9/17) and Senate Ways and Means Committee Public Hearing (1/11/17):
I am here today to thank you for your continued support of this program as a crucial social service, providing housing, rental assistance, move in costs, transportation and hygienic needs for nearly 2,000 people per month in King County alone and now nearly 10,000 in total as we enter our 6th year.
For many of our clients, the question of where they will sleep tonight or next week was once a source of unlimited stress but through HEN, we give them back that basic stability of knowing that you will have heat, running water and indoor plumbing and, most importantly, you can apply for jobs and go to work without the fear that everything you own might be stolen while you are gone. It is that simple security that enables many to go on to lead successful lives. One client in the 31st district stated that because of the HEN program “I’m not homeless, cold or hungry. I feel blessed and I am able to look for work. Because of HEN I am alive today.”
When surveyed, 83% of our clients who entered as homeless are now housed. It is because of your tireless work here, that we are able to provide these lifesaving services.
This year, the Governor’s budget includes a $20 per month transportation stipend for clients to travel to local agencies to access basic necessities. I commend the office on this proposal and urge your support of this as it will be of tremendous benefit to those counties with limited transportation funding and for continued funding for those counties who have existing transportation programs, such as King County. We also applaud the Governor for eliminating the Asset limit for TANF and the ABD programs and we encourage the House and Senate to eliminate the Asset limit for Housing and Essential Needs as well.
I respectfully ask that the Governor’s budget to be approved through the House and Senate with these additions.
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