Take Action on Wednesday, June 4th — Support our Walmart Workers

Our friends at Making Change at Walmart, Puget Sound Coalition  alerted us to an upcoming action to support our friends who work at Walmart. Read on for more details! 


Greetings Making Change at Walmart Community Partners, 

Thank you so much to those of you who were able to attending the recent Report Backs in Seattle and Mt. Vernon. For those of you who missed it, we had an outstanding crew of workers at both events who shared their reasons for joining associates across the U.S. in making June 4th a day of action.

We heard from Jared from the Lynwood store who recounted being forced to use dangerous chemicals to wax the floor without the legally required safety equipment. We also heard from Patty in Mt. Vernon about having to go to work with the flu because she couldn’t afford to lose a day of pay. Though workers shared their personal stories of being subjected to unsafe working conditions, low wages, lack of respect, and management retaliation, it was clear through the OUR Walmart Listening Project that what is happening here in Washington is happening around the country. These brave workers are standing up to say they’ve had enough. They are leading the way for many others who have been silenced by Walmart’s militant retaliation.

It’s time to strike! ARE YOU WITH US?

OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart will be co-hosting two actions. We will be building an 8 x 8 foot wall to visually express the ways in which Walmart has created economic inequality in our communities. Workers will be bringing personal items to add to the wall, such as medical bills and eviction notices. Feel free to bring something to add.

June 4
Mt. Vernon Walmart (2301 Freeway dr) 7:00-8:00AM
Lynnwood Walmart (1400 164th st SW) 11:00-Noon

Thank you in advance for your continued support and solidarity. It means the world to these workers to know that when they stand up for what is right, they don’t have to stand alone. Please RSVP to me, Reagan Jackson (rjackson@ufcw21.org),  so I can have a sense for how many community partners will be joining us.  

Download a copy of the flyer here: June 4th Walmart Action

Progress: Winter Shelters extended in Bellevue & Seattle!

Many good people and organizations have worked very hard to add or extend safe overnight shelter.  Special appreciation to the staff at the City of Seattle Human Services Department; the King County Community Services Division; the Bellevue Human Services Department; and providers and advocates at the YWCA, The Salvation Army, Congregations for the Homeless; The Sophia Way; and WHEEL.

  • The King County-funded Winter Shelter (50 men) located at the King County Administration Building will be extended through June 30, 2014, with extended hours beginning on April 16th.
  • The Winter Shelter located at the YWCA Angeline’s (40-45 women) will stay open every night in 2014. The shelter will now serve women nightly through the spring and summer.
  • Winter shelters on the Eastside have been extended, through a combination of private contributions, support from the United Way and the Crisis Response of the Committee to End Homelessness, and help from the city of Bellevue.
  • The WHEEL Women’s shelter, currently hosted at Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle, has been invited to stay through April 18. WHEEL is working to secure funding to find a new location for spring, summer, and fall, and expects to keep shelter open nightly during this process.
  • Please click here to send a thank you e-mail to King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray for extending winter shelter past the April close date, providing 40-45 women and 50 men each night with safe places to find rest.

And – remember how we added funds for emergency shelter for families with children during the Seattle budget process last fall?  Following a fast RFP, the staff at Mary’s Place is preparing to shelter up to 80 people (25-30 families) at a new shelter ~ doors will be open by May 1, if not before.

Project Cool 2014 is in full swing!

Project Cool Meme 2014

The cherry blossoms are blooming, the Mariner’s had their first at-home game of the season, and the sun is finally out in full force. With all these new beginnings, it’s a natural time to start Project Cool for Back-to-School, our Coalition’s beloved backpack and supply drive to support homeless students!

Learn more about Project Cool on our website, and keep reading to find out how you can get involved over the next few months to support homeless students through Project Cool.

Ready… Set… Go!

Here are 4 ways you can get involved:

  1. Supply Drives. Now is a great time to start your own donation supply drive, and encourage others to do the same. We hope you to have fun with them — there are so many ways to be creative and think outside the box. For example, Northwest Honkers Baseball will ask their game day patrons to donate school supplies in lieu of a gate fee during summer games. Use this Project Cool Supply Drive Flyer (with Wish List). Contact me if you’d like a tailored flyer.
  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 to Project Cool.
  3. Sponsorship. Encourage your work, community group, bank, or faith organization to become a Project Cool Sponsor.
  4. Facebook. ‘Like’ Project Cool on Facebook, invite your friends to do the same, and share posts to boost our reach online. Your action makes a huge difference!

And be sure to mark your calendars for Volunteer Days in early July 2014. 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 for all you do to support Project Cool students!

 

Help SAVE METRO, FIX ROADS, and make the LOW INCOME FARE more affordable…

Help SAVE METRO, FIX ROADS, and make the LOW INCOME FARE more affordable: Vote YES on Prop. 1 on April 22

With 400,000 daily rides, Metro helps keep us moving. Due to gridlock in Olympia and limited options, Metro’s facing 17% cuts to bus service, affecting 80% of today’s bus riders and putting up to 30,000 cars back on our already clogged streets. Now, it’s up to the voters of King County to keep Metro moving: we must vote YES on Proposition 1 to protect bus service and fix our roads and bridges throughout King County. In order to address the rising cost of living and transportation in our county for our lowest income neighbors, Prop. 1 will also ‘buy down’ the new Low Income Metro Fare to a more affordable rate of $1.25, and create a license-fee rebate for low income car owners. Let’s keep Metro and our community moving!

There’s plenty to do between now and April 22. Here’s how you can get involved:

  1. Endorse Prop. 1 … Whether you’re an individual, non-profit, or otherwise, you can endorse this ballot measure!
  2. Volunteer … To learn more about how you or your organization can get involved, contact Matt Taylor (206-329-2336; matt@movekingcountynow.org).
  3. Spread the word! … Information is power, so spread the ‘YES on Prop. 1’ message far and wide, using social media, e-mail lists, newsletters, etc. Here’s MoveKingCountyNow’s flyer and their comprehensive FAQ. Got questions about what to include? Contact MoveKingCountyNow (206-329-2336).
  4. Register voters … The last day to register to vote or update voter registration is Monday, March 24, 2014 (or April 14 for first-time voters who register in-person at select locations). Check voter registration status, register to vote, or download a voter registration form at http://kingcounty.gov/elections.  And remember that you don’t need a house to have a voice. Help ensure that every eligible voter can register, vote, and participate fully in the democratic process, regardless of where they sleep at night or whether they have a way to receive mail. For comprehensive information about how to help people register and vote, use and distribute the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness’ free, non-partisan *Special Edition* Voters’ Guide.

Learn more or get involved at www.MoveKingCountyNow.org

The One Night Count: A Lesson in Gratitude

Photo Credit: Joe Iano for SKCCHThis is the second in a sequence of posts spotlighting the experiences and takeaways of some of our One Night Count volunteers.

The One Night Count is a snapshot of the number of people who are homeless outside. Overnight Thursday – Friday, January 23-24, hundreds of volunteers from across King County showed up to help with the One Night Count at headquarters in Seattle, Shoreline, Bellevue, Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, White Center, the University District, and Renton. This year, in the wee morning hours from 2-5 a.m. volunteers documented 3,123 people trying to make it through a winter night outside, while shelters were full.

While volunteers share the same mission during the Count and a common vision of our community without homelessness, each volunteer has their own unique story. Keep coming back to hear more of their stories.

This moving and powerful story was written by Kahla B-K, a first-time counter who is interning at Solid Ground, and was originally posted on Solid Ground’s blog. Kahla has graciously given us permission to re-post it here for you all to read. Here are her words:

As we gathered in the wee hours of Friday, January 24 at the Compass Housing Alliance for our initial One Night Count volunteer briefing, I thanked the twinkling stars above it wasn’t raining. Over 800 of us would spread out across King County to search for and count people sleeping outside without shelter. The One Night Count (organized by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness) would be a snapshot of homelessness between the hours of 2 and 5am.

As the count began, my team and I quietly weaved our way around the streetlamp-lit areas first, peeking into parked cars and doorways. There was no one in sight. It seemed as if everyone else in the world had vanished. That feeling was probably what allowed me to peer into the dark gaps between dumpsters, or make my way into the spaces between buildings I would never, under normal circumstances, walk into at night. The mood was warm – light, like the glow from the lamps overhead. But that would change.

The cold reality
As the condensation slowly turned to frost, the warmth I had felt was replaced with a shiver. A large park was last on our map to check. We had been told before setting out that we would likely find people here; people really do come to this park to sleep. I was fearful; beyond the reach of the sentinel streetlights, the shadowed expanse behind the vine-choked fence was eerie and unnerving.

It’s one thing to think about the experience of homelessness while warm and safe in bed, but actually going to places where people without homes might sleep was entirely different. I couldn’t imagine having to decide where to sleep each night, let alone the circumstances that would lead me to believe that entering a dark park – without a flashlight – was the best option. What I felt was probably only a glimpse of the fear people experiencing homelessness deal with every day.

We found no one sleeping in the park, however – perhaps we just couldn’t see them. As we ended our search and began our walk back to our group’s meeting spot, we admitted how relieved we were to have a zero tally. That’s when we met John (name changed for privacy).

A face of homelessness
I knew immediately when I saw him that he was homeless. No one, if they could help it, would be out wearing only a thin hoodie and track pants. He threw a smile our way then politely asked us who we were with – noting the bright yellow “volunteer” stickers plastered all over our clothes. A member of our group explained what we were doing out so late at night. John paused and looked down, and then said that he, too, was without a home.

He told us his story and of the complications preventing him from getting the help he needed. All the problems he recounted wove perfectly into the pattern of homelessness – all the issues that agencies like ours are fighting to dismantle. As we talked, he shivered uncontrollably, so strongly at one point he almost lost his balance. And then, diplomatically, he asked if us if there was anything we could do to help.

My coworker and I locked eyes; no words were needed to express how we felt. We had nothing to offer at that moment. If we felt helpless, John’s feelings of utter hopelessness must have been overwhelming. Indeed, he started to sob for a moment in the crook of his arm, hiding his face so we couldn’t see. With tears still caught in the lines under his eyes, he explained his medical condition and the barriers he’s faced seeking treatment.

Clearly suffering from the cold, he said he needed to go to the hospital and asked if we could call 9-1-1, so we did. Fearful of what might have happened to him if we hadn’t been there to call for help, I was suddenly grateful for the icy phone I squeezed in my pocket. He asked us to stay with him until the ambulance arrived. He was still shaking and having trouble standing, so we walked over to the stairs behind us so he could sit. We continued to talk – about his childhood and how he got his name – named after his father’s wartime buddy. He made jokes about what it was like fighting for bathroom time in a house with four sisters.

A human connection
When the fire truck pulled up, he held out his hand to me to shake as he thanked us. He did not let go, but held my hand as he continued to talk on, not wanting us to leave. I didn’t try to pull away. How long had it been since he was able to just talk to someone – for someone to listen? How long since he was comforted by another person’s touch? No, I wouldn’t let go until he did – or until the paramedics made me, which is what happened.

We didn’t wait to see if they would take John somewhere or leave him; after touching base with our whole group, we went our separate ways. And as I drove by on my way home, John was gone. I hoped he was on his way to a warm bed.

The impact of that night lasted far longer than the cold that soaked into my bones after only three hours outside. I shivered the rest of the morning thinking about John and my experience participating in the One Night Count – my electric blanket turned all the way up. Two pairs of socks, two sweaters, a hoodie, and two pairs of pants weren’t enough to warm me – inside or out. While the experience of homelessness is impossible to understand in just a few hours’ time, I came away with a very important lesson that I keep reminding myself of: Be grateful for all that I have – not just a warm bed or a cell phone, but a loved one’s open ears and caring embrace.

If you are interested in getting involved or would like more information on the One Night Count, please visit: www.homelessinfo.org.

How the One Night Count changed my perspective.

Overnight Thursday – Friday, January 23-24, hundreds of volunteers from across King County showed up to help with the One Night Count‘s Street Count of people sleeping without shelter. They started at headquarters from Seattle to Shoreline to Bellevue, Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, White Center, the University District, and Renton. And together, over three hours, they helped us to document 3,123 people who were trying to make it through a winter night outside, while shelters were full.

While volunteers share the same mission during the Count and a common vision of our community without homelessness, each volunteer has their own unique story. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting the stories of One Night Count volunteers.

This first story is from Rebecca R., who coincidentally shares my first name and last initial! Here are her words:

I did not know what to expect going into my first One Night Count. I work with people who are homeless every day in my job at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank, but that’s different. For starters, it’s not in the middle of the night. Next, people usually come to me; I don’t seek them out, potentially invading their space and privacy. So I woke up at 1 a.m. Friday morning feeling a strange mix of excitement, nervousness and grogginess.

I requested and was placed at the Renton Headquarters. The rest of my team was made up of our Team Captain, two other counters, and me. It was wonderful to connect with other people who work in fields that are different from mine, but that all touch the same populations.

We set out right at 2 a.m., all piling into our Team Captain’s car for our first stop. We stopped at stores, parks and underpasses, always searching for sleeping forms or tents. We tried to be as quiet as possible, so we wouldn’t disturb sleeping people. None of us complained about the early hour or the cold, because how could we, when we were looking at people sleeping outside? The One Night Count really puts things into perspective, highlighting the day to day, hour to hour and minute to minute struggle of people who literally have nowhere to go. There is no place for people to sleep comfortably and safely outdoors. At best, they find an isolated spot, crawl into a sleeping bag and wake up with the sun. Worst case, people are assaulted, have their possessions stolen, or told to move on.

By 5 a.m. we had covered our assigned area and headed back to the Renton Headquarters to warm up and grab some breakfast. Our team had counted a total of 7 people, including a few people in campers and tents.

I can now see our customers who are homeless with new eyes. They are coming into the Food Bank having struggled for hours to get warm, dry and comfortable, plus get a little sleep. If they seem out of it or irritable, who wouldn’t be after that ordeal, day after day, night after night? The One Night Count is not only a count of people who are homeless in our community, it is a reminder that we cannot judge someone’s attitude, action or ability to accomplish seemingly simple tasks if they do not have a safe and warm place to sleep.

I am not saying it is feasible to immediately house everyone who is living outside. But what we can do, right now, today is to look at our homeless neighbors with new eyes. We can find it within us to smile instead of look away. Buy a hot cup of coffee for someone who looks cold. Feel compassion instead of irritation when someone asks for change. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to help with the 2014 One Night Count, and for the chance to see so many people with a new perspective. 

Rebecca, we’re grateful for you. Thank you for sharing in this work to ensure safety and survival for people who are homeless, and to see an end to homelessness in our region.

Support us in this crucial work. All gifts made through February 28th will be matched, doubling your impact.

Policy Update: The 2014 Legislative Session — Part 1

Washington State’s 2014 Legislative Session began on Monday, January 13, 2014 and will continue through its 60th and last day on Thursday, March 13, 2014. It’s a short one, Friends. And this is one of the many reasons why your voice needs to be heard in Olympia today, tomorrow, and throughout this Legislative Session.

Today marks the 22nd day of Session. That means we have 4 (four!) days to get important bills voted out of their respective policy committee by February 7.The naysayers are wrong when they tell you it’s too late, that too much has already been decided. There is still enough time and many opportunities to make a difference. Plenty of good bills need help — your help! — to get through the law-making process. In particular, here are some of those bills and messages (with hyper-linked Factsheets) that we hope you’ll stand with us in supporting:

At the Coalition’s Homelessness Advocacy 101 workshops this past Saturday, two Legislative Aides shared with us the “secret” to getting heard in Olympia: tell Legislators that you care, a simple message about why you care, and do it in a way that’s easiest for youNancy Amidei, cheerleader for democracy and our Guest Presenter at the workshops, echoed that sentiment, saying that one doesn’t have to be an expert or have a Ph.D. to be an advocate.

A simple message can make a big impact. Here are Nina, Maggie, Kathryn, and me (Rebecca) holding hundreds of to-be-delivered advocacy postcards at #HHAD2014.

A simple message can make a big impact. Here are Nina, Maggie, Kathryn, and me (Rebecca) holding hundreds of to-be-delivered advocacy postcards at #HHAD2014.

Whether you want to send an advocacy postcard, e-mail your Legislators, leave a message through the Legislative Hotline (1-800-562-6000), or head down to Olympia to meet in-person, your voice is valuable and needed. Communicate with your Legislators what you care about and why to ensure that Everyone Counts 365 days a year.