Last week, Coalition staff were excited to be joined by our two fantastic scholarship recipients at the 23rd Annual Statewide Conference on Ending Homelessness. The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance put on this informative and exciting conference, this year in nearby Tacoma. We were joined by Susan and Tracy (pictured below) and spent two full days learning and connecting with people from all around the state committed to ending homelessness. I had the pleasure of getting to know both recipients both before and during the conference and their enthusiasm was contagious!
For me it was great to see how many passionate people are out there fighting to end the homeless situation, and how these groups are dealing with the changing face of homelessness today. I especially enjoyed seeing the different programs and how they work … by attending I now have found some advocacy groups that I will get involved with most definitely now. -Susan
Seattle Housing Authority recently accepted 24,000 applications for a coveted 2,000 placements on the Section 8 waiting list. Last week it announced that the 2,000 households had been chosen through a random lottery, but there’s a catch. Due to sequestration, the local housing authority also announced that it would be unable to issue vouchers to any of the selected households in the foreseeable future. This announcement comes amid news that the King County Housing Authority has suspended issuing any new vouchers to households on their waiting list as a result of sequestration. Local Section 8 wait lists are often closed for years at a time because of the overwhelming need for affordable housing in King County. In the space of a few weeks, sequestration has taken the situation from bad to worse, with 2,000 not-so-lucky households added to a wait list that for now looks indefinite.
Our partners at the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance provide a more in-depth look into the effects of sequestration on Section 8 recipients and local housing authorities here. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides an overview of the national impacts of Sequestration on Section 8 and other housing and homelessness funding sources.
Thousands of entries have already been received for the lottery to be placed on the waiting list for Housing Choice Vouchers in Seattle which opened on February 4th and will close on February 22nd. Housing Choice Vouchers, also known as Section 8 vouchers, provide a rental subsidy to low-income individuals and families that can be applied to private market-rate housing. Recipients of these vouchers can choose a rental anywhere in the city limits of Seattle within a predetermined price range. Renters then pay 30% of their income in rent, and the voucher pays the difference directly to the landlord.
The demand for vouchers is incredibly high and Seattle Housing Authority will randomly select at least 2,000 households to be entered onto the waiting list. This is the first time since 2008 that the waiting list has been opened, and the housing authority is still contacting people from that original list.
For more information about the lottery for the Section 8 waiting list visit the Seattle Housing Authority website or call their waiting list hotline at 206-239-1674. Applications are only accepted by the housing authority, don’t be fooled by scam sites which require credit card information!
The advocacy efforts of SKCCH members and allies paid off this budget season! We wrote, emailed, called, and testified about the very real needs of our homeless neighbors in Seattle. Our mobilization helped to secure over a half million dollars in additional funding for homeless services! This increased funding over the next two years will increase shelter capacity and funding for day services in the City of Seattle. These successes include additional funding for:
- Rapid Rehousing for homeless people ($200,000 in 2013/2014)
- Additional shelter services ($100,000 in 2013/2014)
- Additional women’s shelter ($50,000 in 2013/2014)
- Funding for homeless day-center services including hygiene in downtown neighborhoods ($200,000 in 2013/2014)
We want to thank the Seattle City Council for their leadership in making investments to provide for the basic needs of people who are homeless. Check out Nick Licata’s blog post about the 2013-14 City Budget to learn more.
With 2,594 people counted sleeping outside on one night in King County during the 2012 One Night Count, we know how important these services are. There is simply not enough shelter to meet the need. This increase in funding will have a real impact for our community’s most vulnerable residents, and we’re just getting started! Stay tuned for our 2013 State Legislative session priorities, and mark your calendars for Homelessness and Housing Advocacy Day on Monday, February 11, 2013.
Here at SKCCH we are passionate about providing voter registration and information for people experiencing homelessness. SKCCH interns and volunteers spent the last two weeks out in the community providing information and helping people to register. We went to shelters, day centers, and food banks and helped 70 people register to vote or update their address.
Many times we heard people say, “I can’t vote,” and in most cases we were able to respond, yes you can! Although legislation was passed in 2009 that restored voting rights to people with felony convictions, many people are still unaware of their rights. We were able to inform people that as long as they are no longer under D.O.C. supervision, their voting rights are automatically restored. This is the first presidential election since that legislation passed and people were excited to register once they heard they could!
One man came through the line to get a sandwich for lunch and we asked if he was registered to vote and he told us he was not registered because he couldn’t register to vote. We asked him why and he said that thirty years ago he had committed a felony. We then told him that he could ABSOLUTELY register to vote. At first, he was skeptical, but we explained the new law to him and told him that as long as he was no longer on parole he had the right to vote. Seeing the joy on his face once he found out he could vote was amazing. He told us that he had wanted to vote all his life but he had thought once he committed a felony his voting rights were stripped away for life. We then helped him register, and as he completed the form, his face began to light up; he realized that voting was finally becoming a reality for him and that he would have a voice. He told us as he was leaving that we had made his day and that he couldn’t wait to vote and would definitely be casting his ballot in November.
This is a perfect example of how important it is to give everyone who has the right to vote a voice in the democratic process. This story highlights why voter registration is so important and why we believe in making sure EVERY VOTER COUNTS.
A big thank you goes out to our wonderful volunteers, especially Molly Matter who went to three different sites and registered 24 people! We’d also like to thank the ACLU of Washington for their excellent voting rights restoration materials, and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance for their help with publishing our 2012 Homeless Voters’ Information Guide.
click this image to download our Homeless Voters’ Information Guide!
The Ride Free Area has been an essential service to people experiencing homelessness and living on low incomes in downtown Seattle for 39 years. When the King County Council directed Metro to eliminate the Ride Free Area, SKCCH members immediately took up the cause and advocated across the County for the implementation of a robust mitigation plan. SKCCH members contacted King County, Metro, and City of Seattle officials, testified at County Council meetings, and organized a postcard campaign to provide relevant and vital about the impact the loss of the Ride Free Area will have on people experiencing homelessness.
As a result of coordinated advocacy efforts, the City of Seattle has partnered with Solid Ground to provide a free alternative bus service in the downtown area. The two Solid Ground circulators stop at 7 Metro bus stops along a 4.5 mile route about every 30 minutes. This new route includes Harborview Medical Center and other important First Hill services which could not previously be accessed via the Ride Free Area. The circulator buses provide necessary access to downtown health and human services for people experiencing homelessness; however the days, hours, and stops are significantly reduced compared to the Ride Free Area due to funding constraints.
More information about the Solid Ground Circulator can be found at: http://www.solidground.org/Programs/Transportation/circulator/Pages/default.aspx
Do you have any feedback regarding the word from clients, staff, residents, and guests about the Circulator and the effects on people’s daily lives and health due to the loss of the Ride Free Area?
Do you have feedback related to the circulator buses you think SKCCH should know about?
If so, contact me at Kathariner@homelessinfo.org or 206-357-3144.