Volunteer Days are over for 2016, but you can help make back-to-school cool throughout the year!

These are Katherine’s reflections on Project Cool 2016:

Last Wednesday, a volunteer placed the final Project Cool backpack into a case manager’s van and I began to reflect on this year’s Project Cool Volunteer Days. As we transition to the next phase of Project Cool, I am able to appreciate Project’s Cool full year cycle and the breadth of people and communities the program touches. We have enjoyed each Project Cool volunteer day, and I feel lucky to have organized, packed and inventoried supplies alongside such fantastic volunteers! As we look forward to the next few months and connecting to community members through supply drives (want to host one where you work or play? Contact Hillary – hillary[at]homelessinfo[dot]org), we know that 1,417 colorful backpacks will enter the first days of school swung over the shoulders of students ranging from Pre-K to 12th grade.

Having only joined the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness a few weeks ago, I entered my first volunteer day with enthusiasm, excitement, and a bit of nervous anticipation of the amount of work to be accomplished in just a week. I could not wait to see the weeks of donation and volunteer coordination I had supported, as well as the year-long effort Hillary and Julia contributed to Project Cool, come to bloom! My expectations were surpassed and my qualms eased by the awesome volunteers that arrived with enthusiasm for each shift.

I feel hopeful for the future of the children that Project Cool serves after discussing many volunteers’ commitment to ending homelessness. Over the past week I learned more fully how raising a child can require mobilization from an entire community. Participants demonstrated how volunteering quickly builds community amongst initial strangers. Participants bonded over their passion for service to form productive, fun work teams. For many of these supporters, Project Cool has become a cherished tradition. Some volunteers even shared their experiences supporting Project Cool for up to 9 years (thank you, Hunskor family!).

Project Cool volunteers illuminated many reasons that can inspire someone to donate their time and resources. A few volunteers shared their own backgrounds experiencing Packed Backpacks for Salvation Armyhomelessness and understood firsthand the difference a Project Cool backpack can make. One mother shared with volunteers that her own children had received free school supplies while growing up and so she wanted to support other parents preparing their children for the school year.

Between rulers and notebooks, dental kits and crayons, inspiration and hope was also packed into each Project Cool backpack, and you can help fill bags for next summer’s Project Cool Days starting today! Here are five easy ways to get involved throughout the year, starting this summer and fall:

  1. Host a supply drive:
    Organizing supply drives are fun and have lots of room for creativity! You know your community best and how to most effectively to elicit donations — whether it is placing a box at your local community center or going door to door. Here is a helpful brochure on what to donate: Project Cool Supply Drive Flyer (with Wish List).
  2. Donate to Project Cool:
    Monetary donations are important and appreciated! All contributions make a significant difference in packing backpacks with the best quality school and dental supplies for students experiencing homelessness. You can donate today on our secure website and dedicate your donation to the work of Project Cool.
  3. Ask your dentist for dental donations:
    Heading to the dentist before the school year starts? Consider bringing in this Dentist Letter that asks for toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss donations.
  4. ‘Like’ Project Cool on Facebook to stay updated on Project Cool throughout the year, and invite friends and family to do the same. The more people that are connected to our social media, the easier it is to spread the word about awesome Coalition happenings!
  5. Volunteer next summer: This year’s Project Cool Volunteer Days are coming to a close but consider volunteering next summer! Stay tuned about when volunteer signups are available by receiving our Friends of Project Cool e-mails.

What’s next for the Coalition’s work in supporting homeless students? As part of our year-round advocacy, we host an annual Helping Homeless Students training for case managers, school employees, advocates, and community members to learn about homeless students’ educational rights. This training is coming up on Wednesday, August 24 at 9 a.m. at Highline High School. Registration is required, so sign up today.

Recap: Families with Children Meeting – KidsPlus Training and Coordinated Entry for All – June 22, 2016

Big thanks to all who were able to join us for last month’s Families with Children committee meeting. As always, it was great to see a room full of familiar and new faces!

We were joined by Mary Dunbar from Kids Plus (Public Health – Seattle & King County), who offered a training on working with guests to address their mental health needs. Danielle Winslow (All Home) provided timely Coordinated Entry for All updates with the group. Highlights and resources from these two folks are below:

  • A list of mental health services available for children can be found here.
    • The YMCA also operates the Children’s Crisis Outreach Response System (CCORS), which offers urgent crisis outreach as well as short-term stabilization resources to children and youth in King County, as well as their families.
    • King County Mental Health’s wraparound services offer additional supports to children to help stabilize them in the community. More information and application processes for this program can be found on the King County website.
  • Adults and folks of all ages can access mental health services at the locations listed on this document.
    • The Crisis Clinic is an excellent resource for folks to call if in need of immediate crisis help, and they also provide information about suicide warning signs and crisis intervention strategies.
    • King County Crisis and Commitment Services are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide initial outreach services to folks not already accessing outpatient care in King County as well as evaluation of people with mental disorders for possible involuntary detention in psychiatric facilities according to the mental illness law in the State of Washington.
    • Throughout King County and the state of Washington, low-cost and free clinics are available for folks to access mental and physical healthcare needs. Mary suggests looking into Consejo, Cornerstone, and Project Access Northwest as resources to learn more about mental health services for clients who don’t have insurance.

Danielle joined the committee to update the group on the latest updates to Coordinated Entry for All in King County. The latest handout for stakeholders in the community can be found here, and below are some additional updates:

  • Coordinated Entry for All now has a Systems Manager. Sara Hoffman (sara[dot]hoffman[at]kingcounty[dot]gov) can be contacted with any questions
  • With the implementation of Coordinated Entry for All and a shift away from Family Housing Connection and Youth Housing Connection comes a new website! Check it out here. (For now, folks can still access the FHC and YHC websites, but these will soon be re-directed)
  • All but the Eastside Regional Access Points for Coordinated Entry for All throughout King County have been selected by All Home (Veterans and Young Adults have additional access points):
    • North King County – Solid Ground, Meridian Center
    • Seattle – Catholic Community Services w/ YouthCare and Somali Youth and Family Club
    • Kent – YWCA
    • Federal Way – Multi-Service Center
  • Each of these Regional Access Points (RAPs) is in a different stage, but all will be ready by the end of July

Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents – ABAWDs – Food Stamp Requirements

Changes to requirements for Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents ZjQfuf0N(ABAWDs) receiving Food Stamps went into place on January 1, 2016. Sara Robbins and Katie Scott, Benefits Attorneys at Solid Ground, have kept the Coalition in the loop with requirements and exemptions to this policy, and provided resources for service providers and clients. This policy change impacts ABAWDs in Snohomish, King, and Pierce County (except for Tacoma and Lakewood). Please read below for information about the changes, and for information about how you can support your clients.

Feel free to read, review, and print handouts with information for clients, service providers, and about work requirements and time limits.

**IMPORTANT UPDATE: Individuals that are homeless and unable to work can self-report that they are homeless to DSHS. DSHS should not require any further documentation regarding homelessness. Individuals should be able to report this information to anyone at DSHS both in the Community Service Offices (CSO) and over the phone through the call center. Please contact Family Assistance at Solid Ground at (206) 694-6742 if this is not actually happening.

Here are some important highlights for service providers and clients:

  • ABAWDs who do not meet certain work requirements will only be able to receive 3 months of food stamps in any 36 month period.
  • These policy changes came into effect on January 1, 2016, meaning that the first round of ABAWDs will lose their benefits on April 1, 2016 (after the first three months of 2016).
  • Seemingly all people who receive food stamp benefits from DSHS received letters notifying them of a loss of benefits at the end of the first 3 months of 2016, regardless of their status as an ABAWD. (See an example of this letter here.) This means that:
    • Some clients who are not ABAWDs received this letter. They should call their local CSO to speak to someone in the ABAWDs unit and confirm that they will not lose their benefits because they do not meet ABAWD requirements.
    • Some clients without regular access to mail will have missed this letter. All folks receiving food stamp benefits should confirm their status of receiving food stamps as soon as possible by contacting their local CSO to declare an exemption to policy or find out if they will lose their benefits.
  • An ABAWD is defined as a person who:
    • Is age 18-49
    • Does not take care of any minor children
    • Is not pregnant and
    • Is capable of working
  • Work requirements that an ABAWD must meet to receive continued food stamps:
    • Work at least 20 hours per week, averaged monthly (80 hours/month)
    • Complete 16 volunteer hours per month at a Workfare organization
    • Participate in Basic Food Employment and Training (BFET)
    • In King and Pierce Counties, participate in Resources to Initiate Successful Employment (RISE)
    • Participate in state-approved employment or training program, such as LEP Pathway, AmeriCorps VISTA, or Refugee with Special Employment Needs (RSEN) Project
  • Exemptions in place for ABAWDs include, but are not limited to:
    • Receiving or applied for unemployment benefits
    • Student enrolled at least halftime in a recognized school
    • Unable to find work because you are homeless
    • Caring for a disabled person or a frail elder who is incapacitated
    • Participating in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program
    • Receiving a disability-based benefit (SSI, SSDI, ABD, etc.)
  • How can you, as a service provider, help your clients?
    • ABAWDs will need their work requirements or exemptions to be verified. Fax a letter with your client’s DSHS ID number directed to “ATTN: ABAWD UNIT”unit at DSHS at 1-888-338-7410. Make sure to save your fax receipt for proof of sending. If your client already has a documented exemption with DSHS, they should call their CSO 1-877-501-2233 to verify this exemption.
    • For clients requiring assistance from Solid Ground:
      • Clients can call the Solid Ground intake line at 206-694-6742. These calls are returned within 24 hours.
      • If a client does not have regular phone access, they can visit the Solid Ground office at 1501 N. 45th St., Seattle, WA 98103 (office located on the 2nd floor). Solid Ground does not have the capacity to receive all intakes in-person.
      • Katie Scott can be contacted directly through email at kscott[at]solid-ground[dot]org with questions or to report issues with the process of declaring exemptions or contacting the ABAWDs unit at DSHS.

Recap: Single Adults Advocacy Committee 11/12/15 meeting: Employment Opportunities with the Diversity Initiative

At our last Single Adults Advocacy Committee meeting, we were joined by Sarah
Rothman, Diversity Business Partner with the Northwest Center at Amazon.NWC_Logo
The Northwest Center seeks to create a pathway to employment by breaking down barriers, and Sarah works to connect people with disabilities to quality employment through the diversity initiative. Everyone who is referred to the Northwest Center will be offered an interview with Sarah to determine a best fit for them and the potential employer. After interviews, Sarah provides next-step actions for the candidate, including interview and agency feedback.
Employment opportunities through the Northwest Center often involve customer service experience, and include cashier, mailroom, food service, and reception positions, among others. More information on open positions can be found on the Northwest Center’s website.

The Northwest Center and Sarah welcome referrals from service providers. Please reach out to Sarah if you would like more information regarding the initiative programs or to refer a client!
You can reach Sarah at srothman[at]amazon[dot]com.

Thanks again, Sarah!


Member updates from the meeting:

Hayden Bass, Outreach Program Manager with the Seattle Public Library: the Seattle Public Library is seeking to connect their programs with existing community organizations. Email Hayden at hayden[dot]bass[at]spl[dot]org to learn about the Library’s current outreach or to seek expansion with your organization.

Coalition updates from the meeting:

2016 will be a  year of case manager trainings:

  • If you’re interested in participating in a small workgroup or committee for planning these 3-4 trainings, be on the lookout for applications coming out in the next couple of months.

One Night Count is kicking into gear:

  • Learn about the different ways to get involved on our website.
  • Area Leads are in the process of contacting past team captains to confirm their participation for 2016 ONC.

Take ACTION!:

  • On Tuesday, the City of Seattle Councilmembers voted unanimously to add $2.265 million to the City’s budget as a one-time allocation to address the crisis of homelessness. Thank you for your support and hard work in these efforts!
  • Please join us in THANKING all City Councilmembers via e-mail, with SPECIAL THANKS to Nick Licata for shepherding this proposal through the budget process.

Legislative season is coming up:

  • Join us at our December 17 General Membership meeting from 9-11am for our 2016 legislative preview.

Recap: Youth and Young Adults 11/10/15 meeting: Seattle Public Library Programs and Partnership Opportunties

Big thanks to Shelley Mastalerz and Summer Hayes from the Seattle Central Library’s Children’s and Teen Services for joining us at our YYAC meeting last Tuesday, November 10! At the meeting, Shelley and Summer shared with us some of the current events/opportunities that the Seattle Public Library (SPL) hosts, and some opportunities for developing community partnerships.

Every Thursday afternoon, from 3pm-5pm, the Central Library hosts a youth drop-in, put on by a partnership between the Library and New Horizons Ministries. This time was created to fill a gap in time where drop-in hours were not available at New Horizons. SPL is seeking to expand programs such as this, and we enjoyed discussing what this growth could look like. Some of the ideas from the group included advertising the resource by visiting current drop-in centers and passing on the word, creating an easily accessible resource center as part of the Teen Center, diversifying available activities, and offering incentives for youth to visit the Teen Center during Thursday drop-in times.
Shelley and Summer hope to form more community partnerships and work with youth and young adult service providers, so please reach out to them with ideas, questions, or to work towards beginning a partnership with them. Contact the Seattle Public Library’s Children’s and Teen Services with teencenter[at]spl[dot]org.

logo

Thanks again, Shelley and Summer!


Member updates from the meeting:

Trevor with Friends of Youth: Drop-in hours at Friends in Youth are changing from the previous time of 11am-2pm to a later time of 2pm-5pm.

Matthew with United Way: United Way will be housing a youth Community Resource Exchange on January 28, 2016. Programming and resources for this exchange are being developed. If you have ideas, questions or suggestions, please reach out to Matthew at mridgeway[at]uwkc[dot]org.

Coalition updates from the meeting:

2016 will be a  year of case manager trainings:

  • If you’re interested in participating in a small workgroup or committee for planning these 3-4 trainings, be on the lookout for applications coming out in the next couple of months.

One Night Count is kicking into gear:

  • Learn about the different ways to get involved on our website.
  • Area Leads are in the process of contacting past team captains to confirm their participation for 2016 ONC.

Take ACTION!:

  • On Tuesday, the City of Seattle Councilmembers voted unanimously to add $2.265 million to the City’s budget as a one-time allocation to address the crisis of homelessness. Thank you for your support and hard work in these efforts!
  • Please join us in THANKING all City Councilmembers via e-mail, with SPECIAL THANKS to Nick Licata for shepherding this proposal through the budget process.

Legislative season is coming up:

  • Join us at our December 17 General Membership meeting from 9-11am for our 2016 legislative preview.

 

Julia’s reflection on the 2015 Homeless and Formerly Homeless Youth Advocacy Summit

Six weeks into my internship with the Coalition on Homelessness, and my experiences have been above and beyond any of my expectations a month ago. Two weeks ago, I was excited to be a part of the 10th Annual Homeless and Formerly Homeless Youth Advocacy Summit (October 5-6, 2015). While doing advocacy work in Minnesota, I learned that I would constantly learn and grow by witnessing folks advocate around issues that impact their lives, and my time at the Youth Advocacy Summit proved to be no exception to this rule!

Buttons

Having just supported the Coalition’s 2015 Voter Registration drive, one of the highlights of the Summit for me was witnessing young people choosing to participate in advocacy by exercising their right to vote. Over the course of the Summit, I was particularly excited to watch people think in a different, new way about voting. On the first day of the Summit, one participant was pretty vocal in their choice to not register to vote, feeling that their vote wasn’t enough to make change. Through conversations with other Summit participants, discussions about our elected officials in city and county government, and time to reflect, this participant changed their mind and decided to register! They are ready to have their voice heard in the upcoming election, and will do so through their vote as well as their conversations with Councilmembers during and beyond the Youth Advocacy Summit.

Participants at the Youth Advocacy Summit took on no small task! I was impressed by these advocates’ commitment over two very full days (three days for Peer Leaders!) of discussing some of the hard work that needs to be done in this community. Advocates worked on and presented one of four issues throughout the Summit:

1 – Need for an increase in the numbers of available permanent and affordable housing units
2 – Issues specifically impacting People of Color and LGBTQ youth
3 – Need for increased access to low-barrier, supportive resources
4 – Street safety and public space use.

22286526835_09d42f0467_oAdvocates met with King County Executive Dow Constantine; King County Councilmembers Larry Gossett, Dave Upthegrove, Kathy Lambert, Joe McDermott, and Rod Dembowski; Seattle Mayor Ed Murray; Seattle City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant, Nick Licata, Tim Burgess, and Mike O’Brien; and senior staff from the Seattle Human Services Department to discuss their topics.

On the second day of the Summit, I was able to sit in on the meeting between the advocacy group focusing on issues impacting People of Color and LGBTQ youth and Councilmember Kshama 22124339060_7c780765bc_zSawant. Councilmember Sawant was clearly invested in the conversation, and engaged with participants through asking questions and sharing her observations. Our meeting with Councilmember Sawant was incredibly driving; at the end of our meeting she stated that the work being done that day in the office was the groundwork to making change. She asked participants to continue to speak up, and made it clear that she supports their efforts to work towards a community where all are safe and treated equitably. Councilmember Sawant reminded myself and the people that I was with that change may not happen quickly, but that it is made possible through the long efforts of folks like those meeting with her in that moment.

After the Youth Advocacy Summit, I went to my first City Council budget hearing. As a newcomer to the city, I find myself constantly learning from the locals who have experienced firsthand the impact of the City of Seattle’s budget. Several advocates from the Youth Advocacy Summit were present to speak up, as well as representatives from all over the city who care about creating a budget that adequately responds to the state of emergency in this city. Seeing folks testify for a budget that actually responds to the state of emergency, instead of taking the usual stance of “business as usual”, has helped me to understand the impact that this budget will have on the city. More than anything, these testimonies serve as a reminder to me that people need to continue to speak up! The next, and final, public budget hearing will take place TONIGHT, October 20th, at 5:30 PM (sign-in begins at 5:00!), and we need you to show up to speak up for Human Services and housing and homelessness issues. Join us, wear red to declare the state of emergency, and be ready to tell City Council that “we are in a state of emergency; we must have an equal response”.