Top 10 Housing Alliance Moments of 2014 (5-3)

As we get ever closer to the 2015 State Legislative Session, we look back on the top ten Housing Alliance moments of this year. We're presenting the list to you in segments. Here's Part 3, moments 5, 4, and 3.




#5 - Medicaid Supportive Housing Benefit White Paper Release.

Summer in Seattle can be...slow. But policy staff were hard at work on a research paper exploring the concept of creating a new Medicaid benefit to both help end chronic homelessness and bring permanent supportive housing (PSH) to scale. PSH pairs affordable housing with intensive tenancy support services, housing case management, and care coordination. It’s designed to serve people who are experiencing or are at risk of chronic homelessness and who have a severe and persistent mental health disorder, a chemical dependency disability, or chronic and complex physical health conditions. Although permanent supportive housing exists across Washington, there is not enough funding currently available to bring this model fully to scale.



#4 - 2014 Conference on Ending Homelessness Sets Records.

The 2014 Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness (COEH) in Yakima on May 21-22 was record-setting in many ways. We had the highest number of attendees for Yakima ever: 617 housing and homelessness service providers and private sector employees from all over Washington attended the two days of workshops. Attendees could pick from 50 workshops, our highest number yet. And 22 of them offered Continuing Education Unit credits, also a record.

Our 2014 COEH keynote speakers were especially entertaining. Nonprofit blogger Vu Le first made attendees laugh when entering the stage to the epic theme music from the cable television program “Game of Thrones.” But his reflections as a young child raised in a family that recently immigrated to the US were both humorous and thought-provoking. And Rex Holbien’s presentation of the striking images and stories he’s documented for his Facing Homelessness project led to a standing ovation and not a dry eye in the house.



#3 - Emerging Advocates Program Reunites!

Our Emerging Advocates Program (EAP) trains individuals who have experienced homelessness or housing instability in a range of skills for effective advocacy. EAP participants from all three 2014 programs joined with last year's attendees for an October celebration with Housing Alliance staff. In addition to a display of art created by EAP graduates, we had a visual timeline that charted organizational and personal milestones since the program began in 2013. There was also an open mic for anyone who wanted to share their personal experiences during or since the EAP program.


Tune in next Monday, December 22 as we reveal the top "two" moments from this past year.

Do you have your own housing & homelessness advocacy highlights from 2014? Share yours at our Facebook and Twitter pages.



2015 Budget 1.0 - Our Analysis

The Housing Alliance Policy & Advocacy Team

Governor Jay Inslee rolled out his budget and revenue proposals over the course of four days, saving affordable housing and homeless service funding until Thursday. And...<drum roll> affordable housing and homelessness programs fared well in the governor's budget proposal!

Thank you to everyone who contacted the governor in September asking him to not accept agency proposals to eliminate the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD) program and SSI facilitation services and to cut the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program. We are very happy to share that all these programs have been held harmless in the governor's budget. And we are also very happy to share that a significant appropriation for affordable housing is in his capital budget (details below). Overall there is $100 million for affordable housing including $75 million for the Housing Trust Fund (with no buckets or project lists).

See below for more specific details on our budget priorities.

The reason the governor was able to protect affordable housing and homelessness programs: REVENUE. Some programs are directly tied to new revenue. And given the massive budget deficit, it is miraculous to see a budget proposal without deep cuts to affordable housing and the homelessness safety net.

Given this very positive budget news, we have three requests:

  1. Please take a moment to reflect on how effective advocacy has already been in this budget proposal.
  2. Then please continue the momentum by taking further advocacy action today for revenue. We now need lawmakers to know that the affordable housing and homelessness community supports revenue.
    Please sign our petition as an individual and, if you can, as an organization.
  3. Thank Governor Inslee. He took a bold stand on revenue and we need to make it clear to the legislature that we will support them when they follow his lead.
    You can leave him a message at 1.800.562.6000.
    You can email him here.
    You can tweet a thanks to him here.
    You can also thank him in a Facebook post.

Thank you for your advocacy, and stay tuned for more budget details in the coming weeks ahead.


The Governor's Budget At a Glance

You can read through the governor's full proposal here.

Homelessness Safety Net Services

  • ABD unharmed (no cuts & no additional appropriation) - financial assistance for people with permanent disabilities.
  • HEN unharmed (no cuts & no additional appropriation) - rent assistance for people with temporary disabilities.
  • Incapacity determination staff unharmed.
  • We haven’t yet confirmed if Medical Care Services for the aged population were cut.
  • $780,000 reduction in SSI facilitation staff, but not from the DSHS Economic Services Administration.
  • Governor's budget did not harm these programs that departments had proposed reducing/cutting:
    ABD preserved, SSI facilitation
    TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) Tribal Programs
    Naturalization services
    LEP (Limited English Proficiency) services

Other Safety Net Services

  • $1,700,000 cut to AREN (Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs) - a program that provides an emergency cash grant for families on TANF who experience an emergency or crisis requiring money*.
  • $15,768,000 cut to TANF - Participation Incentive - This program provides an incentive payment to TANF WorkFirst parents who are participating in approved WorkFirst (TANF's job search and preparation program) activities at least 20 hours per week and meeting the requirements of their individual plans.

Mental Health Services

  • Mental health budget overall 26% increase.
  • Breakfast After the Bell (a specialized breakfast program for schoolchildren) funded, although we are seeking more details.

Capital Budget Affordable Housing Appropriations

Washington State Housing Trust Fund

Homeless Youth and Families

This budget creates an Office of Youth Homelessness:

  • New general fund appropriation of $150,000 in 2016 and $150,000 in 2017 to create the office of youth homelessness:
    "The office will be responsible for identifying service gaps for youth and young adults who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The office will further lead efforts to improve data collection, ensure services are available statewide, and assure that programs fulfill federal regulations and guidelines for preventing and ending youth homelessness."

This budget transfers Crisis Residential Centers, Hope Beds, and Street Youth Services from DSHS to the new Office of Youth Housing at the Washington State Department of Commerce:

  • $1,023,000 new appropriation.
  • $10,741,000 in funding transferred from DSHS.

Washington Youth and Families Fund

  • $3,000,000 for the Washington Youth and Family Fund overall:
    One-time funding of $2,000,000 from the Washington Housing Trust Account Operations and Maintenance Fund (O&M) and $1,000,000 from the State General Fund.

    “Appropriation for fiscal year 2016 is provided solely for the Washington youth and families fund to address issues affecting unaccompanied youth and young adults as well as families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The department of commerce shall work with the administrator of the Washington youth and families fund to assure a portion of the funding is used to build capacity among providers in identifying, engaging, and providing enhanced support for commercially sexually exploited children.”

Ending Family Homelessness

  • $4,000,000 in new appropriations.

    “The Ending Family Homelessness Initiative uses a rapid rehousing model to enable families to move into stable permanent housing through temporary rent assistance. Funding is provided to expand this program.”

Bolstering Economic Security

The budget proposal includes the Working Families Tax Rebate, which refunds 10% of people's Earned Income Tax Credit return. More than 435,000 families would receive a rebate of up to $624 per year. Offsets increase cost of energy from the governor's climate policy and helps make the state's tax system more equitable.


*To get AREN, you must:

  • Be eligible for temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), state family assistance (SFA), or refugee cash assistance (RCA);
  • Have an emergency housing or utility need;
  • Have a good reason that you do not have enough money to pay your housing or utility costs; and
  • Have not previously received the AREN maximum limit of seven hundred fifty dollars in a 12-month period. We will count all AREN payments received in a 12-month period by any adult in your TANF assistance unit, for any assistance unit, when we calculate your AREN limit.

Edit to add Working Families Tax Rebate and changed language: 12/19/2014, 1pm



Top 10 Housing Alliance Moments of 2014 (7-6)

As 2014 draws to a close, we reflect back on the top ten Housing Alliance moments of this year. We'll present the list to you in segments. Here is Part 2, moments 7 & 6.





#7 - Gong Ceremony at the Capitol to Commemorate Statewide Homelessness.

On Thursday March 6, advocates from all over Washington sounded a gong exactly 5,043 times to recognize the 5,043 individuals found sleeping outside at night across the state during the January 2013 point-in-time count of homeless individuals across the state. The gong ringing took place in front of the capitol dome, and 19 legislators participated. We also held a press conference to draw attention to our efforts to save the Document Recording Fee/Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge Bill.

Pictured right: Rep. Jessyn Farrell (46th LD - Lake Forest Park)




#6 - Senator Patty Murray Wows the Audience at our Annual Awards Event.

We were so pleased to have Senator Patty Murray join us at Bringing Washington Home, our 5th Annual Advocacy Awards ceremony. However, we weren’t expecting her to touch on so many of our Emerging Advocates Program graduates’ stories. In her own words, “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.” Emerging Advocates Program (EAP) graduates Rebecca Snow Landa, Glenda Miller, and Susan Russell were in the audience to hear Sen. Murray reflect on their experiences. They also were there to cheer on their fellow EAP grads and evening awardees Shelby Powell, and Ellie Lambert. It was a great night celebrating the power of advocacy and our community.

Pictured below (l-r): Susan Russell, Virginia Shelby Powell (2014 Grassroots Leader of the Year), Ellie Lambert (2014 Individual Advocate of the Year), Glenda Miller, Thomas Green, and Rebecca Snow Landa.

Stay tuned as we'll be rolling out the rest of the list here at our blog as 2014 winds down.

Do you have your own housing & homelessness advocacy highlights from 2014? Share yours at our Facebook and Twitter pages.



Top 10 Housing Alliance Moments of 2014 (10-8)

As 2014 draws to a close, we reflect back on the top ten Housing Alliance moments of this year. We'll present the list to you in segments. Here first are moments 10 through 8.




#10 - Our Issues Trended on the Social Media Day of Action.

We kicked off 2014 strong with a Social Media Day of Action on January 15. From 12:00am to 11:59pm, our supporters and friends made #HHAD2014 a trending hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. The day of action helped us more than DOUBLE our reach and bring attention to our 2014 affordable housing and homelessness legislative priorities.



#9 - SEA...HAWKS!!!

Housing Alliance staff had a front row seat for the Super Bowl Champions Parade that took place in downtown Seattle on February 5. Although, it took awhile for our beloved Seahawks to pass our offices on 4th & Union. Once they did, we greeted them with loud cheers, blue & green confetti, and of course, Skittles! You can see our complete set of photos from the celebration here.



#8 - 2014 Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day Breaks Records.

Every year, Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day sets the tone for the upcoming legislative session and is one of our state’s largest advocacy gatherings. At Advocacy Day 2014 on January 28, our first-ever photo booth sponsored by Seattle-based advocacy organization Firesteel was a hit. In another first, at least 1 out of every 5 Advocacy Day attendees was a nonprofit board member. Registration for Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day 2015 is now open! You can register here.

Photo courtesy of Firesteel.

Stay tuned as we'll be rolling out the rest of the list here at our blog as 2014 winds down.

Do you have your own housing & homelessness advocacy highlights from 2014? Share yours at our Facebook and Twitter pages.




Rachael Myers, Executive Director

Today, people all over the world are participating in #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back.

In Housing Alliance land, we’re celebrating Gratitude Tuesday, since we recently released our 2013-14 Gratitude Report.

If you haven’t yet taken a look, please do. In it, we reflect on the progress we've made together over the last year to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home. 

And if you participate in Giving Tuesday today, please consider supporting the Housing Alliance. 

This year, we protected funding that will keep 32,000 people from becoming homeless. 

Next year, we'll continue the fight to end homelessness and ensure a home for everyone in Washington. We have ambitious goals that we can only achieve with support from you.

We'll continue to advocate so that children can live in a stable home and have the opportunity to succeed in school and in life. 

We'll continue to educate because hardworking people should not have to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table. 

And we'll continue to organize our statewide movement because it’s only fair that everyone has a safe place to live.

But we can only continue with your financial support. You can make your Giving Tuesday gift to the Housing Alliance quickly and easily here.

Thank you for being a part of our community.

"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:



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.


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