Reflections on a rousing 2015 Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day!

2015 advocacy express advertizing photo On February 17, 2015, 650 of our closest friends and allies from all across the state of Washington gathered in Olympia at Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day to speak up for affordable housing and an end to homelessness.

Driven by an enthusiastic and cheerful bus driver, we headed to Olympia at 7:15 a.m. with 30 Coalition members and friends –  service providers, clients, residents, guests, and others. For some, it was their first time to Olympia and an introduction to advocacy in action. Others were veterans of HHAD. Everyone on the Advocacy Express bus was rearin’ and ready to make a difference, and that they did!

The Coalition’s Advocacy Express bus rolled up right on time to the morning activities, and found inspiration from the first of many speakers that day. Housing Alliance staff, State legislators, and superstar Real Change vendor Pam Russell all spoke how POWERFUL we housing advocates are when we speak up and act together. It’s because of our collective action and advocacy that the Document Recording Fee bill came back from the dead last session, remember!

Our rally at the Capitol steps was a sight to be seen (and heard!). We were inspired by the voices around us. People who have experienced homelessness personally, service providers, representatives from advocacy organizations, students, community members, and people from all walks of life from all over the state were represented as we chanted from the steps through the buildings of the Capitol:

“When they say ‘cutback’ we say fightback!”
“Get up, get down, there’s a housing crisis in this town.”

We were a sea of 650 people wearing red scarves, red shirts, red hats, and many people wore our One Night Count ‘3772’ and Student Homelessness ‘32,494’ buttons. Even as folks dispersed into their legislative district groups, we were unified and unmistakable throughout the halls of the Capitol. Each button and scarf quietly communicated a strong message of solidarity and the importance of these issues.

In addition to the work we do to recruit and transport folks to HHAD, we at the Coalition have the distinct pleasure of also delivering over 1,100 One Night Count advocacy postcards to legislators who represent parts of King County. Hillary and I had great conversations with many Legislative Assistants, some Legislators, and plenty of the helpful staff at the Capitol.

There’s enough energy, passion,and community at HHAD to recharge and reignite our commitment and resolve to take action and make change. Thank you to each and every person who participated! HHAD is but one day a year – and a great day at that – and the other 364 days are just as important. Whatever the method, make sure your legislators hear from you, and hear from you often. Every call, email, letter, and in-person visit throughout the year is what builds and sustains the momentum we need to make positive change in our communities and across our state for people who are homeless and unstably housed.

HHAD 2015 Bus ride home

Thanks for all you do to speak up!

– Hillary and Rebecca

No Shelter: Counting the Homeless in Seattle by Mary Anne Mercer

We are all in the Huffington Post, thanks to a superb essay by Mary Anne Mercer. She writes about homelessness and inequality, and how tragedy becomes normalized. To every One Night Count Team Captain and volunteer who makes guests welcome, and keeps our community’s count safe, respectful, and accurate ~ thank you. 

No Shelter: Counting the Homeless in Seattle (originally published 02/04/2015)

It was three AM. I was walking down a street in one of Seattle’s toniest neighborhoods with my 25-year-old daughter and another young woman. We were part of Seattle/King County’s One Night Count of the homeless, a massive effort to document the number of “unsheltered” persons on a random winter night, after the shelters had closed their doors.

2015-01-30-volunteersONC.jpg

Photo by C.B. Bell

It was my first time, but fortunately my companions were veterans of working with homeless populations. We spent the next two hours covering specified streets and alleys, peering behind trash cans and into parked cars, doorways and little park-like spaces. The effort, a project of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, was carried out by nearly 1100 volunteers who spent a few early morning hours documenting the men, women and children who had no indoor shelter.

It was a clear, cool January night. We strolled past glittering display windows for the many new condominiums and apartment buildings in the area — brightly lit, elegant showrooms with upscale décor and expensive furniture, plush sofas and carpets. As we moved past a low wall lined with manicured shrubbery, I glanced at a long mound covered by black plastic, nestled under the greenery. The three of us stopped, and suddenly I heard the faint sounds of a popular song. I jumped, and looked over at my daughter, who nodded knowingly. Yes, there was someone under that makeshift shelter, and they were doing what many young people do to lull themselves to sleep after a stressful day — playing music.

We walked a few steps farther, and she said in a low voice, “That counts as a structure, and there are usually two in that kind of space.”

I reached for my clipboard and made two tally marks under “structure, gender unknown.”

We were assigned to a neighborhood with modest numbers of homeless, and by the end of the night we had tallied just a dozen sleeping outside. The entire count, however, revealed 3,772 King County residents without shelter that night — in cars, tents, doorways, parks and under bridges. Additional people were in shelters or in transitional housing. In all, there were nearly 10,000 souls who were without homes on a chilly January night in and around Seattle, a city of 650,000 people.

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Photo by Nathan Tain

 

That tally exceeded last year’s by 21 percent, and yet is an underestimate. Many homeless take great pains to be invisible to passersby, and it is impossible to cover every space where people might sleep in the county.

Most people can’t remember a time when the homeless weren’t an ever-present part of living in a city. But homelessness is, after all, about extreme poverty. It’s also about ever-rising inequality, the dramatic reduction over the past few decades of American jobs that pay a living wage, paired with millions of home foreclosures that were part of the 2008 economic crisis. For homeless single men and women, substance addiction and mental illness are key causes as well. These factors all combined to create a country where an estimated 1.6 to 3.5 million people, as much as 1 percent of the total population, are homeless at some time during a given year. Many of these homeless are employed, but working part time at service and other low-wage jobs that don’t pay enough to cover the expense of housing.

We get a deeper understanding of the pain of homelessness by looking at the individuals who endure it. An estimated 1.5 million American children are homeless at some time during the year. As many as half of the children who “age out” of foster care at age 18 end up living on the streets. Up to 40 percent of homeless adults are military veterans. Most are subject to open discrimination, and many to violence on the streets, with little recourse to protection from the police. Encampments of the homeless are regularly disbanded and forced to move on to other locations, where they are equally unwelcome.

We are a country that not only tolerates this ongoing tragedy, but has come to expect it.

After we finished counting in our assigned blocks that night, the three of us went back to the organizational center for a massive breakfast of eggs, bacon and fried potatoes. Relishing the savory meal, I caught myself saying to my daughter, “I’m glad it didn’t rain — we didn’t bring an umbrella.” I realized I had already detached, distanced myself from the people we had counted, returning to thoughts of my own comfort during our two hours on the streets. Is this how it happens? I wondered. A moment of empathy, quickly eclipsed by personal everyday concerns.

Seattle is fortunate that our mayor Ed Murray is committed to spending more resources to address the immediate problem of homelessness, but we can all be doing something to help. Volunteering with local organizations that support basic services for the least fortunate is a useful activity that can also remind us of the many social problems that poverty and homelessness produce.

But solace for the symptoms won’t cure the problem. If we are to address the conditions that bring about homelessness, Americans need to understand the repercussions of our dramatically rising economic inequality. Learning more can provide both motivation and a means of action. A resource that documents a dizzying array of the causes and effects of US inequality, as well as current approaches to addressing them, is Inequality.org.

Public policy produced the current crisis, and public policy can change it. The growing power of corporate America has led to legislation that protects the wealth of the 1 percent while keeping wages stagnant. In 2010 the Supreme Court determined that that US corporations have the rights of people – even while real human beings don’t have access to one of the most basic human rights, shelter. There’s a lot wrong with that. Unless we find ways to address our worsening inequality, we’ll keep counting those thousands of men, women and children living on our streets and in our alleys, well into the future.

Youth & Young Adults Committee 12/9 recap: Survival Sex Workshop

PSKS LogoLast Tuesday about 50 community members gathered at the Coalition’s Youth & Young Adults Committee (YYAC) monthly meeting to share in a powerful workshop about Survival Sex facilitated Queer Youth Community Organizing Interns TJ Petrik and Jackie Sandberg from PSKS.  (These two participated in the YYAC’s Youth Advocacy Summit this year, and it was great to reconnect!) As a topic that is very prevalent in the lives of many in our community, but not discussed as much as it should be, it was good to share this conversation with service providers, case workers, advocates, and more so everybody could get tips for how to share important information with those they work with.

Some highlighted tips for service providers:
Find full list of tips from TJ and Jackie here

  • Survival Sex can loosely be defined as “needs-based sexual activity” and is often traded for assurance of safety, a place to stay, money, protection, and drugs among other reasons.
  • Needs based sexual activities are very complex and personal, and are especially prevalent among homeless youth and LGBTQ youth.
  • Service providers can and should provide information and resources about sex work while being sensitive to those they are serving.
  • Many people may not be open about sharing so it is important to make sure everyone knows that resources are available by using space in your facility to educate people via fliers, events, and non-derogatory language. It was suggested by many in the room that one approach for intake workers and service providers to share information would be by asking: “Would you or anyone you know like information about resources for those involved in survival sex.”  Asking questions such as this allow space for individuals to access resources without having to disclose personal information.
  • When working with a young person who’s engaged in needs-based sex work, it’s important to discuss risk reduction. For example: If the young person works alone, then discuss what having a buddy system could look like, and what the ups and downs of that would be.

List of Important Resources and Organizations from TJ and Jackie:

These are important conversations to have and we are glad that so many organizations were represented at the meeting to take this information back to their spaces and spread the conversation widely.  If you have any questions or would like to look into the possibility of having a Survival Sex workshop at your organization or continue to be part of the growing educational movement, please email Hillary@homelessinfo.org.

Thanks to everyone who came out and especially thanks to Jackie and TJ for leading such a dynamic and important discussion!

We hope to see you at the January Youth & Young Adults Committee Meeting: Tuesday January 13, 2015, 10:00-11:30 a.m. @ All Pilgrims Christian Church: 509 10th Ave E, Seattle, 98102 (note temporary location change for Jan). 

Severe Weather Shelter in King County

Updated Severe Weather Shelter locations around King County can be found below. Please note that other Winter Shelters are also opened nightly and Severe Weather Shelters (listed below) are usually open when the weather is below freezing.  Please visit the Crisis Clinic Resource Talk Shelter page to see the most updated list of Winter Shelters around the county as well as information about Severe Weather Shelters.

This post will be frequently updated with the most recent information. If you know of new or updated information please contact hillary[at]homelessinfo[dot]org. _________________________________________________________________________

SEVERE WEATHER SHELTERS - Updated 1/5/2014

Please share information about severe weather shelters with your clients and the community.  Check back for frequent updates about openings. Information can also be found here. 

SEATTLE: Severe Weather Shelter – Print This Flyer

The emergency shelter serves men and women over the age of 18 and is operated by Salvation Army Staff. The Rainier Room at the Seattle Center is located at 305 Harrison Street just to the north of Key Arena.  This shelter is open access.  Referral forms are NOT required.

AUBURN:

Veteran’s Memorial Park 

Les Gove Overnight Shelter 

  • Location: Les Gove Multipurpose Building: 1024 Deals Way, Auburn, 98002 (between Auburn Senior Activity Center and Auburn Library)
  • Date & Time: Closed
  • Phone: (253) 876 – 1925

KENT: Kent Lutheran Church

FEDERAL WAY: New Hope Christian Fellowship

RENTON: Cold Weather Shelter

  • Location: Renton Harambee Center: 316 South 3rd St, Renton, 98057
  • Date & Time: Closed
  • Phone: 425-430-6600                                                                                                       

Severe Weather Shelters around King County UPDATED

Please share information about severe weather shelters with your clients and the community.  Check back for frequent updates about openings. Information can also be found here. 

SEATTLE Severe Weather Shelter

Location: Seattle Center Rainier Room: 305 Harrison Street (next to Key Arena)Map

Date & Time: Wednesday 11/12 & Thursday 11/13: 8:30pm to 7:00am

 Severe Weather Shelter Seattle Flyer Nov 12 & 13, 2014.

In response to forecasted low temperatures, the City of Seattle is opening Severe Weather Shelter at the Seattle Center Rainier Room on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, November 11th, 12th, & 13th.   The emergency shelter serves men and women over the age of 18 and is operated by Salvation Army Staff.  The hours of operation are 8:30pm to 7:00am.  The Rainier Room at the Seattle Center is located at 305 Harrison Street just to the north of Key Arena.  This shelter is open access.  Referral forms are NOT required.

AUBURN: Overnight Shelter confirmed open Wed 11/12 & Thurs 11/13

Until power is restored, the following Warming Centers and Shelters will be in place:

  • Overnight Severe Weather Shelter: Les Gove Multipurpose Building: 1024 Deals Way Map (between Auburn Senior Activity Center and Auburn Library)- 8 PM – 7 AM; Phone: (253) 876 – 1925
  • Warming Center: Auburn Senior Center: 808 9th Street SE – 8 AM to 9 PM
  • Warming Center: Auburn City Hall: 25 W Main Street – 8 AM to 6 PM

FEDERAL WAY: New Hope Christian Fellowship

Location: 31411 6th Ave S, Federal Way, WA, 98003 Map
Phone: (253) 269 – 6585                                                                                                  

Date & Time: 4pm-8am, open until further notice

RENTON Cold Weather Shelter

Location: Renton Harambee Center: 316 South 3rd St, Renton, 98057 Map              Phone: 425-430-6600                                                                                                       

Date & Time: Wednesday 11/12: 8:30pm – 8am

Print and share this flyer: Renton Cold Weather Shelter 11.12.2014

The City Renton is partnering with Catholic Community Services to open the Severe Weather Shelter (SWS) at Renton Harambee Center, due to dangerously low temperatures.This Severe Weather Shelter will be open TONIGHT, Wednesday November 12th. 8:30PM – check in and registration, 8AM – shelter closes, all must vacate.  All are welcome. The SWS is available for single women and men, couples, and homeless families with children who are living on the streets or in vehicles; separate sleeping spaces have been prepared for men, women, and for families with children. The SWS will be operated by Catholic Community Services staff and volunteers from the greater Renton community. All must register at the door. As with all shelters, rules for the health and safety of clients, staff and the broader community will apply. For more information please contact the City of Renton, Human Services office at 425-430-6600.