Project Cool 2015 is in full swing! Learn about easy ways to get involved, and mark your calendar for Volunteer Days.

This is an exciting time of year: flowers are blooming, days are longer, and Project Cool for Back-to-School is in full swing!!!

Two weeks ago a group of students from Concordia University in Portland finished off their week of service with Project Cool, sorting and counting supplies as we prepare for our summer volunteer days.  See below for more details.

Two weeks ago a group of students from Concordia University in Portland finished their week of service with Project Cool sorting and counting supplies to get ready for summer volunteer days. See below for more.

I have been waiting for Project Cool since I joined the Coalition back in September and am so excited it is finally here.  The work to make sure that students start off the school year with a new backpack and school supplies, just like their peers, is very important and further enhanced by the Understanding Homeless Students’ Educational Rights guide that each student receives.

I know that Project Cool would not be possible without the support, work, and some sweat while stuffing backpacks of our awesome Coalition supporters and volunteers and I’m looking forward to working with you this year. Ready to get involved? see how below!


Ready… Set… Go! Here are 5 ways you can get involved:

  1. Supply Drives. Now is a great time to start your own supply drive, and encourage others to do the same. You can use this Project Cool Supply Drive Flyer (with Wish List). Contact me if you’d like a tailored flyer. We hope you have fun with them, too — there are so many ways to be creative and think outside the box. For example, Northwest Honkers Baseball is set up to ask their game day patrons to donate school supplies in lieu of a gate fee during summer games.  RSVP to let me know if you can host a supply drive in the Spring or Fall. 
  2. Dental Donations. We need your help to reach out to Dentists for floss, toothbrush, and toothpaste donations. Do you have an upcoming dentist appointment, or is there a nearby dentist office in your community? Use our Dentist Letter to ask your personal or local dentist to donate supplies to Project Cool.
  3. Encourage your work, community group, bank, or faith organization to become a Project Cool Sponsor. Reach out to me to get more information.
  4. ‘Like’ Project Cool on Facebook, invite your friends to do the same, and share posts to boost our reach online. Every action makes a big impact.
  5. Mark your calendars for Volunteer Days in early July 2015.  During the first two weeks of July volunteers have fun counting, sorting, and organizing supplies to fill backpacks for distribution. We’d love your help, and we welcome groups! If you’d like to help or even arrange a group, then let me know

Thank You Students from Concordia University’s Alternative Break Leadership Experiences for an awesome day of service!

After a week of service work at Union Gospel Mission, Urban Rest Stop, and Operation Nightwatch, a group of six students and two leaders focusing on serving and and learning about homelessness, hunger, and youth poverty came to the Church of Hope to help sort donated supplies for Project Cool.  They worked with determination and we shared in conversation about their time in Seattle and what they had been learning.
New Shelves!!!Our new friends not only sorted and counted supplies, but also assembled new shelves!  If any of you have volunteered with Project Cool in the Church of Hope and seen our supply closet, you may know that it was definitely in need of shelves to help store donations.  Look how organized the space is now!  It brought smiles to Staff’s faces to see items neatly sorted.

This group of students is really special, they are going to make a difference in the world and I am fortunate we had the opportunity to work together and learn from one another.  When 1pm rolled around, our end time, the group was full into bundling and counting pencils and I said they could be done; they responded, “no”!  With determination they sorted every last pencil, a great example of knowing that their time can make a positive difference.  Thank you.  I will leave you with a few inspiring quotes that group members wrote on advocacy postcards after their hard (and extended) day’s work.

I hope to see you at volunteer days this July!

“My team and I from Concordia University have had the opportunity to spend the past week working with low income students and see that they have a huge need in so many areas that any assistance would be a huge gain.”

“I had the wonderful opportunity to help sort items with project cool. The homeless do matter!!”

“Every child deserves education and the resources they need to succeed
All people matter. We have to help each individual to transform our society into a better community”

In Support of Organized Tent Camp Ordinance by City of Seattle

The following comments, written by Alison Eisinger, Director of the Coalition on Homelessness, were shared at the Seattle City Council Meeting on Monday, March 30, 2015 in support of CB 118310, an Ordinance to permit transitional tent camps for homeless individuals as an interim use on City-owned or private property.  Hillary Coleman, Social Justice Intern at the Coalition, read Alison’s remarks as Alison was out of town at a conference.  We are glad to say that the ordinance passed unanimously!  We also supported an amendment by Councilmember Sawant to review permitting camps in residential zones which passed as well!  Thank you City Council, let’s keep working together to provide more shelter and housing options for our community. 

View testimony from many Coalition friends here.  Hillary reads Alison’s remarks at 45:40. 


Thank you for taking up Mayor Murray’s version of CM Licata’s original proposal to create more opportunities for organized tent camps in Seattle. The Coalition strongly supports passage of this proposed legislation. We also support the amendments that would address the fact that homelessness is not confined to specific neighborhoods, cities, or communities, and the solutions to homelessness — both interim and permanent — must not be restricted geographically either.
People who are without basic shelter in our community are currently living in all kinds of neighborhoods. When 1100 volunteers counted 3.772 people outside during this year’s One Night Count, they counted people in Queen Anne, Ballard, SoDo, Lake City Way, Georgetown, and Ravenna.  They also counted people in Renton, in Kent, Kirkland, ,Kenmore, Vashon Island, Bellevue, Redmond, and Des Moines.
In considering making additional city-owned property available for organized tent camps, the council should not seek to limit which neighborhoods they can occur in. Our city policy should reflect our values: people who are homeless should be living in residential neighborhoods- that is the point, isn’t it, to include and recognize people rather than literally marginalize them and make their lives more difficult.
Excluding residential neighborhoods in Seattle from consideration is an awkward and arbitrary attempt that is not supported by the evidence of more than ten years, and the personal experiences of thousands of people, both housed and homeless.  And, consider this: doing so sets a bad precedent. Seattle electeds say they want to see more, not more restrictive, demonstration of willingness to respond constructively to homelessness in municipalities across our region. What will you say to elected officials in Issaquah or Snoqualmie or Burien or Shoreline who agree to host tent cities or site shelters or services in theory, but who say that they just cannot identify suitable property that is not in a residential neighborhood?
Finally, we applaud this significant step in the right direction, even as we urge the Council and the Mayor to make good on the Mayor’s commitment following the Unsheltered Task Force to add 150 year-round shelter beds, providing indoor safety and stability. And, as we all turn attention towards renewal of the Seattle Housing Levy, let’s remember that our city has a robust responsibility to fund housing for people who are homeless.

Opening doors to the Conference on Ending Homelessness: the Coalition’s Scholarships for people who are homeless!

The air was warm and the sun was already out the morning we rolled into the Yakima Convention Center parking lot for the first day of the 2014 Conference on Ending Homelessness. Tracey with his sweet service pup, Jennifer, and I got out of my car and gave a big stretch after the two and a half hour drive from Seattle to Yakima, Washington, a beautiful drive indeed. On our drive over the mountains, we bonded over this being each of our first attending the statewide conference, and also found common ground over interest in workshops. Maybe it was the blood flowing back freely to our limbs, but we each felt a buzz and energy as we walked across the warm cement parking lot into a sea of fellow advocates and champions of housing and homelessness from around the state of Washington. We’d exchanged contact information, made check-in plans, and off we went into this new, exciting experience!

2014 Scholarship Recipient Susan speaking at 2015 Gong Ringing in Olympia

2014 Scholarship Recipient Susan speaking at 2015 Gong Ringing in Olympia

Staff from organizations who are plugged into the Coalition told Tracey, Jennifer, and Susan – our 2014 scholarship Recipients – about the conference and the Coalition’s full scholarships for people who are currently homeless. Last year, ten people applied for our two scholarships. Luckily, we were able to stretch the Coalition’s Scholarship Fund to provide two full and one partial scholarships.

 

Neatly packed into those three sentences are some important messages that I’d like to tease out:

  • People who are homeless must be involved in the conversations and work to end homelessness — that includes conferences such as this one!
  • It’s important to ensure access to opportunities like the Conference on Ending Homelessness, and in doing so, address the many barriers that prevent people from being able to participate. That’s exactly why we provide a FULL scholarship: travel, accommodations, meals, registration, supplies, and person-to-person support (as much or as little is desired).
  • Our member organizations do incredible work day in and day out to support not just their organization’s mission and the mission of the Coalition, but also the people they serve. They spread the word about the Coalition’s Scholarships and support their clients, residents, and guests by helping them apply and prepare for the conference!
  • The interest and need for these scholarships is obvious, and greater than the Coalition can currently meet.
  • Membership dues and YOUR financial support allow us to continue and grow to meet the need. Donate today to create opportunities for people who are homeless to participate in the Conference on Ending Homelessness! (Want streeeeettttcchhh your gift even farther? Maker your donation on Tuesday, May 6 during #GiveBig!)

rally on capitol building steps

After the conference, as I drove to the local Greyhound bus stop, we spoke about our experiences at the conference: our favorite presenters, the best workshop, the people we met, and how nice it was to have a big, soft bed with  ultra clean sheets.  Will you remember to send me those membership papers? I want to join the Coalition! I loved this – I learned so much, and got some business cards. That guy said he wants to help me. I hope I remember to get off the bus in Seattle — I’m so  tired!  Yes, sleepy we all were after two days of constant interaction and learning, but Tracey, Susan, and Jennifer had an energized spirit about them — they were inspired and felt a connection to the people in the room, all aiming to achieve the same mission: to see an end to homelessness in our communities.

Everything about this conference and those who attend inspires and energizes me. That is why I am excited to report that we recently put out our initial call for applicants for the 2015 Conference on Ending Homelessness, this year in Tacoma, WA! (And we already received our first applicant – hooray!) Those who apply know that this particular opportunity is important and all too rare. Whether by conference or one of the Coalition’s many other advocacy actions, together we will work collaboratively to ensure safety and survival for people who are homeless, and to end the crisis of homelessness in our region.

Join us.

 

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