Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy Renewal and Expansion: Advocacy Needed!

For over a decade, the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy (formerly known as the Vets and Human Services Levy) has funded critical healthcare, supports, and housing for our neighbors who need them most, along with domestic violence, public health, and other services.

Executive Constantine recently transmitted a strong proposal to King County Council, expanding the levy to be 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Now we need to urge King County Council members to BUILD ON and INCREASE that proposal, and place it on the November 7, 2017 ballot. People like YOU can help make this happen!

Take Liz Werley-Prieto as an example. Liz is the Project Manager of shelter programs at DESC who spoke at the conference on June 1st. Liz eloquently addressed how the importance of funding the levy is born out through the interactions between service providers and those they serve. Read Liz’s testimony then take action using this link and information below

Read Liz’s testimony here from May 31, 2017 at King County Council:

My name is Liz and I work as the Project Manager of DESC’s shelter program, located right across the street. Since January first, the shelter program registered more than 800 homeless clients seeking shelter who had not interacted with DESC’s services before. Almost without exception, the primary need expressed by these individuals was a place to live, and as service providers we have had to set the expectation again and again that getting a home will almost certainly be a long and difficult process, or that it might not happen at all.

Being homeless has an impact on the mental and physical health of a population already disproportionately affected by disabling conditions. For those of us working in social services, the urgency of having funding at or above the level proposed by Dow Constantine for the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy is born out every day in our interactions with those we serve.

For a much larger proportion of those who live and work in King County, the need for this levy is evident in other ways. The number of people living outside is ever-growing which contributes to the creation of makeshift encampments and leads individuals to meet their needs in ways that are financially and socially costly.

Research published in 2016 found a 44% reduction in days spent hospitalized among housed individuals as compared to the homeless, and an inpatient hospital stay in Washington State costs about $2,900 per day. The levy at hand attempts to serve veterans, older people, and others, such as the homeless, in a way that anticipates their housing and behavioral health needs rather than paying for emergency interventions when they are inevitably required. It does not increase spending on these supports, it has in fact saved $7 million since 2012 by reducing emergency medical and criminal justice involvement.

The $54 per year for the average homeowner that the levy would cost at the proposed level is money that will lead to a higher quality of life for all residents of King County, and most dramatically for individuals impacted by severe mental illness or complicated medical conditions. I urge you to support the levy at least the twelve cents per thousand dollars rate being proposed.

Now we ask that you TAKE ACTION:

Autistic Insights from the Justice Leadership Program

I have been working as an intern at the Coalition as part of the Justice Leadership Program (JLP) since September. My other work in the program is to support the social justice outreach of the congregation of Prospect United Church of Christ. In the past 9 months in that role I’ve been to many church meetings, organized forums on nonpartisan ballot initiatives and homelessness, discussed morality with my representatives in Washington DC during Ecumenical Advocacy Days, and most recently – gave a sermon about existing authentically in church and society as an autistic agnostic queer human.

I preface every conversation I have about the program by explaining that I did not join the program because of the church aspect of it – the intentional community aspect and the opportunity to work for an organization like the Coalition are what appealed to me initially. The pulpit was not where I expected to be but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to talk to my congregation about some aspects of the autistic experience.

My supervisors here at the Coalition asked me to highlight a few key points from my sermon that pertain most to the people involved in our work. Early on in my sermon I defined autism, I specifically defined it in terms of differences instead of deficits because autism isn’t an inherently bad thing

Autism is a developmental disability in which our brains develop differently than those of the 98% of people who aren’t on the spectrum. The different ways the autistic brain develops affects our language and communication, cognition, sensory processing, motor control, and social behaviors. 

I went on to explain that autism is disabling because our society is not designed to work for autistic peopleA lot of our problems come from the ostracization that happens when we fail to intuitively grasp and follow the unwritten social rules of our society. Our marginalization is a major contributing factor to some worrying statistics:

  • My life expectancy is 16 years shorter than that of my non-autistic peers. If I had an intellectual disability it would be 30 years shorter.
  • The leading cause of death for autistic people like me, who don’t have intellectual disabilities, is suicide – we attempt suicide at a rate 28 x that of our nonautistic peers.

When I read the studies behind those statistics I wasn’t surprised. I have a lot of friends who are also on the spectrum and all of us have chronic health problems that are influenced by stress, all of us have depression, all of us have attempted suicide at least once. It’s obvious from my lived experiences and stories that I’ve heard from others that these problems are an effect of the common view of autism/autistic traits – which is that this is the wrong way to exist. Near the end of my sermon I explain that:

It is assumed that we are broken for not communicating the way that you do and that our goal in life should be to become more like you. Autistic people like me who can pass as nonautistic are constantly working to adapt to your social expectations. I am nearly constantly evaluating my body language and behaviors in relation to the rules I have in place for social interaction in different situations. 22 years of experience has taught me that if I deviate too far from the norm people will assume I’m unintelligent, my ideas won’t be taken seriously, and I will be scorned and avoided. And I’m one of the lucky ones, because not all of us can adapt to your norms. Not all of us can pretend to be normal long enough to land or keep jobs that we’re qualified for, for police to trust that we’re not a danger, for our medical concerns to be taken seriously, or to experience acceptance that doesn’t feel like one of those TV show episodes where we’re a life lesson for the cast regulars.

I concluded with the following tips for non-autistic people who want society to be a little bit better for autistic people:

  • Recognize that your assumptions are based in your experiences and perceptions of the world and that they aren’t universal – what comes naturally to you, especially in terms of body language, eye contact and speech patterns, does not come intuitively to everyone. Things like flapping your hands or not making normative amounts of eye contact aren’t hurting anyone and should be an accepted way of being.
  • When you’re planning events or meetings, think about how accessible the environment is beyond basic mobility and sound access. We process our environment differently than you do.Try to limit loud sudden sounds, intense smells (perfumes are the easiest to avoid), and touching without asking and waiting for a response.
  • Different people have different needs, ask what those are. 
  • Acknowledge that our thoughts and opinions have as much value as anyone elses.
  • Recognize that written or typed or otherwise nonverbal types of communication are as valuable as verbal communication.
  • Give us time to gather our thoughts and respond during conversations. People think and communicate at different speeds and taking longer to get things out of our mouths or fingertips does not invalidate what we’re saying.
  • Get to know the weird people in your life. Ask us about ourselves, our struggles, and our triumphs and truly listen even if the answers you get are unexpected. 

You can read the full sermon at this link.

 

Work to Ban Source of Income Discrimination!

Right now House Bill (HB) 1633 and Senate Bill (SB) 5407 are making their way through committees in the House & Senate, if passed, these bills will ban source of income discrimination in the state of Washington!

These bills will prohibit landlords from refusing to rent to an applicant and from evicting tenants based on the source of income of an otherwise eligible applicant or tenant. This will protect people who use social security, child support, SSI, Section 8, & HEN to pay their rent. Hear from Section 8 Tenants who faced discrimination based on their source of income in the video below and click here to read more about this victory in Renton.

HB 1633 had public hearing in the House Committee on February 7th and it is scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on February 16th!

Your legislators need to hear from you TODAY and every day until we pass these bills! Here’s how to take action:

Click here to use the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance bill tracker to track the progress of bills that affect housing & homelessness!

 

January 2017 General Membership Meeting: Accountable WA, Legislative Advocacy

Thanks to those who joined us on Thursday, January 17 for our first General membership meeting of 2017! We had an action packed agenda complete with a call in to Olympia to start off our 2017 legislative advocacy. We were joined by community members from Catholic Community Services & Catholic Housing Services, Crisis Clinic, Friends of Youth, Housing Development Consortium, Jewish Family Services, Low Income Housing Institute, Plymouth Housing Group, REACH, Real Change, Recovery Cafe, All Home, Youth Care, and more! We heard a great presentation, called in to Olympia about legislative priorities, and signed famous Coalition Advocacy Postcards.

Please read on for a summary of our meeting & important actions YOU can take before our next General Membership Meeting on Thursday, February 16th.

Accountable WA, Kelli Smith, WA Budget & Policy Center

As we know, Washington State had one of the most inequitable tax structures in the country, we do not have an income tax and therefore rely on sales tax and property tax to fund vital programs our communities need and to raise revenue. This structure causes people with lower incomes to pay disproportionately more of their income to taxes than people in the highest income bracket.

The WA Budget and Policy Center, working with many organizations, has developed a package of legislation that would fix some of our tax problems, and make it so that people who are earning the least are not contributing the most in taxes (currently people who are in the lowest 20% income group contribute 16.8% of their income as WA state and local taxes, compared to those in the top 1% who contribute just 2.4% of their income to WA state and local taxes).

There are two main goals of Accountable WA, we encourage you to learn more at the links below and click here to view slides of this presentation.

  • Lead with equity by reducing taxes for households making $75,000 or less.
  • Generate $4 billion per biennium in new revenue for schools, other priorities from equitable sources.

Ponder This: 
Have you ever been troubled with choosing between raising property taxes to fund pubic transit, schools, or another important social program? The Accountable WA package has a measure to cap the amount of property taxes that people with household incomes under $75,000 pay: it shuts off property taxes at 2% of household income. It’s AMAZING because the same measures will apply to RENTERS!!! (As you can tell, we’re very excited about this). The gist for renters is that if your household income is under $75,000/year, you can calculate your property tax as 15% of your rent, and if that amount is above the 2% cap of your income, then you get a rebate! More than 40% of Washington homeowners and renters would benefit from this property tax safeguard credit, and then people would hopefully feel like they can vote to fund essential programs through taxes. This is definitely worth calling to your state legislators about 🙂

The proposal is strong and we encourage you to check it out here, visit www.budgetandpolicy.org and www.allinforwa.org For more information!

Legislative Session Highlights & Updates:
The 2017 Legislative Session started on Monday, January 9th. We partner with many organizations for legislative advocacy – check out some of our priority messages below, visit www.wliha.org for Housing & Homelessness priorities & stay tuned for more. Print our postcard to send these priorities to Olympia!

  • Washington Housing Opportunities Act (HB 1570) – prime sponsor: Representative Nicole Macri (43rd LD) – 
    • MAKE PERMANENT & INCREASE funding for housing & homelessness services (HB 1570). End the sunset on all fees. Provide flexibility for local communities; drop the inefficient mandate to use 45% of funds for one purpose.
  • Housing & Essential Needs (HEN), Aged, Blind, & Disabled (ABD), and SSI Facilitation
    • PROTECT elders and people with disabilities, & prevent homelessness. Help people meet their basic needs & access recovery: FULLY FUND Housing & Essential Needs (HEN), Aged, Blind, & Disabled (ABD), and SSI Facilitation. Invest $29.617M to increase the $197/mo. grant to $400 for people eligible for ABD. Invest $1.893M to fund $20/mo. transportation assistance for people eligible for HEN. End the asset limit for ABD & HEN.
  • Source of Income Discrimination – Ban it!
    • ELIMINATE barriers to housing. Ban Source of Income Discrimination so that renters who use housing subsidies and other sources of income support can find and keep homes in their communities.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
    • FULLY RESTORE the TANF grant to its 2011 level & end the asset test. This will increase support for a family of 3 to $562/mo. and allow families with children to save for necessities or a rental deposit.

Take Action this week & next: 

  • Ride the Advocacy Express to Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day on Thursday February 2nd! Want to join? Let us know by January 27th. Click here for more information.
  • Speak UP in Olympia TODAY (and every day/week throughout this legislative session)
    • Print Advocacy Postcards and share them with people you work with or in communities you are part of – mail them to the Coalition and we will bring them to Olympia in a stack of over 100 on HHAD.
    • Who are your legislators? If you don’t know, click here to find out (all the way from local to federal level). Next step: call their offices and advocate for important bills & budgets!
    • 1-800-562-6000 – Legislative Hotline in Olympia – you can call from 8am – 8pm Monday – Friday, and the kind people on the phone will take your message and give it to your representatives (you can cc the Governor as well!)
  • Homelessness Advocacy 101 workshops: click here to register today!
    • Saturday, February 4: 10:30am – 1pm at the UW School of Social Work
    • Wednesday, February 22: 6-8pm in Ballard
    • Sunday, February 26: 1pm in Bellevue
    • Sunday, March 5: 1pm in Auburn

Prep for our February 16th meeting: 
In February we will be joined by Sara Hoffman from Coordinated Entry for All to have a discussion about the system. We’ll also have a chance to talk about the new All Home Dashboards. Here’s what you can do to prep:

Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Express Bus for Feb. 2!

Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day 2017 is Thursday February 2nd!
Ride down to Olympia in style on the Coalition’s Advocacy Express! We’ll have 70 seats total on two buses and priority registration for the bus is offered to Coalition members, staff, and clients/guests/members.

Our voices are needed in Olympia now like never before! This is a “long” session year – the session officially started on Monday, January 9, and is scheduled to run through April (though very likely there will be at least one special session after). We want to have as many Coalition members and participants as possible sharing their real experiences with lawmakers in Olympia at HHAD.

To sign up for a spot on the bus for you and others, email your contact info and group size to denise@homelessinfo.org or call (206)-204-8350 by Wednesday, January 25th!

Seats fill up fast! Priority is given to staff of Coalition member organizations and individuals with personal experiences of homelessness.

2017 advocacy express advertizing photo

Click here for a PDF poster to share.

Attending HHAD is a great opportunity for folks who have never been to Olympia before to join. We’ll share advocacy tips and what to expect on the bus, and the beginning of the day is full of workshops that can help people prepare. This will be a powerful experience whether it is your first advocacy day or if you’ve been too many times to count. Coalition staff, and friendly folks at HHAD will help make everyone’s experience as fantastic as possible!

Make sure to also register for Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day at www.wliha.org/HHAD

 

Continue Support of the White Center Shelter

As we head into a holiday that for many people is synonymous with home and family, let’s turn our attention to White Center. The former public health clinic stands empty, and King County, which owns the building, had hoped to open a shelter in that space on November 1st for 70 people. Three weeks later the shelter has not been opened. That means that 70 people have been outside when they could have been inside for 21 days. In the language of shelter providers, that means 1,470 empty bed-nights. Community members have every right to be notified, to have their questions answered, and to be assured that the shelter will be well run. But not opening the doors to an empty building when there are not only thousands of people homeless does not seem to fit our community’s ideals. We wrote a letter to our community partners in White Center, and we invite you to write your own, using our postcard template, or your own words.

Thanks to King County elected officials and staff, as well as community volunteers and our member organizations for your determination to see the people behind the numbers, and to respond with urgency. We strongly support efforts to increase safe shelter and affordable housing across this region. This is a very good time for all of us to think about how we can help answer the question: how can we bring more people inside, and help them secure a home?

Take Action! Support the Proposed Bellevue Shelter!

The City of Bellevue and King County are working in partnership with Congregations for the Homeless and Imagine Housing to create a permanent men’s shelter which would include 100 emergency beds, a day center and cafeteria, as well as 50 units of permanent housing. We fully support the proposed shelter, but not all community members do. Read this Seattle Times article for more information about the proposed shelter and discussions it has sparked. We encourage you to express your support to the City of Bellevue and King County!

Monday, Nov. 28th at 6pm at Bellevue City Hall (450 110th Ave NE, Bellevue): The Bellevue City Council will receive an update on the proposed shelter and permanent supportive housing project at an extended study session. The meeting will begin with a 30-minute period for oral comments to the council. We encourage you to show up to this meeting and publicly express your support!

If you can’t show up on the 28th, send advocacy postcards to the Bellevue City Council and King County Council (note that you need to put it in an envelope to send, it’s too big to be mailed on it’s own)! (Click here for a pdf of the postcard). Or email your comments directly to the Bellevue City Council at eastsidemensshelter@bellevuewa.gov or to key King County Councilmembers Claudia Balducci (claudia.balducci@kingcounty.gov) and Reagan Dunn (reagan.dunn@kingcounty.gov).

For more information on the shelter including facts on homelessness in Bellevue, community outreach efforts and FAQs, visit the city’s webpage here.

Recap: General Meeting on the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Task Force Recommendations – October 20th, 2016

The Coalition’s October general meeting occurred on Thursday, October 20th. In attendance were folks from the Transit Riders Union, Washington State Department of Health, King County Public Health Department Health Care for the Homeless, the Low Income Housing Institute, First Place, City of Seattle, Plymouth Housing Group, REACH, King County Metro, Crisis Clinic, The Salvation Army, Jewish Family Services, Seattle Public Library, Child Care Resources, the Housing Development Consortium, Seattle Department of Transportation, El Centro de la Raza, St. James Cathedral, and the Church of Harm Reduction.  Thanks to everyone who attended! 

Here is a brief recap of the meeting:


I: Voting Updates and Resources:

II: Heroin and Prescription Opiate Task Force Recommendations:
[Link to the full report on the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force recommendations.] 

We were joined by Patricia Sully of the Public Defender AssociationVocal-WA and Chloe Gale of REACH, for a discussion of the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Task Force recommendations. The recommendations by the task force fall into three categories: Primary Prevention, Treatment Expansion & Enhancement, and User Health & Overdose Prevention. Patricia and Chloe focused primarily on the User Health & Overdose Prevention recommendations and the Treatment Expansion recommendations.

The two recommendations in the Health and Overdose Prevention section were to expand the distribution of naloxone and to establish at least two Community Health Engagement Locations/Supervised Consumption Sites. Naloxone is a drug that blocks the effects of opiates, thereby reversing opiate overdose. Click here for more information about naloxone and here for information on how to recognise an overdose. Supervised consumption sites are public health facilities that offer a safe, hygienic place where people can use their own drugs under medical supervision. These sites reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis-C by providing sterile equipment and safe disposal for used needles, prevent deaths caused by overdose, decrease public drug use and drug-equipment litter, and provide access to health and social services. The task force specifically recommended consumption sites as opposed to injection sites because broader guidelines allow drug users to move away from injection to safer methods of drug consumption. For more information on supervised consumption sites visit the Yes to SCS facebook page. Click here for information on the effects of supervised consumption sites in other cities

The Treatment Expansion and Enhancement recommendations are to increase access to buprenorphine and remove barriers to treatment. Buprenorphine is a medication that can be prescribed to treat opioid addiction, unlike similar medications each dosage does not have to be administered by a medical professional which makes it more accessible. Click here for more information on buprenorphine. Recommendations for reducing barriers to treatment included developing on demand treatment for all types of substance use disorder treatment services and removing certain restrictions that opioid treatment programs have. 

III: Coalition Updates:

  • Budget Process: We are asking that the City of Seattle City Council fully fund human services and  prioritize harm reduction and housing first. Here are some sample messages to email to all 9 Seattle City Councilmembers today
    • Establish an $11M fund to offset the cost of implementing Seattle’s minimum wage without cutting services
    • Restore State of Emergency funding for CCS’ Lazarus Day Center, serving homeless women and men over 50
    • Restore State of Emergency funding for skilled psychiatric outreach to people with mental illness who are homeless through DESC’s HOST program
    • Bring People Inside NOW: Implement the city’s Emergency Preparedness plan, and create 1000 more homes for people who are homeless or extremely low income
  • We thank Coalition members like Stephanie Endres, who are writing open letters and otherwise engaging in community dialogue about homelessness. Find her open letter to White Center folks about the proposed shelter here.
  • Take action: show up to council meetings; email and call your Seattle City Council and King County Council members about increasing human services and stopping sweeps; talk to your friends and neighbors; dispel misinformation about homeless people, sweeps, and what is happening politically around these issues! It is nearing the one year anniversary of the declaration of the State of Emergency (November 2nd), and there are 28 community centers in King County that are empty overnight. We need to hold the city accountable to use all available resources to bring people inside!

IV: Transit Updates:

Save the Date:

Important Voting Dates: 

  • Wednesday, October 26: Ballots received by 10/26: If you or a guest/client/participant has not received their voting ballot, call King County Elections: 206-296-VOTE (8683) Visit blog.homelesinfo.org for signs to post & more information.
  • Monday, October 31: In-person voter registration deadline for NEW Washington State Voters (never registered before) – more information here.
  • Tuesday, November 8: Election Day – Ballots must be in ballot drop-box by 8pm, or postmarked by 5pm on November 8!

Upcoming Events:

  • Saturday, October 29 11am – 12:30pm: Create Change – Using Art to Address Homelessness for Youth & Families – Seattle Public Library Event: Central Library, 1000 4th Ave. Facebook event here.
  • Tuesday, November 1, 5:00 to 8:30 pm: Día de los Muertos Exhibit Opening Event at El Centro De La Raza. More information here.
  • Thursday, November 17, 9:00 to 11:00 AM: General Membership Meeting at E. Cherry YWCA, 2820 E. Cherry St.