About Ally Seidel

Ally began work with the Coalition in 2011 as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. She was hired to continue work on special communication projects and events after her term of service ended in September 2012. Since April 2013, Ally works as the Development and Operations Associate at College Access Now. We thank her for her years of dedication and service to the Coalition, and we wish her well.

Bill Affecting Youth who are Displaced or Homeless Becomes Law

Governor Inslee signs 72 hour notification bill into law on February 27, 2013.

Governor Inslee signs SB 5147 into law on February 27, 2013. Photo by The Mockingbird Society.

Update to previous post on February 20, 2013: Huge Success for Youth! But there’s still work to be done!

Governor Inslee signed SB 5147, a bill concerning a 72 hour notification period for agencies to inform parents of a juvenile seeking crisis services, into law on February 27. This allows young people who leave their homes in crisis, and the shelter staff who want to help them, more time to connect and work out safe resolutions. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to correct this flaw in the law: Columbia Legal Services, The Mockingbird Society, Youthcare, Friends of Youth and youth shelter providers across the state, as well as parents, law enforcement, and legislators who realize that it’s far better to make sure youth can turn to shelter workers than to discourage them from seeking help.

We also have our eye on the Youth Opportunities Act, HB1651, as it moves through the legislature. By sealing juvenile court records to the public, except in the case of serious violent offenses or sex crimes, this bill would remove barriers for young people seeking opportunities, and keep them from paying for childhood mistakes in their adult lives. We don’t need more barriers for folks trying to get housing, please encourage your legislators to support the Youth Opportunities Act by contacting them today at 1-800-562-6000!

1,204 Homeless Children Ready for School Thanks to Project Cool

Be Cool! Project Cool for Back to School 2012 Buttons

After months of preparation, we are celebrating the smooth and successful distribution of 1,204 Project Cool backpacks to homeless children across King County. This August, more than 150 awesome volunteers gathered together over 4 days in the basement of the Columbia City Church of Hope to prepare school supplies and then fill and distribute backpacks for homeless students ages 3 to 18. You guys ROCK! Last Tuesday, Project Cool backpacks went out to 14 different Coalition member agencies to support the education of the children they serve in their various homeless housing programs (including emergency shelter and transitional housing).

We know the need is great. In the 2010-2011 school year, 4,423 students (pre-k through high school) were identified as homeless in King County school districts; 26,049 students across all Washington State schools. This was a 19% increase from the previous year and a 55% increase from 2006-2007 (for more information visit http://schoolhousewa.org/). A new backpack filled with the tools students need tells kids that they belong and gives parents one less financial burden to bear.

Backpacks may be out the door, but the work to support the education of homeless students does not stop here. Seattle Public School starts in just a couple weeks on September 5. The instability of homelessness makes stability in school that much more important for children. Luckily, homeless students have several educational rights under an important federal law – the McKinney Vento Education Act –, which helps advocates and families keep children in school even if they don’t have the right paperwork to enroll or their address changes every 60 days. The Coalition’s August 22 “Helping Homeless Students: McKinney Vento 101” training will prepare school personnel and service providers to help homeless students stay in school.

Eric joined us on August 11 with the RBUCC Youth Group. Filling hundreds of backpacks with school supplies can be tiring work!

None of this work could be possible without the support of the hundreds of individuals who hosted donation drives, donated personally, and volunteered to help prepare backpacks. Project Cool is a volunteer driven project – coordinated by an AmeriCorps VISTA and supported by people like you: concerned community members, local businesses, and Coalition members. A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who came out on August 2, 4, 11, and 14 to help prepare Project Cool backpacks – we welcomed the passionate help of many community members including several old hats and Project Cool newbies like the Redmond Beach UCC Youth Group and members of local non-profit young professionals group, Ascend. THANK YOU!

Homelessness is Hard for Kids

Project Cool Donate Here poster

Project Cool Donate Here poster

Friday morning, Kathleen called me from the road: “Hi Ally, I’m about 5 minutes away. Do you have a cart that we could use to unload the supplies? I don’t think we can carry it all in a single trip.” Last Friday, Kathleen Cromp, member and Sunday school teacher at the University Unitarian Church and Executive Director of local nonprofit Wallingford Community Senior Center, dropped by the SKCCH office with the back seat of her car filled to the roof with school supplies for Project Cool for Back to School.

The numerous boxes and bags of supplies Kathleen had brought to donate was a result of her work with a Sunday school class of 2nd and 3rd graders at the University Unitarian Church. This spring the class discussed issues of homelessness in our community and after weeks of discussion the kids wanted to take action and do something to help. The class partnered with Project Cool for Back to School and hosted a supply drive at the University Unitarian Church to collect school supplies, toothbrushes, and toothpaste for homeless students across King County starting school in September. The students worked hard to bring in donations for Project Cool by making collection boxes, designing and hanging posters (like the one pictured here) to solicit donations, sending out emails to church members, and speaking about their supply drive in front of the entire congregation during Sunday church service!

These kids are right, homelessness is hard for kids. School can be an important source of stability for a child, especially when life outside of school is confusing and unpredictable. Just getting to school for a child staying at a shelter across town can be a nearly insurmountable challenge. Making sure children have the tools for success in school is a simple but important step in helping a homeless student fit in, learn, and go far.

As Kathleen and I unloaded boxes upon boxes of toothpaste, toothbrushes, folders, binders, glue sticks, crayons, paper, notebooks, pencils, and markers onto my cart last week, I was overcome by the generosity of the UUC congregation and the amazing impact that can be had when 15 youth speak up in support of equal education and opportunity for every student in our community.