Two opportunities to make sure the voices of our homeless and low income community are heard: Tent Cities & Transportation in Seattle.

Share your thoughts and input about Transportation Levy to MOVE SEATTLE!

Last week, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray introduced Move Seattle, his ten-year transportation vision that integrates our plans for transit, walking, biking, and freight.  We encourage you to check out the information on the proposal, take this online survey, and attend one of three community conversations to share your input.

  • Saturday, March 28, 10am – 12pm at New Holly Gathering Hall: 7054 32nd Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118
  • Monday, March 30, 6pm – 8pm at Roosevelt High School: 1410 NE 66th St, Seattle, WA 98115
  • Tuesday, March 31, 6pm – 8pm at West Seattle High School: 3000 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116

Read all about the proposed levy and stay up to date here.


Seattle City Council to vote on Homeless Tent City Ordinance on Monday, March 30. 

A zoning ordinance to permit transitional tent cities for individuals experiencing homelessness on Seattle City-owned or private property was recently passed out of the Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee and will come to vote by the Full Seattle City Council this Monday, March 30 at 2.00 p.m. (This proposal is based on Councilmember Nick Licata’s original legislation from two years ago, which we helped develop, and has been reworked  by Mayor Ed Murray as a result of the recommendations of the Unsheltered Homelessness Task Force this year.)

The Coalition supports safety for people who are homeless outside, including organized tent cities, and calls on all members of the Seattle City Council to vote yes and pass the proposed ordinance.  Along with our members, we will be present at the City Council meeting to share our collective voice on this important issue. We will also remind City Council members that they must work with Mayor Murray to ensure that he keeps his commitment to increase the capacity of our city’s indoor shelter network by at least 150 year-round indoor beds, using city-owned property.

Read proposed legislation here.  (We support the proposed amendments to permit organized tent cities on college and university campuses, and to include all appropriate potential sites, including residential areas).

Please join us on Monday, March 30 at 2pm: Seattle City Hall (600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104).  Attend if you can, or e-mail ALL nine City Councilmembers to let them know what you think.  Emails for councilmembers can be found here.

 

Who says “we can’t build our way out of homelessness”?

Rachael Myers - WLIHA Headshot

Rachael Myers, Executive Director, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance

Guest blog post by Rachael Myers, Executive Director, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.

We frequently hear the phrase “we can’t build our way out of homelessness.” It’s a talking point that people often use when advocating for important strategies like safe places for homeless folks to camp or rapid rehousing programs. Everyone is making the same, valuable point – given our current resources, we need to address the problem using all the tools we have available.

I know we all agree on that point so let’s start saying that directly. “We can’t build our way out of homelessness” doesn’t accurately convey what we mean and is in fact harmful to our efforts to generate more resources to expand housing for people experiencing homelessness.

A few thoughts about why this is a problem:

The statement assumes that there is a resistance or ignorance among federal, state, and local policy makers regarding housing people experiencing homelessness in ways other than building housing. In fact federal, state, and local policy makers have for years recognized and invested in other methods of getting people housed like Section 8 vouchers, state and local vouchers, or other rapid rehousing efforts.

It is harmful because it singles out one valuable approach to housing people experiencing homelessness as ineffective. If we can’t build our way out of the problem why should we invest in the Housing Trust Fund or tax ourselves for our local housing levy?

The fact is given enough resources we can build our way out of the problem. We could potentially also voucher our way out of the problem, again with enough resources, enough landlords willing to accept people experiencing homelessness, and supportive services for those who need that level of help. We need to do both, and more.

Again, the point we all agree on is that we need to use all the tools we have to make homelessness rare, and when it does happen brief. In January, volunteers with the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness found a 21% increase in people surviving outdoors. In King County there are only 15 affordable homes available for every 100 extremely low-income household. And across the state last year, there were more than 32,000 homeless school kids.

There’s little doubt that we must do everything we can – including building housing  – to solve this crisis. I hope we can all agree to banish this phrase from our talking points!

Coalition Support helps the Homeless Student Stability Act stay Alive!

Katara Jordan of Columbia Legal Services shared the following message with supporters of the Homeless Student Stability Act (HB 1682), which is alive and well (currently scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education at 8am, Thursday, March 19).  She especially wanted to thank Coalition members for their great support, calls, and postcard signing which was critical to keeping this bill alive and moving.  

Keep calling in and letting your legislators know that our state needs better support for students experiencing homelessness and this is possible with the Homeless Student Stability Act! Visit our bill tracker for most up to date info.


Friends,

Friday, February 27 was critical in the fight to increase state support for homeless students. That morning, it appeared that the Homeless Student Stability Act would not receive a hearing in either the House or Senate budget committees. The 27th was the last day for bills to pass out of state fiscal committees. And generally bills must receive a public hearing before they are allowed to do so.

Your effort calling your Representatives helped us secure a public hearing in Appropriations on the Homeless Student Stability Act —a necessary step to increase state support for homeless students. You were genuinely instrumental in securing a hearing for this bill! THANK YOU!

 

We have even more exciting to news to share! On March 6, the House overwhelmingly passed HB 1682 (the Homeless Student Stability Act) in a vote of 82-16! Representatives Fey, Stambaugh, and Magendanz all gave great speeches on the importance of supporting homeless students and their families!

This bill would provide increased in-school support for homeless students as well as create new housing partnerships between school districts and community organizations. With this bill, we could not just shelter hundreds of families and children across the state – we could house them. The bill also requires, for the first time, that school districts across the state begin to identify unaccompanied homeless youth. While schools are already encouraged to do so, many simply report “0” unaccompanied homeless students. Columbia Legal Services, a non-profit legal organization backing the Homeless Student Stability Act, estimates that there are approximately 4,400 unaccompanied youth in our schools, more than 2,000 more than are actually identified.

That said, HB 1682 heads back to the Senate!

To keep this bill moving, your voice and action is needed to make sure HB 1682 becomes law. Please call to ask the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education to give HB 1682 a hearing.

Simply call 1-800-562-6000 and leave this message for the operator:

“The Homeless Student Stability Act will result in short and long term savings, as well as better educational, health, and life outcomes for students and their families. Please support this important issue.” 

After you leave a message for your legislators, if you really want to go the extra advocacy mile, you can also directly call members of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education to give them the same message. The Senators labeled with two asterisks after their phone number are the most critical.

Education:

  • Senator Steve Litzow (360-786-7641)**
  • Senator Andy Hill (360-786-7672)**
  • Senator Bruce Dammeier (360 786-7648)**
  • Senator Rosemary McAuliffe (360- 786-7600)
  • Senator Andy Billig (360-786-7604)
  • Senator Joe Fain (360-786-7692)
  • Senator Mark Mullet (360-786-7608)
  • Senator Ann Rivers (360-786-7634)
  • Senator Christine Rolfes (360-786-7644) Senator Rolfes has been a huge champion. Please consider thanking her for her support

Best,

Katara Jordan, Staff Attorney, Columbia Legal Services, Children & Youth Project

katara.jordan@columbialegal.org | www.columbialegal.org
Connect with CYP: Website | Twitter |Schoolhouse Washington

Sign up for Columbia Legal Services newsletters and updates.

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.

2015-01-30-ONCtentunderfreewayramp.jpg

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.