Just a week into my AmeriCorps VISTA term with the Coalition last September, I was lucky enough to sit in on SKCCH’s 2011 Youth Advocacy Summit and chat with participants about the challenges they face living without a stable home in King County. The Homeless Coalition’s Youth Advocacy Summit is a two day event for homeless and at-risk youth and young adults to identify and discuss policy issues that are most important to them. Youth learn about and practice advocacy skills by bringing identified issues before City of Seattle and King County officials. I found last year’s Summit to be informative and inspiring – for both the youth and the elected officials involved. Youth were able to voice their opinions on issues from the need for more low-income friendly transportation to the lack of public toilets and lockers. Their top 5 priorities were the following:
- Housing/Services for Unaccompanied Minors
- Career Development
- Public Storage and Lockers
- Service Stewardship
More details here: 2011 Youth Summit Participant Priorities
This year’s Youth and Young Adult Advocacy Summit is less than 3 weeks away: September 10 and 11. Through presentations by guests speakers like Nancy Amidei (Civic Engagement Project), members of the Seattle Human Services Coalition, and staff from the Mockingbird Society, youth participants will learn about how Seattle and King County governments set policies and budgets and how their voices can make a difference in policy decisions that affect their day to day lives. Over two days participants will work to identify issues that they care about, prepare presentations, and then meet with elected officials to bring their voices to bear on policy decision-making around the issues they care about that are affected by City and County budgeting decisions.
Members of SKCCH’s Youth & Young Adults Committee (made up of area social service and housing providers) designed this year’s annual Youth Advocacy Summit to be a meaningful entry into civic engagement for young people who have already experienced disenfranchisement. SKCCH works to make sure that the people who are directly affected by public policies are part of dialogue, debate, and decision-making. The Youth Summit is an exciting and important way to do just that:
- Engage young people in expressing their opinions, identifying priorities, and speaking up powerfully
- Inform local decision-makers who often don’t hear from youth or people who are homeless or struggling to stay housed
- Support active and informed participation in democracy to make sure that Everyone Counts
Our 2012 Youth Advocacy Summit will be held on September 10th and 11th and will include youth from across King County who have personally experienced homelessness. Questions about the 2012 Youth Summit? Contact Melissa King, co-chair of SKCCH’s Youth and Young Adult Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be Cool! Project Cool for Back to School 2012 Buttons
After months of preparation, we are celebrating the smooth and successful distribution of 1,204 Project Cool backpacks to homeless children across King County. This August, more than 150 awesome volunteers gathered together over 4 days in the basement of the Columbia City Church of Hope to prepare school supplies and then fill and distribute backpacks for homeless students ages 3 to 18. You guys ROCK! Last Tuesday, Project Cool backpacks went out to 14 different Coalition member agencies to support the education of the children they serve in their various homeless housing programs (including emergency shelter and transitional housing).
We know the need is great. In the 2010-2011 school year, 4,423 students (pre-k through high school) were identified as homeless in King County school districts; 26,049 students across all Washington State schools. This was a 19% increase from the previous year and a 55% increase from 2006-2007 (for more information visit http://schoolhousewa.org/). A new backpack filled with the tools students need tells kids that they belong and gives parents one less financial burden to bear.
Backpacks may be out the door, but the work to support the education of homeless students does not stop here. Seattle Public School starts in just a couple weeks on September 5. The instability of homelessness makes stability in school that much more important for children. Luckily, homeless students have several educational rights under an important federal law – the McKinney Vento Education Act –, which helps advocates and families keep children in school even if they don’t have the right paperwork to enroll or their address changes every 60 days. The Coalition’s August 22 “Helping Homeless Students: McKinney Vento 101” training will prepare school personnel and service providers to help homeless students stay in school.
Eric joined us on August 11 with the RBUCC Youth Group. Filling hundreds of backpacks with school supplies can be tiring work!
None of this work could be possible without the support of the hundreds of individuals who hosted donation drives, donated personally, and volunteered to help prepare backpacks. Project Cool is a volunteer driven project – coordinated by an AmeriCorps VISTA and supported by people like you: concerned community members, local businesses, and Coalition members. A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who came out on August 2, 4, 11, and 14 to help prepare Project Cool backpacks – we welcomed the passionate help of many community members including several old hats and Project Cool newbies like the Redmond Beach UCC Youth Group and members of local non-profit young professionals group, Ascend. THANK YOU!
During our General Membership meeting yesterday, Kate Speltz did an amazing job walking our members through the Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) proposed changes to the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act as it relates to the Interim Continuum of Care (CoC) rule. If you think this topic sounds esoteric, than you’re right. This stuff is really complicated, but it’s also THE legislation that regulates significant funding for homeless prevention, housing, and services federally and at the state level through competitive grants. The National Alliance to End Homelessness has done an admirable job summarizing the proposed changes and Kate pulled out the parts of the CoC rule which services providers and organizations who serve the homeless would be most impacted by.
The proposed CoC rule will go into effect on August 30th and individuals and organizations are encouraged to submit comments to HUD before October 1, 2012. Kate is interested in receiving comments from providers and organizations which will help to inform the Seattle-King County response to the proposal, however she encourages all concerned individuals to comment directly to HUD. Here are two areas in the proposal that Kate thinks service providers and homeless and housing advocates might like to comment on:
- McKinney Vento allowable funding. The current proposal specifically identifies which services can be paid for with McKinney funding. You are encouraged to review that list for services that you believe are important. Interpretation services, for example, are not currently included in the list. We know that many housing and homeless service organizations rely heavily on interpretive services when assessing, screening and serving homeless individuals.
- This proposal also requires states to setup and use a centralized or coordinated assessment system for all people entering the homeless assistance system by the end of 2014. It isn’t completely clear what it means to coordinate assessment, but the deadline is set. You might want to comment on the approach and/or the time frame.
If you want to send your comments to King County email them to: DCHS@kingcounty.gov
Send comments directly to HUD through the Federal Regulations website.