Progress: Winter Shelters extended in Bellevue & Seattle!

Many good people and organizations have worked very hard to add or extend safe overnight shelter.  Special appreciation to the staff at the City of Seattle Human Services Department; the King County Community Services Division; the Bellevue Human Services Department; and providers and advocates at the YWCA, The Salvation Army, Congregations for the Homeless; The Sophia Way; and WHEEL.

  • The King County-funded Winter Shelter (50 men) located at the King County Administration Building will be extended through June 30, 2014, with extended hours beginning on April 16th.
  • The Winter Shelter located at the YWCA Angeline’s (40-45 women) will stay open every night in 2014. The shelter will now serve women nightly through the spring and summer.
  • Winter shelters on the Eastside have been extended, through a combination of private contributions, support from the United Way and the Crisis Response of the Committee to End Homelessness, and help from the city of Bellevue.
  • The WHEEL Women’s shelter, currently hosted at Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle, has been invited to stay through April 18. WHEEL is working to secure funding to find a new location for spring, summer, and fall, and expects to keep shelter open nightly during this process.
  • Please click here to send a thank you e-mail to King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray for extending winter shelter past the April close date, providing 40-45 women and 50 men each night with safe places to find rest.

And – remember how we added funds for emergency shelter for families with children during the Seattle budget process last fall?  Following a fast RFP, the staff at Mary’s Place is preparing to shelter up to 80 people (25-30 families) at a new shelter ~ doors will be open by May 1, if not before.

$15 Minimum Wage – A Shared Commitment

Last November, voters in SeaTac approved increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making national news and inspiring vigorous public conversations about wages, affordability, and income inequality in coffee shops and town halls, on buses, and around water coolers across our region.   Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant have been working hard on this issue, and the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee is scheduled to release recommendations at the end of April.  The Coalition on Homelessness has been a part of the conversation about the opportunities and complexities of raising the minimum wage as a member of the Seattle Human Services Coalition (SHSC), a coalition of direct service providers and advocacy groups (see background materials below).  We’ll be taking up this conversation at our April 17 General Membership meeting with Tony Lee, from Poverty Action, and other special guests.  Please join us to discuss the practical, political, and policy issues related to raising the minimum wage for all workers, including human services and housing providers. As usual, we meet on the third Thursday from 9-11 a.m. at the E. Cherry St. YWCA (2820 E. Cherry St.) in Seattle.

Background:

In late March, SHSC, together with Working Washington, SEIU 925, and Kids First Seattle issued a joint press release affirming their clear commitment to a $15 minimum wage because it “lifts workers out of poverty, boosts the economy, and strengthens people’s abilities to meet their basic human needs.” These labor and human services groups noted:

“The current citywide conversation about income inequality and the minimum wage should not be used to pit one low income group against another, because we know that those who work in poverty-wage jobs and those who receive human services can be the very same people. Thousands of low-wage workers can’t feed themselves without help from food banks, and can’t possibly afford early childhood education for their children without public support. And at $9.32 an hour, a housing crisis is never more than a paycheck away.”

The Seattle Human Services Coalition laid out five key points in an  ”Issues Advisory on $15 Minimum Wage and Impact for Human Services.” Here is an excerpt from the Executive Summary:

The Seattle Human Services Coalition recognizes the importance of a livable minimum wage in addressing poverty in our community. SHSC fully supports raising the minimum wage for all human services workers (and others) to $15/hr.

We are also acutely aware that this call for raising the minimum wage must be done in such a way that does not result in a decrease in urgently needed services; any solution must take into account the impact on the vulnerable people we serve.

We call upon elected leaders and other stakeholders to take all five of these actions:

      • Include non-profit human service employees in any recommended increases to the minimum wage.
      • Ensure that wage standards and city contract requirements do not lead to a reduction of needed human services.
      • Increase local investments in pay equity, including human services employees.
      • Move the discussion beyond an hourly wage to examine the broader issue of income inequality in our region.
      • Set a base wage that does not include other forms of compensation.

 

We did it: We have a Low Income Metro Fare!

This historic policy win will help tens of thousands of people get on the bus.

When we started organizing for a low income Metro fare back in 2012, as the loss of the Ride Free Area loomeMetro Busd, Alison thought it would take years before  our work came to fruition.  But on Monday, the King County Council voted unanimously to  implement a reduced Metro fare of $1.50* for people living on low incomes.  King County residents all the way up to 200% of the federal poverty line will be eligible - meaning that nearly a quarter of the people in our community will be better able to access the bus. (*This proposal can be made even better if voters turn out to pass Proposition 1 on April 22, when voters can ‘buy down’ the fare to $1.25 as part of a revenue package that will prevent 17% bus service cuts.)

This is a big win! If you filled out a postcard, played our “Metro Mad Libs,” called and e-mailed, or turned out to public meetings, you should be proud.  Together we have moved our region into the forefront of public policy that connects transit to other social and economic goals.

Thank you!

Recap: Coalition’s General Meeting — February 20, 2014

What we wouldn’t give to get a couple of extra days at the end of February. Do you feel the same? It’s a good thing we’ve been posting these abbreviated meeting notes so that you can make the most out of the time you have!

Last week’s General Member Meeting was quite timely, what with the Legislative Session over half-way through and the next phase of Reduced Fare actions taking place. Be sure to catch up if you missed out, or refresh on details if you attended. Here’s what happened at the latest General Member Meeting, held on February 20, 2014.

As a reminder, the General Member Meeting takes place every third Thursday of the month from 9.00 – 11.00 a.m. at the East Cherry YWCA (2820 E. Cherry Street in Seattle). For more information, check our website’s Members’ tab for a link to the ‘Committees & Meetings’ page, or simply follow this link to take you there directly. Our next General Member Meeting is Thursday, March 20, 2014.

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2014 One Night Count Discussion: What did you think? What did you hear? What are the implications for your work? Your community?

  • Many people spoke about their 2014 One Night Count experiences:
    • Some shared that more people were awake and moving around between 2-5 a.m.. One individual noted the dissonance in counting people who are homeless amid high rises and malls. A new Team Captain from this year’s count said she took away an extra dose of compassion and humility. A first-time counter, who was able to count in his home neighborhood, noted how different it was to see people who are homeless at night than during the day, and was also surprised at the wide age range of people who were counted. A first-time Team Captain but returning counter mentioned that this year he saw more tent encampments than in years prior. A first-time Headquarter volunteer shared that student counters came back with a new outlook on their neighborhood after counting at night. In all, everyone shared the meaningfulness of their experience, and its lasting impression.
    • Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Coalition, share that this 14% increase change is significant; it’s not “in the noise.” She’s glad to report that many elected officials participated this year; this sort of showing is good for all the work we do after the Count. She encouraged us to talk in our communities about what a 14% increase means both personally and professionally, but reminded us to understand that what’s most powerful is the total number of people reported, and that number represents unmet need (because shelters are full.)

2014 Legislative Session updates w/ special presenter Ben Miksch of Washington Low Income Housing Alliance

NOTE: for more information or current status on the below bills, please check out the rest of our blog and Facebook posts, and be sure to sign up for our e-mail alerts

  • Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge (aka Document Recording Fees): Passed the House, and is now in the Senate. Contact your Senator, and ask them to support HB 2368.
  • Fair Tenant Screening Act, Part 3: Passed the House, and is now in the Senate. Contact your Senator, and ask them to support HB 2537
  • Youth Opportunities Act: Passed the House, and is now in the Senate. Contact your Senator, and ask them to support HB 1651.
  • Homeless Children Education Act: One bill started in the house and another started in the Senate. Each bill passed their respective houses and has moved to the other. Contact your legislators and tell them to support HB 2373/SB6074.
  • HED/ABD, and the Housing Trust Fund: This is the first time we haven’t started the session with cuts to HEN. While that’s a great place to start, we can do so much better. Please ask your elected officials to match the average Housing Trust Fund allocations from previous years by investing a total of $18 million this year.
  • Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP): Unfortunately, CROP did not pass through the House; it will no longer be considered this session. Rest assured, it will be back next session! Contact your legislators throughout the year to let them know the importance of CROP.

Call-in to Olympia: 1-800-562-6000

  • Oh yes, we did! Everyone took out their phones, dialed the number listed above, and dictated to the operator on the other end their simple message in support of the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge.

Update and Action on the Low Income Fare (aka Reduced Metro Fare)

NOTE: for more information or current status on Proposition 1 and the Low Income Fare, please check out the rest of our blog and Facebook posts, and be sure to sign up for our e-mail alerts

  • Please call King County Councilmember Larry Phillips @ 206-477-1004 (toll free: 800-325-6165). Message: We strongly support a reduced fare. We urge the council to “buy down” the fare to no more than $1.25.
  • Update: On Monday, the King County Council voted unanimously to implement a reduced Metro fare of $1.50* for people living on low incomes. King County residents all the way up to 200% of the federal poverty line will be eligible - meaning that nearly a quarter of the people in our community will be better able to access the bus. (*This proposal can be made even better if voters turn out to pass Proposition 1 on April 22, when voters can ‘buy down’ the fare to $1.25 as part of a revenue package that will prevent 17% bus service cuts.) 

Staff Update

  • Alison provided an update and announce the Call for Letters re: Federal Reserve Bank Project. Check out our website to learn more and sign up for alerts!

Save these dates on your calendar:

  • Legislative Session runs January 13 – March 13, 2014
  • Families w/ Children Meeting re: Rapid Rehousing – Wed, Feb 26 from 9.30-11 a.m. @ E. Cherry YWCA
  • Youth and Young Adult Committee Meeting re: DV, and spotlight on TeenFeed programs – Tues, Mar 11 from 10-11.30 a.m. @ Capitol Hill Library
  • Next General Member Meeting – Thursday, March 20 from 9-11 a.m. @ E. Cherry YWCA
  • Keep an eye out for Member Surveys in March!

We look forward to seeing you at the next General Member Meeting on Thursday, March 20, 2014! And be sure to check back here for a Recap following each meeting.

 

 

The One Night Count: A Lesson in Gratitude

Photo Credit: Joe Iano for SKCCHThis is the second in a sequence of posts spotlighting the experiences and takeaways of some of our One Night Count volunteers.

The One Night Count is a snapshot of the number of people who are homeless outside. Overnight Thursday – Friday, January 23-24, hundreds of volunteers from across King County showed up to help with the One Night Count at headquarters in Seattle, Shoreline, Bellevue, Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, White Center, the University District, and Renton. This year, in the wee morning hours from 2-5 a.m. volunteers documented 3,123 people trying to make it through a winter night outside, while shelters were full.

While volunteers share the same mission during the Count and a common vision of our community without homelessness, each volunteer has their own unique story. Keep coming back to hear more of their stories.

This moving and powerful story was written by Kahla B-K, a first-time counter who is interning at Solid Ground, and was originally posted on Solid Ground’s blog. Kahla has graciously given us permission to re-post it here for you all to read. Here are her words:

As we gathered in the wee hours of Friday, January 24 at the Compass Housing Alliance for our initial One Night Count volunteer briefing, I thanked the twinkling stars above it wasn’t raining. Over 800 of us would spread out across King County to search for and count people sleeping outside without shelter. The One Night Count (organized by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness) would be a snapshot of homelessness between the hours of 2 and 5am.

As the count began, my team and I quietly weaved our way around the streetlamp-lit areas first, peeking into parked cars and doorways. There was no one in sight. It seemed as if everyone else in the world had vanished. That feeling was probably what allowed me to peer into the dark gaps between dumpsters, or make my way into the spaces between buildings I would never, under normal circumstances, walk into at night. The mood was warm – light, like the glow from the lamps overhead. But that would change.

The cold reality
As the condensation slowly turned to frost, the warmth I had felt was replaced with a shiver. A large park was last on our map to check. We had been told before setting out that we would likely find people here; people really do come to this park to sleep. I was fearful; beyond the reach of the sentinel streetlights, the shadowed expanse behind the vine-choked fence was eerie and unnerving.

It’s one thing to think about the experience of homelessness while warm and safe in bed, but actually going to places where people without homes might sleep was entirely different. I couldn’t imagine having to decide where to sleep each night, let alone the circumstances that would lead me to believe that entering a dark park – without a flashlight – was the best option. What I felt was probably only a glimpse of the fear people experiencing homelessness deal with every day.

We found no one sleeping in the park, however – perhaps we just couldn’t see them. As we ended our search and began our walk back to our group’s meeting spot, we admitted how relieved we were to have a zero tally. That’s when we met John (name changed for privacy).

A face of homelessness
I knew immediately when I saw him that he was homeless. No one, if they could help it, would be out wearing only a thin hoodie and track pants. He threw a smile our way then politely asked us who we were with – noting the bright yellow “volunteer” stickers plastered all over our clothes. A member of our group explained what we were doing out so late at night. John paused and looked down, and then said that he, too, was without a home.

He told us his story and of the complications preventing him from getting the help he needed. All the problems he recounted wove perfectly into the pattern of homelessness – all the issues that agencies like ours are fighting to dismantle. As we talked, he shivered uncontrollably, so strongly at one point he almost lost his balance. And then, diplomatically, he asked if us if there was anything we could do to help.

My coworker and I locked eyes; no words were needed to express how we felt. We had nothing to offer at that moment. If we felt helpless, John’s feelings of utter hopelessness must have been overwhelming. Indeed, he started to sob for a moment in the crook of his arm, hiding his face so we couldn’t see. With tears still caught in the lines under his eyes, he explained his medical condition and the barriers he’s faced seeking treatment.

Clearly suffering from the cold, he said he needed to go to the hospital and asked if we could call 9-1-1, so we did. Fearful of what might have happened to him if we hadn’t been there to call for help, I was suddenly grateful for the icy phone I squeezed in my pocket. He asked us to stay with him until the ambulance arrived. He was still shaking and having trouble standing, so we walked over to the stairs behind us so he could sit. We continued to talk – about his childhood and how he got his name – named after his father’s wartime buddy. He made jokes about what it was like fighting for bathroom time in a house with four sisters.

A human connection
When the fire truck pulled up, he held out his hand to me to shake as he thanked us. He did not let go, but held my hand as he continued to talk on, not wanting us to leave. I didn’t try to pull away. How long had it been since he was able to just talk to someone – for someone to listen? How long since he was comforted by another person’s touch? No, I wouldn’t let go until he did – or until the paramedics made me, which is what happened.

We didn’t wait to see if they would take John somewhere or leave him; after touching base with our whole group, we went our separate ways. And as I drove by on my way home, John was gone. I hoped he was on his way to a warm bed.

The impact of that night lasted far longer than the cold that soaked into my bones after only three hours outside. I shivered the rest of the morning thinking about John and my experience participating in the One Night Count – my electric blanket turned all the way up. Two pairs of socks, two sweaters, a hoodie, and two pairs of pants weren’t enough to warm me – inside or out. While the experience of homelessness is impossible to understand in just a few hours’ time, I came away with a very important lesson that I keep reminding myself of: Be grateful for all that I have – not just a warm bed or a cell phone, but a loved one’s open ears and caring embrace.

If you are interested in getting involved or would like more information on the One Night Count, please visit: www.homelessinfo.org.

Recap: Coalition’s General Meeting – December 19, 2013

As we were bidding farewell to 2013, Alison and I discussed what we’d like 2014 to look like for the Coalition’s Everyone Counts blog.  One idea that we’re running with is to post a recap after every General Member Meeting. 2013 was a great year for our Coalition, and one we want to build off of in 2014. So, here to ring in this New Year with our new tradition is a Recap of December’s General Member meeting.

As a reminder, the General Member Meeting takes place every third Thursday of the month from 9.00 – 11.00 a.m. at the East Cherry YWCA (2820 E. Cherry Street in Seattle). For more information, check our website’s Members’ tab for a link to the ‘Committees & Meetings’ page, or simply follow this link to take you there directly. Our next General Member Meeting is Thursday, January 16, 2014.

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Seattle Final Budget News & Thank You to Mayor Mike McGinn

  • Our friends at the Seattle Human Services Coalition’s handout highlights our HUGE win with the City of Seattle Budget process: an additional investment of $6,891,219!
  • Out-going Mayor Mike McGinn and Jerry DeGrieck, Senior Policy Advisor to Mayor McGinn, came to receive the Coalition’s sincerest Thank You for their leadership and commitment to Seattle residents over the past four years, and also for his strong support of the Coalition’s budget recommendations this past year. Mayor McGinn shared his heartfelt thanks to the Coalition and its members for all of our advocacy, and encouraged us to keep it up.

2014 Legislative Session Preview

  • Robin Zukoski of Columbia Legal Services (CLS) provided background and an overview about the upcoming Legislative Session.
  • Ben Miksch of Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA) shared with us WLIHA’s 2014 State Legislative Agenda.
  • Carrie Dolwick of Transportation Choices Coalition shared the status of Transportation policy at the State and Local level, as well as the possibility of a low-income Metro fare.
  • Join the Coalition as we press forward on issues related to:
    • Funding affordable housing and homeless services,
    • Homeless students and youth in foster care,
    • Housing and Essential Needs,
    • Fair tenant screening practices,
    • A fairer tax system,
    • Sustainable funding for public transit, and
    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.

Coalition Staff Report

  • Rebecca Roy, Community Projects Manager, previewed the 2014 One Night Count: overnight Thursday-Friday, January 23-24, 2014 (i.e., very early in the morning on Friday, January 24 from 2 a.m. – 5 p.m.).

King County Winter Shelter Advocacy      

  • Last year, King County Executive Dow Constantine doubled the King County Winter Shelter’s capacity to provide a total of 100 beds for people who are homeless to access safe shelter and get out of the bitter cold. This year, temperatures dropped faster and much earlier than in years prior, yet the King County Winter Shelter didn’t see a correlative increase in capacity. Advocates have called, written, and petitioned, asking King County to once again double the capacity — and nothing has happened. Now, we demand that Executive Constantine respond to the need in our community just as he did last year. Please call Executive Constantine at 206.263.9600 and tell him add 50 beds to allow men who are homeless to safely sleep at the Administration Building Shelter.

Special Musical Interlude: John Shaw

  • John Shaw is a musician, activist, writer, and long-time friend of the Coalition.  He read from his newly released book, which will change how you think about the classic songs “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land.”  Lucky for us, he brought his guitar, and we shared in some good ol’ group singing.

Notes from November’s General Member Meeting

  • A full hour was devoted to Sara Robbins and Stephanie Earheart, Benefits Attorneys from Solid Ground, one-of-a-kind, in-depth presentation on the Affordable Care Act and Washington’s Health Benefits exchange. Issues covered included: transitions for current Medicaid recipients, new eligibility guidelines for Medicaid and tax subsidies and a little bit on navigating the WA Health Plan Finder. This was an incredible opportunity to get questions answered, and to better understand the sign-up process. Here’s a link to their presentation: ACA Lecture Solid Ground 11-21-13.

Save these dates on your calendar:

  • 2014 One Night Count will be overnight Thursday, Jan. 23 to Friday, Jan. 24.
    • Youth Count Activities will take place during the day on Thursday, Jan. 23
    • The Veterans Survey will take place during the day on Friday, Jan. 24.
  • Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day will be Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Register at www.wliha.org.
  • Homelessness Advocacy 101: Beyond the One Night Count Workshop will be Saturday, Feb.1, 2014 from 10 a.m. – 12 noon @ Plymouth UCC in Seattle and from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. @ Kent Lutheran Church in Kent. Register at www.homelessinfo.org.
  • Have a Heart for Kids Day will be Monday, Feb. 3, 2014
  • Youth Advocacy Day will be Friday, Feb.14, 2014. Register with the Mockingbird Society.
  • Legislative Session will be Jan.13, 2014 – Mar. 13, 2014.

We look forward to seeing you at the next General Member Meeting on Thursday, January 16, 2014! And be sure to check back here for a Recap following each meeting.