Autistic Insights from the Justice Leadership Program

I have been working as an intern at the Coalition as part of the Justice Leadership Program (JLP) since September. My other work in the program is to support the social justice outreach of the congregation of Prospect United Church of Christ. In the past 9 months in that role I’ve been to many church meetings, organized forums on nonpartisan ballot initiatives and homelessness, discussed morality with my representatives in Washington DC during Ecumenical Advocacy Days, and most recently – gave a sermon about existing authentically in church and society as an autistic agnostic queer human.

I preface every conversation I have about the program by explaining that I did not join the program because of the church aspect of it – the intentional community aspect and the opportunity to work for an organization like the Coalition are what appealed to me initially. The pulpit was not where I expected to be but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to talk to my congregation about some aspects of the autistic experience.

My supervisors here at the Coalition asked me to highlight a few key points from my sermon that pertain most to the people involved in our work. Early on in my sermon I defined autism, I specifically defined it in terms of differences instead of deficits because autism isn’t an inherently bad thing

Autism is a developmental disability in which our brains develop differently than those of the 98% of people who aren’t on the spectrum. The different ways the autistic brain develops affects our language and communication, cognition, sensory processing, motor control, and social behaviors. 

I went on to explain that autism is disabling because our society is not designed to work for autistic peopleA lot of our problems come from the ostracization that happens when we fail to intuitively grasp and follow the unwritten social rules of our society. Our marginalization is a major contributing factor to some worrying statistics:

  • My life expectancy is 16 years shorter than that of my non-autistic peers. If I had an intellectual disability it would be 30 years shorter.
  • The leading cause of death for autistic people like me, who don’t have intellectual disabilities, is suicide – we attempt suicide at a rate 28 x that of our nonautistic peers.

When I read the studies behind those statistics I wasn’t surprised. I have a lot of friends who are also on the spectrum and all of us have chronic health problems that are influenced by stress, all of us have depression, all of us have attempted suicide at least once. It’s obvious from my lived experiences and stories that I’ve heard from others that these problems are an effect of the common view of autism/autistic traits – which is that this is the wrong way to exist. Near the end of my sermon I explain that:

It is assumed that we are broken for not communicating the way that you do and that our goal in life should be to become more like you. Autistic people like me who can pass as nonautistic are constantly working to adapt to your social expectations. I am nearly constantly evaluating my body language and behaviors in relation to the rules I have in place for social interaction in different situations. 22 years of experience has taught me that if I deviate too far from the norm people will assume I’m unintelligent, my ideas won’t be taken seriously, and I will be scorned and avoided. And I’m one of the lucky ones, because not all of us can adapt to your norms. Not all of us can pretend to be normal long enough to land or keep jobs that we’re qualified for, for police to trust that we’re not a danger, for our medical concerns to be taken seriously, or to experience acceptance that doesn’t feel like one of those TV show episodes where we’re a life lesson for the cast regulars.

I concluded with the following tips for non-autistic people who want society to be a little bit better for autistic people:

  • Recognize that your assumptions are based in your experiences and perceptions of the world and that they aren’t universal – what comes naturally to you, especially in terms of body language, eye contact and speech patterns, does not come intuitively to everyone. Things like flapping your hands or not making normative amounts of eye contact aren’t hurting anyone and should be an accepted way of being.
  • When you’re planning events or meetings, think about how accessible the environment is beyond basic mobility and sound access. We process our environment differently than you do.Try to limit loud sudden sounds, intense smells (perfumes are the easiest to avoid), and touching without asking and waiting for a response.
  • Different people have different needs, ask what those are. 
  • Acknowledge that our thoughts and opinions have as much value as anyone elses.
  • Recognize that written or typed or otherwise nonverbal types of communication are as valuable as verbal communication.
  • Give us time to gather our thoughts and respond during conversations. People think and communicate at different speeds and taking longer to get things out of our mouths or fingertips does not invalidate what we’re saying.
  • Get to know the weird people in your life. Ask us about ourselves, our struggles, and our triumphs and truly listen even if the answers you get are unexpected. 

You can read the full sermon at this link.

 

Work to Ban Source of Income Discrimination!

Right now House Bill (HB) 1633 and Senate Bill (SB) 5407 are making their way through committees in the House & Senate, if passed, these bills will ban source of income discrimination in the state of Washington!

These bills will prohibit landlords from refusing to rent to an applicant and from evicting tenants based on the source of income of an otherwise eligible applicant or tenant. This will protect people who use social security, child support, SSI, Section 8, & HEN to pay their rent. Hear from Section 8 Tenants who faced discrimination based on their source of income in the video below and click here to read more about this victory in Renton.

HB 1633 had public hearing in the House Committee on February 7th and it is scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on February 16th!

Your legislators need to hear from you TODAY and every day until we pass these bills! Here’s how to take action:

Click here to use the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance bill tracker to track the progress of bills that affect housing & homelessness!

 

Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Express Bus for Feb. 2!

Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day 2017 is Thursday February 2nd!
Ride down to Olympia in style on the Coalition’s Advocacy Express! We’ll have 70 seats total on two buses and priority registration for the bus is offered to Coalition members, staff, and clients/guests/members.

Our voices are needed in Olympia now like never before! This is a “long” session year – the session officially started on Monday, January 9, and is scheduled to run through April (though very likely there will be at least one special session after). We want to have as many Coalition members and participants as possible sharing their real experiences with lawmakers in Olympia at HHAD.

To sign up for a spot on the bus for you and others, email your contact info and group size to denise@homelessinfo.org or call (206)-204-8350 by Wednesday, January 25th!

Seats fill up fast! Priority is given to staff of Coalition member organizations and individuals with personal experiences of homelessness.

2017 advocacy express advertizing photo

Click here for a PDF poster to share.

Attending HHAD is a great opportunity for folks who have never been to Olympia before to join. We’ll share advocacy tips and what to expect on the bus, and the beginning of the day is full of workshops that can help people prepare. This will be a powerful experience whether it is your first advocacy day or if you’ve been too many times to count. Coalition staff, and friendly folks at HHAD will help make everyone’s experience as fantastic as possible!

Make sure to also register for Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day at www.wliha.org/HHAD

 

Continue Support of the White Center Shelter

As we head into a holiday that for many people is synonymous with home and family, let’s turn our attention to White Center. The former public health clinic stands empty, and King County, which owns the building, had hoped to open a shelter in that space on November 1st for 70 people. Three weeks later the shelter has not been opened. That means that 70 people have been outside when they could have been inside for 21 days. In the language of shelter providers, that means 1,470 empty bed-nights. Community members have every right to be notified, to have their questions answered, and to be assured that the shelter will be well run. But not opening the doors to an empty building when there are not only thousands of people homeless does not seem to fit our community’s ideals. We wrote a letter to our community partners in White Center, and we invite you to write your own, using our postcard template, or your own words.

Thanks to King County elected officials and staff, as well as community volunteers and our member organizations for your determination to see the people behind the numbers, and to respond with urgency. We strongly support efforts to increase safe shelter and affordable housing across this region. This is a very good time for all of us to think about how we can help answer the question: how can we bring more people inside, and help them secure a home?

Take Action! Support the Proposed Bellevue Shelter!

The City of Bellevue and King County are working in partnership with Congregations for the Homeless and Imagine Housing to create a permanent men’s shelter which would include 100 emergency beds, a day center and cafeteria, as well as 50 units of permanent housing. We fully support the proposed shelter, but not all community members do. Read this Seattle Times article for more information about the proposed shelter and discussions it has sparked. We encourage you to express your support to the City of Bellevue and King County!

Monday, Nov. 28th at 6pm at Bellevue City Hall (450 110th Ave NE, Bellevue): The Bellevue City Council will receive an update on the proposed shelter and permanent supportive housing project at an extended study session. The meeting will begin with a 30-minute period for oral comments to the council. We encourage you to show up to this meeting and publicly express your support!

If you can’t show up on the 28th, send advocacy postcards to the Bellevue City Council and King County Council (note that you need to put it in an envelope to send, it’s too big to be mailed on it’s own)! (Click here for a pdf of the postcard). Or email your comments directly to the Bellevue City Council at eastsidemensshelter@bellevuewa.gov or to key King County Councilmembers Claudia Balducci (claudia.balducci@kingcounty.gov) and Reagan Dunn (reagan.dunn@kingcounty.gov).

For more information on the shelter including facts on homelessness in Bellevue, community outreach efforts and FAQs, visit the city’s webpage here.

Recap: General Meeting on the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Task Force Recommendations – October 20th, 2016

The Coalition’s October general meeting occurred on Thursday, October 20th. In attendance were folks from the Transit Riders Union, Washington State Department of Health, King County Public Health Department Health Care for the Homeless, the Low Income Housing Institute, First Place, City of Seattle, Plymouth Housing Group, REACH, King County Metro, Crisis Clinic, The Salvation Army, Jewish Family Services, Seattle Public Library, Child Care Resources, the Housing Development Consortium, Seattle Department of Transportation, El Centro de la Raza, St. James Cathedral, and the Church of Harm Reduction.  Thanks to everyone who attended! 

Here is a brief recap of the meeting:


I: Voting Updates and Resources:

II: Heroin and Prescription Opiate Task Force Recommendations:
[Link to the full report on the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force recommendations.] 

We were joined by Patricia Sully of the Public Defender AssociationVocal-WA and Chloe Gale of REACH, for a discussion of the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Task Force recommendations. The recommendations by the task force fall into three categories: Primary Prevention, Treatment Expansion & Enhancement, and User Health & Overdose Prevention. Patricia and Chloe focused primarily on the User Health & Overdose Prevention recommendations and the Treatment Expansion recommendations.

The two recommendations in the Health and Overdose Prevention section were to expand the distribution of naloxone and to establish at least two Community Health Engagement Locations/Supervised Consumption Sites. Naloxone is a drug that blocks the effects of opiates, thereby reversing opiate overdose. Click here for more information about naloxone and here for information on how to recognise an overdose. Supervised consumption sites are public health facilities that offer a safe, hygienic place where people can use their own drugs under medical supervision. These sites reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis-C by providing sterile equipment and safe disposal for used needles, prevent deaths caused by overdose, decrease public drug use and drug-equipment litter, and provide access to health and social services. The task force specifically recommended consumption sites as opposed to injection sites because broader guidelines allow drug users to move away from injection to safer methods of drug consumption. For more information on supervised consumption sites visit the Yes to SCS facebook page. Click here for information on the effects of supervised consumption sites in other cities

The Treatment Expansion and Enhancement recommendations are to increase access to buprenorphine and remove barriers to treatment. Buprenorphine is a medication that can be prescribed to treat opioid addiction, unlike similar medications each dosage does not have to be administered by a medical professional which makes it more accessible. Click here for more information on buprenorphine. Recommendations for reducing barriers to treatment included developing on demand treatment for all types of substance use disorder treatment services and removing certain restrictions that opioid treatment programs have. 

III: Coalition Updates:

  • Budget Process: We are asking that the City of Seattle City Council fully fund human services and  prioritize harm reduction and housing first. Here are some sample messages to email to all 9 Seattle City Councilmembers today
    • Establish an $11M fund to offset the cost of implementing Seattle’s minimum wage without cutting services
    • Restore State of Emergency funding for CCS’ Lazarus Day Center, serving homeless women and men over 50
    • Restore State of Emergency funding for skilled psychiatric outreach to people with mental illness who are homeless through DESC’s HOST program
    • Bring People Inside NOW: Implement the city’s Emergency Preparedness plan, and create 1000 more homes for people who are homeless or extremely low income
  • We thank Coalition members like Stephanie Endres, who are writing open letters and otherwise engaging in community dialogue about homelessness. Find her open letter to White Center folks about the proposed shelter here.
  • Take action: show up to council meetings; email and call your Seattle City Council and King County Council members about increasing human services and stopping sweeps; talk to your friends and neighbors; dispel misinformation about homeless people, sweeps, and what is happening politically around these issues! It is nearing the one year anniversary of the declaration of the State of Emergency (November 2nd), and there are 28 community centers in King County that are empty overnight. We need to hold the city accountable to use all available resources to bring people inside!

IV: Transit Updates:

Save the Date:

Important Voting Dates: 

  • Wednesday, October 26: Ballots received by 10/26: If you or a guest/client/participant has not received their voting ballot, call King County Elections: 206-296-VOTE (8683) Visit blog.homelesinfo.org for signs to post & more information.
  • Monday, October 31: In-person voter registration deadline for NEW Washington State Voters (never registered before) – more information here.
  • Tuesday, November 8: Election Day – Ballots must be in ballot drop-box by 8pm, or postmarked by 5pm on November 8!

Upcoming Events:

  • Saturday, October 29 11am – 12:30pm: Create Change – Using Art to Address Homelessness for Youth & Families – Seattle Public Library Event: Central Library, 1000 4th Ave. Facebook event here.
  • Tuesday, November 1, 5:00 to 8:30 pm: Día de los Muertos Exhibit Opening Event at El Centro De La Raza. More information here.
  • Thursday, November 17, 9:00 to 11:00 AM: General Membership Meeting at E. Cherry YWCA, 2820 E. Cherry St.

Sound Transit Proposition 1: Mass Transit Now!

The November 8th election is rapidly approaching and we at the Coalition are excited about one measure that you’ll find at the end of your ballot. Sound Transit (A Regional Transit Authority) Proposition No. 1 will be the very last thing on the ballot and we encourage you to vote yes! 

In the past the Coalition has worked on other transit issues, including the ORCA LIFT fare and the Move Seattle transit measure. We care about affordable transit because it allows low-income individuals to access opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t, it helps people survive and increases their ability to thrive in our community. mtn_economic_commuters1200x627

Here are reasons why the Coalition is excited about Proposition 1:

  • Proposition 1 invests more than $20 million in affordable housing, and requires 80% of surplus land to be prioritized for building affordable housing.
  • Mass transit built as part of this proposition will serve more than 36,000 current units of subsidized housing.  As more affordable housing is built along the line, more people will be served by transit.
  • It will increase access to jobs and education for low-income, working and middle class families by providing an affordable transportation option with shorter commute times.
  • It will provide reliable public transportation for seniors and people with disabilities which will allow for more independence.
  • Mass transit will reduce air and carbon pollution, which disproportionately impacts people of color.

mtn_economic_incomebracket1200x627-1

Voting yes on Sound Transit Proposition 1 will increase equity in our community by increasing opportunities for low-income and middle class individuals. This is the most cost effective way to expand transit and help people get where they need to go!

For more information on Proposition 1 visit masstransitnow.com and for updates on the campaign find them on facebook.

If you’re passionate about this issue and would like to volunteer with the Mass Transit Now! campaign you can sign up to doorbell, call voters, go to community events, do data entry or other important work here!

We’re on board, are you? im-on-board

Accessing Coordinated Entry for All at King County 2-1-1

At last week’s Coalition on Homelessness General Membership Meeting, Coalition members were joined by Danielle Winslow from All Home who discussed with us the Coordinated Entry for All (CEA) program, which is run by King County. The goal of CEA is to connect individuals experiencing homelessness to housing in the most efficient way. It does this by using a standardized assessment tool to matches the right level of services and housing resources to the individuals seeking these resources. To learn more about the basics of the program and where Regional Access Points are located, visit www.kingcounty.gov/cea.

To schedule an appointment for a CEA assessment, people need to call King County 2-1-1 to set up an appointment for an assessment. 2-1-1 is currently experiencing high volumes of calls and appointments are filling fast. Alex Williams with King County 2-1-1 sent us some tips, information, and realistic expectations that people should have when calling 2-1-1 to access CEA.

CEA Access and Information at King County 2-1-1 as of September, 2016 

General Information on 2-1-1

  • King County 2-1-1 is open to receive calls Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. CEA assessment appointments are made on Wednesday mornings.
  • Dialing 2-1-1 on a cell phone will connect you to the 2-1-1 that serves the area where your phone is based. You can also call King County 2-1-1 directly by dialing (206) 461-3200 or toll-free at (800) 621-4636. If your cell phone connects you to another 2-1-1 contact center in Washington state, they can transfer your call to King County 2-1-1 if you are calling during our hours of operation.
  • Specialists at King County 2-1-1 can assist callers in English and Spanish. To use an interpreter for other languages, push ‘5’ when prompted after calling 2-1-1. This option will connect you to a Specialist who speaks English. When the Specialist comes on the line, simply say the language you speak and the Specialist will put you on a brief hold as they make a call to bring a language interpreter on the line.
  • Call volume has been high over the past few months, and wait times have often been long. When prompted by the hold message on the 2-1-1 line, callers can push ‘1’ to activate the call-back option, after which the caller will be instructed to enter their 10-digit phone number, stay on the phone to confirm the number entered is correct, then they can disconnect and the phone system will automatically call them back when a 2-1-1 Specialist becomes available.
  • Calls and system callbacks that are still in the queue when 2-1-1 closes at 6pm will be disconnected.

Calling 2-1-1 to schedule an assessment appointment for Coordinated Entry for All (CEA):

  •  Specialists at 2-1-1 will always assess for CEA eligibility for callers who are seeking housing resources, and will assess for both safety and CEA eligibility when callers are seeking emergency or domestic violence housing resources.
  • CEA program information and eligibility is provided to anyone who calls who is currently eligible for CEA, as well as to anyone who is at risk of homelessness, and anyone who asks about the CEA program.
  • Callers can ask for a CEA intake assessment appointment by name, but 2-1-1 Specialists will also be able to identify that a caller is asking about CEA when they indicate that they’re calling for a housing appointment; they were told to call 2-1-1 for an appointment; they need a housing assessment, etc.
  • All callers getting information about CEA will be read the program eligibility verbatim. Program details and eligibility can also be sent to callers by email.
  •  A limited number of CEA appointments is made available each Wednesday morning for 2-1-1 to schedule for eligible callers. The appointments are filled quickly.
  • Since the number of appointments is limited and 2-1-1 receives many calls for CEA, there is no guarantee that there will be an appointment available for someone when they call, even if they call on Wednesday morning.
  • If no CEA appointment is available at the time someone calls to schedule one, Specialists at 2-1-1 will provide CEA program and eligibility information and let eligible callers know when to call back to try to schedule an appointment. They will also explore additional housing and other needed resources that are available.

For more detailed information on CEA visit this link.
You can also click here for more information about King Count 2-1-1 and to view their lists of resources online.