Q&A – Helping people get on the bus with ORCA LIFT, our Low Income Metro Fare.

Phase 1. Together, we organized, called, spoke, e-mailed, and wrote. Our community voted. And we won ourselves a mighty Low Income Metro Fare. Commence celebration #1.

ORCA LIFTThe newly named ORCA LIFT program will begin on March 1. We encourage you to help your residents, guests, and clients sign up prior to March 1, so that they can take full advantage of the program.

Phase 2: We know you have a lot of questions about how this brand new program will work, who will really benefit, and, above all, what you should be telling people. We’ve pulled together some of the BIGGEST questions and will answer them in this blog post. Please do also consult Metro’s easy-to-navigate ORCA LIFT website. Oh, and here’s a helpful color copy of the ORCA LIFT brochure!

WHO QUALIFIES?
Anyone 18 years old or older whose household income is no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL). The chart below shows the federal poverty guidelines by household size.

Household Size 200%
1 $23,340
2 $31,460
3 $39,580
4 $47,700
5 $55,820
6 $63,940
7 $72,060
8 $80,180

CAN MY AGENCY QUALIFY FOR ORCA LIFT CARDS AND PASS THEM OUT TO OUR GUEST/RESIDENTS/CLIENTS WHO QUALIFY?
No. ORCA LIFT cards must be tied to an individual person who has goes through the verification process with one of the 9 authorized agencies. See more info below. 

IS ORCA LIFT A BETTER DEAL THAN THE OTHER REDUCE FARE PROGRAMS?
ORCA LIFT is not always a better deal. Here’s some information to consider when helping clients/residents/guests weigh the cost/benefits:

FOR YOUNG PEOPLE . . .
The ORCA youth card reduced fare is available to young people up until the day of their 19th birthday. While it costs the same as the ORCA LIFT, the youth card is accepted throughout the entire transit system in our region. As of yet, ORCA LIFT is only accepted on King County Metro buses, Sound Transit Link light rail, Kitsap Transit, Seattle Streetcar and the King County Water Taxi. ORCA LIFT is only a better deal for young people who are 19+ years old.

FOR SENIORS AND THOSE WHO HAVE A DISABILITY . . .
If someone has already qualified for the Regional Reduced Fare Permit ORCA card (RRFP), then they should stick with that and not apply for the ORCA LIFT. Why? With the RRFP, they can pay a cheaper price (75 cents) in cash, the program covers the larger regional transit network, and permanent RRFP cards don’t expire.

OKAY, ORCA LIFT IS A GOOD FIT, BUT IS THE MONTHLY PASS WORTH IT?
This completely depends on how often an individual rides the bus, and whether they can pay upfront each month. The cost of the monthly pass – which offers unlimited rides – is $54. If someone rides the bus daily, then the monthly pass is definitely an excellent deal. If someone takes less than 36 one-way trips* on the bus per month, then the monthly pass is not worth it. You may want to help folks consider their spending patterns and discuss budgeting techniques so that they can afford the up-front fee each month.

*18 round-trip rides that won’t qualify for the 2-hour transfer.

WHERE CAN PEOPLE SIGN UP? IS THIS AN ONLINE PROCESS?
Metro has partnered with 9 agencies who will be authorized ORCA LIFT enrollment offices. Locations and hours of operation vary. No, folks cannot sign up online.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if one of the contracted social service agencies cannot enroll an applicant because they can’t verify identity and/or income, then ask them to refer the applicant to Public Health. Be prepared to follow up and advocate with and for your client/resident/guest. Read on for more information about this.

Here’s a list of the agencies:

WHAT TYPES OF DOCUMENTATION DO PEOPLE NEED?
Income and identity. Before I explain anything further, it’s important for you to understand that partner agencies – especially the King County Public Health team – are committed to trying every avenue to sign people up. Compared to other programs and documentation requirements, these are much more flexible, and allow for gettin’ creative. Be prepared to help folks think outside of the box! Examples below.

INCOME . . . 

  • Are they employed? If so, pay stubs, a letter from employer, copy of your most recent tax return (if self-employed) or bank statements over the last 30 days will suffice.
  • Do they have zero income? If so, Employment Security verification form will work.
  • Are they already receiving benefits from a program that has a similar income requirement (200% FPL or less)? For example: TANF, Apple Health/Medicaid, Basic Food (Food stamps), or even your own agency’s program (!). Make a copy of award letters, copy paperwork, or contact the agency/program to get a documentation letter.
  • Are they receiving an other benefits? For example: unemployment, SSI, Social Security, L & I, etc. Make a copy of award letters, copy paperwork, or contact the agency/program to get a documentation letter.

Example of getting creative with income verification . . . 
Let’s say you’re helping a mom and dad, who are not yet citizens of the US, sign up for ORCA LIFT. For many reasons, they can’t directly verify their income. However, after asking some questions, you find out that their children receive Apple Health. The verification agency (e.g., Public Health) can contact the Health Care Authority to get documentation of the kids’ eligibility status, which can then be used as income verification for the parents’ ORCA LIFT application.

IDENTITY . . . 

  • Any government-issued photo ID, including but not limited to: state photo ID, Driver’s license, tribal ID, school photo ID, Armed Services ID w/ photo.
  • A combo of two or more of the following (not a comprehensive list):
    • document with a current photo of you with your name
    • document that has your name and birthdate, including but not limited to: adoption papers, baptismal records, border crossing card, court order, employee ID card, marriage license, school records

Phase 3. Get on the bus with ORCA LIFT starting March 1. Commence celebration #2.

 

 

 

 

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.

Youth & Young Adults Committee 12/9 recap: Survival Sex Workshop

PSKS LogoLast Tuesday about 50 community members gathered at the Coalition’s Youth & Young Adults Committee (YYAC) monthly meeting to share in a powerful workshop about Survival Sex facilitated Queer Youth Community Organizing Interns TJ Petrik and Jackie Sandberg from PSKS.  (These two participated in the YYAC’s Youth Advocacy Summit this year, and it was great to reconnect!) As a topic that is very prevalent in the lives of many in our community, but not discussed as much as it should be, it was good to share this conversation with service providers, case workers, advocates, and more so everybody could get tips for how to share important information with those they work with.

Some highlighted tips for service providers:
Find full list of tips from TJ and Jackie here

  • Survival Sex can loosely be defined as “needs-based sexual activity” and is often traded for assurance of safety, a place to stay, money, protection, and drugs among other reasons.
  • Needs based sexual activities are very complex and personal, and are especially prevalent among homeless youth and LGBTQ youth.
  • Service providers can and should provide information and resources about sex work while being sensitive to those they are serving.
  • Many people may not be open about sharing so it is important to make sure everyone knows that resources are available by using space in your facility to educate people via fliers, events, and non-derogatory language. It was suggested by many in the room that one approach for intake workers and service providers to share information would be by asking: “Would you or anyone you know like information about resources for those involved in survival sex.”  Asking questions such as this allow space for individuals to access resources without having to disclose personal information.
  • When working with a young person who’s engaged in needs-based sex work, it’s important to discuss risk reduction. For example: If the young person works alone, then discuss what having a buddy system could look like, and what the ups and downs of that would be.

List of Important Resources and Organizations from TJ and Jackie:

These are important conversations to have and we are glad that so many organizations were represented at the meeting to take this information back to their spaces and spread the conversation widely.  If you have any questions or would like to look into the possibility of having a Survival Sex workshop at your organization or continue to be part of the growing educational movement, please email Hillary@homelessinfo.org.

Thanks to everyone who came out and especially thanks to Jackie and TJ for leading such a dynamic and important discussion!

We hope to see you at the January Youth & Young Adults Committee Meeting: Tuesday January 13, 2015, 10:00-11:30 a.m. @ All Pilgrims Christian Church: 509 10th Ave E, Seattle, 98102 (note temporary location change for Jan). 

Severe Weather Shelter in King County

Updated Severe Weather Shelter locations around King County can be found below. Please note that other Winter Shelters are also opened nightly and Severe Weather Shelters (listed below) are usually open when the weather is below freezing.  Please visit the Crisis Clinic Resource Talk Shelter page to see the most updated list of Winter Shelters around the county as well as information about Severe Weather Shelters.

This post will be frequently updated with the most recent information. If you know of new or updated information please contact hillary[at]homelessinfo[dot]org. _________________________________________________________________________

SEVERE WEATHER SHELTERS - Updated 1/5/2014

Please share information about severe weather shelters with your clients and the community.  Check back for frequent updates about openings. Information can also be found here. 

SEATTLE: Severe Weather Shelter – Print This Flyer

The emergency shelter serves men and women over the age of 18 and is operated by Salvation Army Staff. The Rainier Room at the Seattle Center is located at 305 Harrison Street just to the north of Key Arena.  This shelter is open access.  Referral forms are NOT required.

AUBURN:

Veteran’s Memorial Park 

Les Gove Overnight Shelter 

  • Location: Les Gove Multipurpose Building: 1024 Deals Way, Auburn, 98002 (between Auburn Senior Activity Center and Auburn Library)
  • Date & Time: Closed
  • Phone: (253) 876 – 1925

KENT: Kent Lutheran Church

FEDERAL WAY: New Hope Christian Fellowship

RENTON: Cold Weather Shelter

  • Location: Renton Harambee Center: 316 South 3rd St, Renton, 98057
  • Date & Time: Closed
  • Phone: 425-430-6600                                                                                                       

Queer Youth Healthcare Fair Sunday Nov. 16th

Our friends at Seattle Counseling Services and HEYO are hosing a Queer Youth Healthcare Fair this SUNDAY the 16th at the Seattle Downtown Central Library from 2-5pm. Please spread this information to your networks, clients, guests, and the community by printing & posting or emailing the flyer and this message from SCS! 

There will be FREE HIV testing, FREE food, #MYHIVMOMENT photo booth, and in-person healthcare navigators available to answer questions and help individuals enroll in qualified healthcare plans. Everyone is welcome to this event!

QYHC Fair Poster (Final)

 

 

Severe Weather Shelters around King County UPDATED

Please share information about severe weather shelters with your clients and the community.  Check back for frequent updates about openings. Information can also be found here. 

SEATTLE Severe Weather Shelter

Location: Seattle Center Rainier Room: 305 Harrison Street (next to Key Arena)Map

Date & Time: Wednesday 11/12 & Thursday 11/13: 8:30pm to 7:00am

 Severe Weather Shelter Seattle Flyer Nov 12 & 13, 2014.

In response to forecasted low temperatures, the City of Seattle is opening Severe Weather Shelter at the Seattle Center Rainier Room on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, November 11th, 12th, & 13th.   The emergency shelter serves men and women over the age of 18 and is operated by Salvation Army Staff.  The hours of operation are 8:30pm to 7:00am.  The Rainier Room at the Seattle Center is located at 305 Harrison Street just to the north of Key Arena.  This shelter is open access.  Referral forms are NOT required.

AUBURN: Overnight Shelter confirmed open Wed 11/12 & Thurs 11/13

Until power is restored, the following Warming Centers and Shelters will be in place:

  • Overnight Severe Weather Shelter: Les Gove Multipurpose Building: 1024 Deals Way Map (between Auburn Senior Activity Center and Auburn Library)- 8 PM – 7 AM; Phone: (253) 876 – 1925
  • Warming Center: Auburn Senior Center: 808 9th Street SE – 8 AM to 9 PM
  • Warming Center: Auburn City Hall: 25 W Main Street – 8 AM to 6 PM

FEDERAL WAY: New Hope Christian Fellowship

Location: 31411 6th Ave S, Federal Way, WA, 98003 Map
Phone: (253) 269 – 6585                                                                                                  

Date & Time: 4pm-8am, open until further notice

RENTON Cold Weather Shelter

Location: Renton Harambee Center: 316 South 3rd St, Renton, 98057 Map              Phone: 425-430-6600                                                                                                       

Date & Time: Wednesday 11/12: 8:30pm – 8am

Print and share this flyer: Renton Cold Weather Shelter 11.12.2014

The City Renton is partnering with Catholic Community Services to open the Severe Weather Shelter (SWS) at Renton Harambee Center, due to dangerously low temperatures.This Severe Weather Shelter will be open TONIGHT, Wednesday November 12th. 8:30PM – check in and registration, 8AM – shelter closes, all must vacate.  All are welcome. The SWS is available for single women and men, couples, and homeless families with children who are living on the streets or in vehicles; separate sleeping spaces have been prepared for men, women, and for families with children. The SWS will be operated by Catholic Community Services staff and volunteers from the greater Renton community. All must register at the door. As with all shelters, rules for the health and safety of clients, staff and the broader community will apply. For more information please contact the City of Renton, Human Services office at 425-430-6600.