The Importance of the Affordable Care Act for Youth & Young Adults

ACAThe deadline of March 31 for signing up for the Affordable Care Act is quickly approaching. However, if you are eligible for Medicaid, you can enroll at anytime, and do not have to meet the March 31 deadline. Our Youth & Young Adult Committee learned this, and much more from Tabitha Jensen, Executive Director of Teen Feed, who came to their meeting this morning and gave a presentation on the importance of signing up young people for the Affordable Care Act. If you are interested in learning more, you can see her presentation: Teen Feed Youth & Young Adult Healthcare Presentation.

Also, please join us for our next meeting on Tuesday, April 8 from 10-11:30am at the Capitol Hill Public Library or on any first Tuesday of the month. 

Policy Update: The 2014 Legislative Session — Part 3

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Fifty days down and ten more to go in this 60-day Legislative Session. At last we wrote, the future looked promising on key bills related to housing and homelessness. Then came our February 24th Take Action alert regarding two crucial bills that needed additional, feverish support. What followed has been a flurry of call-to-actions via Facebook posts, Coalition e-mails, and direct phone calls — anything to get movement on devastating (and incredibly unnecessary!) roadblocks in the Senate. At this point, some of our bills continue on with smooth sailing, others require heavy lifts, and others have been tabled until next session. 

Seasoned advocates, led by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA), will keep working to revive key bills until the very end of the session on March 13.  Every call each of us makes reinforces the message that ending homelessness is a priority.   

What follows are updates and Action Alerts (when applicable) for each bill we’ve been following. Please take action today; call the free State Legislative Hotline (1-800-562-6000) between the hours of 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. to leave a message for your legislators.

  • Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge (aka Document Recording Fees): Failed to pass out of Senate Committee — this bill is currently dead
    • Update: Despite bi-partisan support in the Senate, Co-Chair Sen. Jan Angel abruptly ended the Senate’s FIHI Committee meeting before the bill was to come up for a vote. For a more detailed report, check out WLIHA’s blog post. Sen. Steve Hobbs (Angel’s Co-Chair!) had this to say: “To simply do away with a primary source of funding that actually helps solve the homeless problem is ignorant at best and evil at worst.” WLIHA is pushing to find a workaround.
    • Action Alert: Call your legislators today and say, “Please make sure the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge fees do NOT “sunset”: Support ESHB 2368. Also, please help all Washington residents have opportunities for safe, healthy affordable homes: make a deeper investment in affordable housing. Neither the House nor the Senate Capital Budget invests enough in our State Housing Trust Fund.”
  • Fair Tenant Screening Act, Part 3Failed to pass out of Senate Committee — this bill is dead
    • Update: Again, Co-Chair Sen. Jan Angel refused to bring this bill to a vote in the Senate’s FIHI Committee, which effectively killed the bill for the 2014 Legislative Session. Supporters will bring it back for the 2015 Legislative Session.
  • Youth Opportunities Act: Passed out of Senate’s HSC Committee, awaits floor action in the Senate Rules Committee
    • Update: HB 1651 has passed through the House, then the Senate, and now needs to be “pulled to a floor vote” in the Senate Rules Committee by this Friday, March 7 or else it will die. Some groups have withdrawn their opposition. Still, it’s dire that we counter the opposition’s calls to Senators!
    • Action Alert: Use this link from the Children’s Alliance to send a message of support to your Senator. Please also call your Senator with this simple message: “Please ensure HB 1651 gets a vote in the Senate! The time is now; we cannot afford to wait. This bill will help prevent another 10,000 youth from having their records unnecessarily distributed over the next year!”
  • Homeless Children’s Education Act: HB 2373 is in Senate Rules Committee, SB 6074 is in House Rules Committee. 
    • Update: Both bills successfully passed through both houses, and are in their respective Rules Committee. One difference is that the Senate Budget includes funds to support the bill, but the House Budget does not.
    • Action Alert: Please call the Legislative Hotline at (800) 562-6000 to urge your Representatives to amend their Operating Budget to include the necessary funds for SB 6074.
  • Housing and Essential Needs & Aged, Blind or Disabled: No cuts
    • Update: Both the House and Senate supplemental budget proposals make no cuts to HEN and ABD. Plus, mystery bill SB 6573 has been explained. In short, it changes the definition of disability for both programs, which would result in savings that would be swept into the General Fund. (Read a more detailed report here.)
    • Action Alert: Call the Legislative Hotline at (800) 562-6000 to urge your lawmakers to “to pass SB 6573 and to reinvest its savings into HEN. Also, please use any incapacity exam savings to reinvest back into HEN and ABD.”
  • Housing Trust Fund: No budget appropriate in the Senate, low appropriation in the House.
    • Update: Advocates were surprised by the low appropriation of funds in the House’s supplemental budget, but not surprised by the Senate’s lack of appropriated in their supplemental budget. Check out WLIHA’s Budget Tracker to get the big picture differences among each proposed budget.
    • Action Alert: Call the Legislative Hotline at (800) 562-6000 to urge your lawmakers to “please help all Washington residents have opportunities for safe, healthy affordable homes: make a deeper investment in affordable housing. Neither the House nor the Senate Capital Budget invests enough in our State Housing Trust Fund.”
  • Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity: House Bill Died —  No action this session
    • The Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity did not make it out of the House (HB 2399), and did not have a companion bill in the Senate. The bill is no longer being considered this session; stay tuned for another attempt to pass CROP next session! Contact your Legislators throughout the year to let them know the importance of CROP.

Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to ensure that Everyone Counts 365 days a year. 

We did it: We have a Low Income Metro Fare!

This historic policy win will help tens of thousands of people get on the bus.

When we started organizing for a low income Metro fare back in 2012, as the loss of the Ride Free Area loomeMetro Busd, Alison thought it would take years before  our work came to fruition.  But on Monday, the King County Council voted unanimously to  implement a reduced Metro fare of $1.50* for people living on low incomes.  King County residents all the way up to 200% of the federal poverty line will be eligible - meaning that nearly a quarter of the people in our community will be better able to access the bus. (*This proposal can be made even better if voters turn out to pass Proposition 1 on April 22, when voters can ‘buy down’ the fare to $1.25 as part of a revenue package that will prevent 17% bus service cuts.)

This is a big win! If you filled out a postcard, played our “Metro Mad Libs,” called and e-mailed, or turned out to public meetings, you should be proud.  Together we have moved our region into the forefront of public policy that connects transit to other social and economic goals.

Thank you!

Recap: Coalition’s General Meeting — February 20, 2014

What we wouldn’t give to get a couple of extra days at the end of February. Do you feel the same? It’s a good thing we’ve been posting these abbreviated meeting notes so that you can make the most out of the time you have!

Last week’s General Member Meeting was quite timely, what with the Legislative Session over half-way through and the next phase of Reduced Fare actions taking place. Be sure to catch up if you missed out, or refresh on details if you attended. Here’s what happened at the latest General Member Meeting, held on February 20, 2014.

As a reminder, the General Member Meeting takes place every third Thursday of the month from 9.00 – 11.00 a.m. at the East Cherry YWCA (2820 E. Cherry Street in Seattle). For more information, check our website’s Members’ tab for a link to the ‘Committees & Meetings’ page, or simply follow this link to take you there directly. Our next General Member Meeting is Thursday, March 20, 2014.

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2014 One Night Count Discussion: What did you think? What did you hear? What are the implications for your work? Your community?

  • Many people spoke about their 2014 One Night Count experiences:
    • Some shared that more people were awake and moving around between 2-5 a.m.. One individual noted the dissonance in counting people who are homeless amid high rises and malls. A new Team Captain from this year’s count said she took away an extra dose of compassion and humility. A first-time counter, who was able to count in his home neighborhood, noted how different it was to see people who are homeless at night than during the day, and was also surprised at the wide age range of people who were counted. A first-time Team Captain but returning counter mentioned that this year he saw more tent encampments than in years prior. A first-time Headquarter volunteer shared that student counters came back with a new outlook on their neighborhood after counting at night. In all, everyone shared the meaningfulness of their experience, and its lasting impression.
    • Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Coalition, share that this 14% increase change is significant; it’s not “in the noise.” She’s glad to report that many elected officials participated this year; this sort of showing is good for all the work we do after the Count. She encouraged us to talk in our communities about what a 14% increase means both personally and professionally, but reminded us to understand that what’s most powerful is the total number of people reported, and that number represents unmet need (because shelters are full.)

2014 Legislative Session updates w/ special presenter Ben Miksch of Washington Low Income Housing Alliance

NOTE: for more information or current status on the below bills, please check out the rest of our blog and Facebook posts, and be sure to sign up for our e-mail alerts

  • Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge (aka Document Recording Fees): Passed the House, and is now in the Senate. Contact your Senator, and ask them to support HB 2368.
  • Fair Tenant Screening Act, Part 3: Passed the House, and is now in the Senate. Contact your Senator, and ask them to support HB 2537
  • Youth Opportunities Act: Passed the House, and is now in the Senate. Contact your Senator, and ask them to support HB 1651.
  • Homeless Children Education Act: One bill started in the house and another started in the Senate. Each bill passed their respective houses and has moved to the other. Contact your legislators and tell them to support HB 2373/SB6074.
  • HED/ABD, and the Housing Trust Fund: This is the first time we haven’t started the session with cuts to HEN. While that’s a great place to start, we can do so much better. Please ask your elected officials to match the average Housing Trust Fund allocations from previous years by investing a total of $18 million this year.
  • Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP): Unfortunately, CROP did not pass through the House; it will no longer be considered this session. Rest assured, it will be back next session! Contact your legislators throughout the year to let them know the importance of CROP.

Call-in to Olympia: 1-800-562-6000

  • Oh yes, we did! Everyone took out their phones, dialed the number listed above, and dictated to the operator on the other end their simple message in support of the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge.

Update and Action on the Low Income Fare (aka Reduced Metro Fare)

NOTE: for more information or current status on Proposition 1 and the Low Income Fare, please check out the rest of our blog and Facebook posts, and be sure to sign up for our e-mail alerts

  • Please call King County Councilmember Larry Phillips @ 206-477-1004 (toll free: 800-325-6165). Message: We strongly support a reduced fare. We urge the council to “buy down” the fare to no more than $1.25.
  • Update: On Monday, the King County Council voted unanimously to implement a reduced Metro fare of $1.50* for people living on low incomes. King County residents all the way up to 200% of the federal poverty line will be eligible - meaning that nearly a quarter of the people in our community will be better able to access the bus. (*This proposal can be made even better if voters turn out to pass Proposition 1 on April 22, when voters can ‘buy down’ the fare to $1.25 as part of a revenue package that will prevent 17% bus service cuts.) 

Staff Update

  • Alison provided an update and announce the Call for Letters re: Federal Reserve Bank Project. Check out our website to learn more and sign up for alerts!

Save these dates on your calendar:

  • Legislative Session runs January 13 – March 13, 2014
  • Families w/ Children Meeting re: Rapid Rehousing – Wed, Feb 26 from 9.30-11 a.m. @ E. Cherry YWCA
  • Youth and Young Adult Committee Meeting re: DV, and spotlight on TeenFeed programs – Tues, Mar 11 from 10-11.30 a.m. @ Capitol Hill Library
  • Next General Member Meeting – Thursday, March 20 from 9-11 a.m. @ E. Cherry YWCA
  • Keep an eye out for Member Surveys in March!

We look forward to seeing you at the next General Member Meeting on Thursday, March 20, 2014! And be sure to check back here for a Recap following each meeting.

 

 

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.

All Aboard! Act now to support the Reduced Metro Fare.

Metro Bus

If you’re an able-bodied 19-64-year-old in King County, a one-way bus trip will set you back $2.25-3.00, depending on peak hours and zones being traveled. A transfer ticket will keep the money for your return-trip in your pocket, but only if you get back on the bus within two hours; otherwise, it’s another $2.25-3.00. While Metro tickets are significantly cheaper than parking, on top of the additional combined cost having and maintaining a car, we at the Coalition know that even a one-way bus ticket is out of reach for many in our community.

The Coalition, along with friends and allies at Transportation Choices Coalition, the Seattle Human Services Coalition, Puget Sound Sage, OneAmerica, and the Transit Riders Union, has been a strong voice for a reduced transit fare for people who are low income. Now, we have a real chance to make this happen! See below for what YOU can do to make this a reality! 

King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed a reduced Metro fare that incorporates many of our recommendations.  People living up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) would be eligible for a reduced fare of $1.50. In King County, nearly a quarter of the population is at or below 200% FPL. Eligibility would last for one year. At this rate, eligible riders could get a monthly ORCA pass with unlimited rides for $54.

While we are very pleased to see such a progressive and innovative proposal, we are urging the King County Council to further reduce the fare for people who are working to make ends meet.  There will be a special election this April, to raise revenue to save 600,000 hours of bus service: we are asking King County to use this opportunity to ‘buy down’ the fare to $1.25.

Metro is facing a $75 million budget shortfall, and there are 20% service cuts looming.

Why? Our local options for raising money to fund basic infrastructure, like public transportation, are limited by the State’s authority. Washington state’s lawmakers have not voted for more progressive taxes that would allow us to continue (and expand) services. In Executive Constantine’s words, “We’ve done everything within our means to keep people moving. We are out of time for a statewide solution that includes a local option. We must move forward on our own.” Now, the County has limited options to prevent service cuts.

In order to “move forward” we must pass a ballot measure up for public vote on April 22, 2014. The Executive is proposing to prevent bus cuts by increasing the sales tax by one tenth of one percent, and implementing a $60 car tab fee (there will be a partial rebate for some car owners, based on household income). It is frustrating that these two options are flat taxes, that will disproportionately burden poor and working people.  However, this is precisely why we have leverage to make the Reduced Fare happen!

Here’s what you can do right now:

  1. Call and Email your King County Councilmembers. Tell them you support the Reduced Metro Fare proposal, but that $1.50 is still too high, and we need a fairer fare. [Author's note: I  just used this very link to look up who my King County Councilmember was. I found Larry Phillips'  phone number and left him a voicemail in just three minutes. You can do this!]
  2. Encourage others to do the same!

Here’s what you can plan to do next week:

  • Show your support for the Reduced Fare at King County’s Public Hearing on Tuesday, Feb 18 at 1:30 p.m.
    • Location: King County Council, Room 1001, King County Courthouse (516 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104)
    • Use the time devoted to public comment to share your message!

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.