This Guest Post was written by Katie Bilek, who serves as co-chair of the Coalition’s Single Adults Advocacy Committee. Katie works for Catholic Community Services as a Case Manager and Outreach Specialist.
I spend a good deal of time thinking, and talking, about advocacy. Always eager to learn more technical skills and gain insider tips, I jumped at the opportunity the Coalition offered me to attend the Children’s Alliance’s Leadership in Advocacy Training. Over the course of a jam-packed day, we covered strategic-thinking sessions; message framing; coalition-building; many useful technical skills; practice refining and delivering arguments ~ and even a visit from a Washington State legislator! It took me some time to reflect on the experience and let everything to sink in.
As an advocate, I have learned a lot while lobbying in D.C. (the “other” Washington) and in various State houses. Learning more information and skills was certainly helpful, but it was not what truly blew me away at the Children’s Alliance’s training. I left the room fixated on something else entirely: the advocate colleagues with me that day! The passion contained in those rooms was outrageous, and moved many to tears on multiple occasions.
I interact with passionate people regularly, at work and at the SKCCH Single Adults Advocacy Committee meetings. It is one of the things I love about my profession. Though it does take a special kind of person to devote one’s career to work for justice and equality, the genuine brand of fire I saw in many of my fellow trainees was much more unique. These folks were eager to participate and advocate for reasons that transcend the professional. They were driven not by intangible ideals, but by real things that hit much close to home; they were fighting for their life and the lives of their loved ones. Their stories were powerful and simply could not be ignored, even weeks later.
Coming back from the training, I have been focused on getting these advocacy tools to clients through my work with the Coalition and SAAC. City Hall and Olympia need to hear the voices and stories of our clients. Clients need the tools to share their stories and make their “asks” effectively. And we, advocates and providers, need to provide the access and tools, and we must stand by our clients through what can be an intimidating process.
The Coalition has an impressive history of bringing people to the table when advocating for the expansion of housing and human services throughout King County. Together, Coalition members have been able to cut through the noise of partisanship and competing interests with smart, strategic campaigns that feature real voices. For example, when Metro’s Ride Free Area in downtown Seattle was eliminated, many members of our Single Adults Committee gathered statements from guests, residents, and other community members without housing who rely on the bus system as their only form of transportation. The people I work with used the free transportation to got from home to doctor’s appointments, to travel from the shelter where they sleep to the hygiene center where they do laundry, and so on. These testimonies — given both in writing and in person at public meetings — provided essential context that ultimately altered the discussion surrounding the elimination of the Ride Free Area. Because those who were impacted most were at the table, King County and Seattle officials heard that this service was essential, and the Coalition helped persuade them to come together and find the resources to develop the free downtown Circulator. That free public transit exists only because of our passionate, combined advocacy.
There is always room for passion and advocacy! Now is the time to influence the Seattle City Budget process. Please call, email, and write letters and postcards to the nine Seattle City Councilmembers*. It is the last chance for our voices, and our clients’ voices, to be heard on a budget that will affect all of us – some much more directly than others. You may think that your story is insignificant, but I can assure you it will be enlightening to policy makers, inspiring to your peers, and an intensely empowering experience for you. Truly, advocating for yourself and your community is the most significant thing you can do.
And, hey, the Coalition and I are here to support you! Come to a Single Adults Committee meeting, and you’ll be in good company with other people who do the work, and care enough to speak up and encourage others to do the same.
*Email addresses of all 9 City Councilmembers:
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