Recap: Single Adults Advocacy Committee 11/12/15 meeting: Employment Opportunities with the Diversity Initiative

At our last Single Adults Advocacy Committee meeting, we were joined by Sarah
Rothman, Diversity Business Partner with the Northwest Center at Amazon.NWC_Logo
The Northwest Center seeks to create a pathway to employment by breaking down barriers, and Sarah works to connect people with disabilities to quality employment through the diversity initiative. Everyone who is referred to the Northwest Center will be offered an interview with Sarah to determine a best fit for them and the potential employer. After interviews, Sarah provides next-step actions for the candidate, including interview and agency feedback.
Employment opportunities through the Northwest Center often involve customer service experience, and include cashier, mailroom, food service, and reception positions, among others. More information on open positions can be found on the Northwest Center’s website.

The Northwest Center and Sarah welcome referrals from service providers. Please reach out to Sarah if you would like more information regarding the initiative programs or to refer a client!
You can reach Sarah at srothman[at]amazon[dot]com.

Thanks again, Sarah!


Member updates from the meeting:

Hayden Bass, Outreach Program Manager with the Seattle Public Library: the Seattle Public Library is seeking to connect their programs with existing community organizations. Email Hayden at hayden[dot]bass[at]spl[dot]org to learn about the Library’s current outreach or to seek expansion with your organization.

Coalition updates from the meeting:

2016 will be a  year of case manager trainings:

  • If you’re interested in participating in a small workgroup or committee for planning these 3-4 trainings, be on the lookout for applications coming out in the next couple of months.

One Night Count is kicking into gear:

  • Learn about the different ways to get involved on our website.
  • Area Leads are in the process of contacting past team captains to confirm their participation for 2016 ONC.

Take ACTION!:

  • On Tuesday, the City of Seattle Councilmembers voted unanimously to add $2.265 million to the City’s budget as a one-time allocation to address the crisis of homelessness. Thank you for your support and hard work in these efforts!
  • Please join us in THANKING all City Councilmembers via e-mail, with SPECIAL THANKS to Nick Licata for shepherding this proposal through the budget process.

Legislative season is coming up:

  • Join us at our December 17 General Membership meeting from 9-11am for our 2016 legislative preview.

Recap: General Meeting on Examining Criminal Backgrounds and Housing – July 16 ,2015

This month’s meeting was another brought to you jointly by the King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Coalition on Homelessness. We brought together a great team of folks to help us examine criminal backgrounds and housing. The room was packed with over 60 representatives from member organizations and more. Among those in the room were API Chaya, Pike Market Senior Center, Housing Justice Project, The Mockingbird Society, King County 2-1-1, Washington Family Counseling Serice, WSCADV, Theraputic Health Services, Organization for Prostitution Survivors, Valley Cities, Consejo, Urban Rest Stop – LIHI, Wellspring, YWCA, YMCA, King County Public Defense, REACH/LEAD, King County Housing Authority, Year Up, Jewish Family Services, Seattle Housing Authority, Housing Development Consortium, Lake City Taskforce on Homelessness, City of Seattle Human Services Department, Victim Support Team, Capitol Hill Housing, Multi-Service Center, City of Seattle Office of Housing, Columbia Legal Services, Carolyn Downs Clinic, Compass Housing Alliance, City of Kirkland, Bellwether Housing, Columbia Care, and the King County Department of Public Defense. Thank you all for joining in a great conversation!

On the agenda . . .


Examining Criminal Backgrounds and Housing

As an introduction to this much larger topic, we enlisted the help of local researchers, practitioners, and experts to guide us through the basics of what we know and what we are doing within our community regarding criminal backgrounds and housing, both market rate and subsidized.

I. What We Know, Part 1: Research. Madeline Neighly of Columbia Legal Services’s Institutions Project and Margaret King of Downtown Emergency Service Center walked us through two important pieces of research, and future policy changes, such as bringing Ban the Box, which has worked with employment, to the housing sector.

II. Background: What has been happening, and why is the Office of Housing involved? Maureen Kostyack of the Seattle Office of Housing led us through a helpful presentation, covering four topics: 1) mass incarceration and racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system; 2) Fair Housing: disparate impact or disparate treatment?; and 3) criminal background screening reports: a fair assessment of risk?; and 4) increasing access to housing — ongoing efforts in Seattle. See below to download both Maureen’s presentation and also Office of Housing’s guideline for selecting a tenant screening agency. 

III. What We Know, Part 2: The charges that make becoming house harder.  Peter Qualliotine, Martha Linehan, and Debra Boyer of The Organization of Prostitution Survivors (OPS) spoke about the impact of charges related to prostitution and sex work. For example, landlords don’t want to rent to people with these charges because they are fearful the tenant will continue to work out of their unit. OPS and other groups have worked hard to advocate for changes at the local level: increase the penalty on buyers, make referrals to services for women instead of charging them, and never charge a juvenile with prostitution. Peter spoke about the need to also change social norms around prostitution. There very clearly exists a hierarchy and judgement towards those who engage in sex work. OPS is available to lead staff training on these issues.

  • To set up a staff training or to learn more, contact Peter at OPS: peter@seattleops.org, 206.988.5463 x 804

IV. An open discussion about Reducing Barriers. Questions ran the gamut, and made clear the need for a future Case Manager Training, which the Coalition’s gearing up to take on. Topic of interest included: are landlords requests for higher deposits congruent with fair housing; what leverage exists to get landlords on board; what’s flexible and what’s (il)legal; how can one clean up their record, or assist others in doing so; how would the Office of Civil Rights investigate certain cases/issues?

Last, we heard from representatives of three housing organizations that worked with the Office of Housing to loosen eligibility requirements and blanket exclusions, as well as insert individualized assessments. Jennifer Westerman & Sarah Barnes of the Seattle Housing Authority, Rachael Simpson of Bellwether Housing, and Tristan Heart of Capitol Hill Housing each spoke about their process, the changes, and what they’ve learned so far. Jennifer encouraged providers to remind applicants to not screen themselves out because rules and processes have changed for the better. Tristan offered that, while anecdotal, Capitol Hill Housing hasn’t seen an increase in eviction nor violence at properties, affirming that one’s criminal record isn’t a good indicator of whether they will be a good tenant.

V. Additional Resources. Jason Austin with King County 2-1-1 announced that 2-1-1 produces ex-offender and sex offender reentry packets, containing helpful information and resources. Both can be found and downloaded from their website. Clients are welcome to call 2-1-1 and ask for this information to be mailed to them, particularly if they are currently incarcerated.


 

Thank you for a great meeting! We’ll be back with more information, especially about a related Case Manager Training.

Please note: the Coalition will not host an August General Membership meeting, but do continue to attend population committee meetings in August. Visit our website for meeting dates and times. 

Recap: General Meeting and Street Drugs 101 Case Manager Training – June 18,2015

Taking Action at the General Meeting
TAKING ACTION at the General Meeting — making calls to our lawmakers!

What a meeting!  Among the friendly faces were representatives from SHARE, YWCA, Plymouth Housing Group, Housing Development Consortium, Child Care Resources, Compass Housing Alliance, Housing Justice Project, Hopelink, REACH/Evergreen Treatment Services, North Helpline, Catholic Community Services, Recovery Cafe, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, Jewish Family Services, Aridell Mitchell Home (Goodwill Development Association), Washington Family Counseling Service, ROOTS, YouthCare, El Centro de la Raza, Multi-Service Center, Year Up, and 2-1-1.

Following the General Meeting, representatives from even more organizations and community members joined us for our Street Drugs 101 + Naloxone + Related Laws training.

Both were informative meetings – Here’s a brief recap . . . 
[Psssst! Don’t miss out in the future — add our General Meeting dates to your calendar.]


June 18, 2015 General Membership Meeting Report-back

Smoking Ban update – On Thursday, May 28, the Board of Park Commissioners voted unanimously (8-0) to pass a smoking ban in Seattle Parks. This ban will take effect 30 days after the vote, likely beginning in July. While this is still a disappointing outcome, it’s important to remember the impact of our collective action. By speaking up with many community members and organizations, we were able to influence the removal of the $27 citation, ensure a “Right to Dispute” be made available, and see to it that there is oversight of enforcement. An emphasis of education is also a feature of this policy. Read the Seattle Parks and Recreation’s release about the new smoking ban. 

Now, we all have continued work to do to ensure that what is “in writing” is put into action, and that whatever plays out is brought to light. This means we need you, your colleagues, your friends and family, and, certainly, the people you serve who are (likely) most impacted by this policy to keep us informed about how the implementation and enactment of this policy plays out! Remember: the relationships we’ve formed with folks at Seattle Parks is part of the reason our advocacy is effective. When you speak up, people listen! Keep us informed by calling 206.204.8350 or by emailing us at speakup@homelessinfo.org. 

Coalition Updates —
The voter registration deadline for the August 4th primary is Monday, July 6! 
Help people you work with register to vote and make sure that your/their registration is current (download our flyer below). While it may not be a presidential election year, this year’s elections are very important because half of the King County Council and all nine of the Seattle City Council are up for reelection! These are the people who most directly affect our daily lives in Seattle and King County and since Seattle is re-districting, it’s a big year and important for everyone who is eligible to vote. Use our Homeless Voters’ Information guide to guide the process – the information about registering applicable, though the dates are for the last election. Visit our blog for more details and tips.

Download: FLYER about Registering to Vote in time for the Primary Election (print 2-sided on the long edge, then cut in half)

Project Cool for Back-to-School is well underway!

  • Volunteer Days will be Monday, July 13 – Sunday, July 19 with additional shifts on Monday and Tuesday, July 20 & 21 for backpack pickup and inventory of remaining supplies. Sign-up today through homelessinfo.org!
  • Interested in hosting a back-to-school supply drive? Contact hillary@homelessinfo.org!
  • Share the love and spread the word about Project Cool! The Pastor Darla DeFrance at the Church of Hope, where the Project Cool magic happens, posted information to Columbia City groups and a number of people signed up to volunteer!  Do you have an e-list or group that would love to hear about Project Cool? Feel free to loop them into the Project Cool magic!

Best Starts for Kids — We support this proposal as it will help ensure that children are healthy, safe, housed, and ready to learn. Click here to learn more about Best Starts for Kids (factsheet). King County Councilmembers need to vote yes to put the levy, as is, on the November Ballot. They need to hear from you NOW! TAKE ACTION: KC Alliance for Human Services call to action: http://kingcountyalliance.com/mobilize-the-time-is-right-now/

Legislative Special Session #2: The Good/Bad/Ugly/Take — Folks, there is a real possibility of a state government shutdown. Why? Because there’s an important hold out — for a fairer budget that prioritizes housing and basic needs. Here are some call-outs:

  • At least $80 million for HTF, $100 million for affordable housing
  • HB 2263 will allow local communities to raise the funds necessary to help create more affordable homes and maintain valuable mental health services.
  • Restore cuts to families receiving TANF benefits. I urge you to make sure that the final budget restores at least 9% of the 15% cut from TANF grants, and fully funds State Food Assistance.
  • Support our 2-1-1/ WA Telephone Assistance Program / Community Voicemail systems. Please make sure $1M in funding for 2-1-1 is included in the final budget.

Just as we did at the meeting, we encourage you to TAKE ACTION and contact your lawmakers, the Governor, and Sen. Andy Hill to share your support. Use (and spread!) this TAKE ACTION FLYER to send this important message to the folks who impact these last days of the 2nd Special Session the most. (To print: print two to one page by using “printer properties”.)


 

June 18, 2015 Street Drugs 101 + Naloxone + Related Laws Training

Presenter Kris Nyrop teaches a packed room about trends in Street Drugs
Presenter Kris Nyrop teaches us about trends in Street Drugs

Presenters Kris Nyrop (Defenders Association) and Mark Cooke (ACLU) led us through some pretty murky and at times complicated territory. Here are some highlights:

  • The United States leads the world in opiate use. We may just be 5% of the world’s population, but we responsible for over 90% of all opiate consumption.
  • Trends (over time) in drug use are very cyclic, and we’re currently in the midst of an amazingly high period of opiate overdose.
  • There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all treatment. Drugs don’t effect everyone in the same way, though there are behavioral trends for certain types of drugs.
  • Naloxone (Narcan) will stop an opioid overdose in its tracks for 30-90 minutes, which gives enough time to keep someone breathing and to be transported to the ER. Naloxone is NOT addictive – it only serves one purpose: to stop overdose. It’s literally saving people’s lives and allowing them the option to work towards recovery. To get information, training, policy implementation materials, etc, about Naloxone. visit our locally-based friends and experts at StopOverdose.org. Are you a University District local? Contact Joe Tinsley at the Needle Exchange (joe.tinsley@kingcounty.gov; 206-477-8275)
  • Good Samaritan Law and Naloxone Bill — A person acting in good faith may receive a Naloxone prescription, possess, and administer Naloxone. Anyone who seeks medical assistance for themselves or on someone’s behalf cannot then be arrested for being under the influence of or having small amounts of illegal substances on their person. However, they can be arrested if they have outstanding warrants, or if they have what appears to be (or is) a commercial operation of producing or selling drugs (for example: lots of plastic baggies, scales, substances). There is grey area because neither the Good Samaritan Law or the Naloxone law have yet to come up in a court case; boundaries have not (yet) been tested.

Missed the meeting? Here’s a copy of Kris’s Street Drugs 101 presentation for you to download and share.

An important part of the training was the group discussion of how organizations have integrated – partially or fully – Naloxone into their work place. The range of experience was great, and still many staff said their organizations had yet to tackle Naloxone use/training, or had much to improve upon. For example, one organization said staff were trained but few knew where the Naloxone kit was actually kept.
Questions to bring back to your organization include:

  1. Do we have a Naloxone Policy? If not, let’s set that up!
  2. Are staff regularly trained? If not, let’s set that up!
  3. Can staff possess Naloxone, even if it’s their own personal prescription?
  4. Do all staff, interns, volunteers, program participants know who has Naloxone training? Have we communicated this clearly in other, visible ways (e.g., signs)?
  5. Have we trained all staff, interns, volunteers, program participants on Naloxone use?
  6. Does everyone know where the Naloxone is located? Is there always a person in the room who has access to it throughout hours of operation?
  7. Are the people who have access to Naloxone the people that program participants go to in case of an emergency?
  8. Have we made it clear that Naloxone is accessible at our site? How can we create an environment that says, “You can come to us for help! We’ve got your back.”

 

 

Recap: Coalition’s General Membership Meeting — May 21, 2015

General Membership MeetingYou packed the room at our May 21 General Membership Meeting. Among the friendly faces were folks from Farestart, Sound Mental Health, Community Lunch on Capitol Hill, Harborview, City of Redmond, Housing Development Consortium, Hopelink, 2-1-1, Solid Ground, Seattle Community Law Center, Compass Housing Alliance, ROOTS, Catholic Community Services – Aloha Inn, Jewish Family Services, YearUp, Lake City Taskforce on Homelessness, Real Change, Global to Local, City of Seattle Human Services Department, Seattle Parks Department, resident of Pioneer Square, UW Center for Pediatric Dentistry, 45th Street Youth Clinic (Neighborcare), Low Income Housing Institute, REACH, UW Law School, YWCA Landlord Liaison Project. This broad representation from our member organizations and community as a whole helped facilitate important, timely dialogue with Seattle Human Services Department Director and Deputy Director as well as Acting Parks Superintendent.

Here’s a brief recap . . . 
[Psssst! Don’t miss out in the future — add our General Meeting dates to your calendar.]

I. Discussion with Director Catherine Lester & Deputy Directors Heidi Albritton
Catherine stared by sharing her background, starting at age 4, to help us understand her motivations, perspective, and reasons why she does what she does. She has five over-arching focuses/goals for HSD:

  1. Results. Generate results that are measurable, and that increase equity and decrease disparity. Measures vary, and need to be properly applied (e.g., quality vs performance vs outcome).
  2. Public Stewardship. HSD has had audit findings each year for the last four years. This isn’t good for many reasons, two of which are: 1) calls the question about whether HSD can do the job, and 2) risks money that flows to providers.
  3. Preferred Employer. Create a working environment that is positive and productive. This absolutely includes ensuring that providers have better, positive experiences working with HSD staff.
  4. Innovation.(Let’s continue to honor innovations that already exist.) Spoke specifically towards “regionalism.” While this means different things to different people, Catherine wants to get a clear working definition that places Seattle as a part of a whole, and recognize that many other cities look to Seattle for their next steps. What we do matters to more than just Seattle because Seattle is a Regional City.
  5. Prepare for Future Differently. Capacity gaps both within our provider network and within provider agencies exist and those must be addressed to move forward effectively. Capacity gaps include, but are not limited to: data and evaluation, fiscal, employee.

II. City of Seattle’s Homelessness Investments and HSD plans going forward
[Link to Homelessness Investment Analysis]

  • Aimed to be City of Seattle-specific context setting to benefit Mayor Murray’s understanding of his department. The City of Seattle has ~$40 million annual investment in homelessness programs, and yet we still witness, each year, an uptick of people in need. Here’s what’s on the table to address:
    • Service Models: intervention, prevention
    • Funder issues: “I wish these funders would get their stuff together” is a common, known sentiment among providers.
    • Efficiency in how HSD contracts: 550 contracts with 200 unique organizations is not healthy nor sustainable. Must get a handle on this.
    • Data and Evaluation Capacity: HSD needs to allow organizations to make use of the data they submit, and HSD needs to make visible how data is used
  • Other mentionable points of discussion: 1) evaluate and, when appropriate, scale pilots, and 2) system readiness and capacity, both within HSD system and in our community (of providers)
  • Highlights from open Q&A: Pilot time frame; existing metrics that concern HSD; gaps in provider network; Safe Harbors (tabled this discussion); Outcomes, especially for shelters; coordinated entry systems; Partnership among HSD and providers re: planning; Quality of service – trainings for people from a variety of different backgrounds (i.e. someone with a record might not have the education we typically say is required for a job, but has the experience – provide training in such situations to make sure people’s potentials are being reached & experience is brought in).

III. Being Homeless in Public: Implications of the proposed Seattle Parks Smoking Ban 

  • Facilitation convo w/ remarks from Acting Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams and Susanne Rockwell
  • Overwhelming response regarding impacts of the proposed Seattle Parks smoking ban. In response, Parks will:
    1. Eliminate citation ($27)
    2. Create citizen advisory committee (approx. 5 people), whose purpose is to monitor enforcement data more regularly (e.g., every 90 days)
    3. Create a quasi-appeals process (e.g., “right to dispute”)
    4. Partner with Seattle/King County Public Health to connect folks with education about smoking and cessation programs.
  • Superintendent Williams stressed that the smoking ban will not result in the banning people from parks, which is in line with, and reinforces, changes to Parks policy in 2012. One could, after many warnings and couple with more egregious behaviors, be arrested; however, said person would never be banned from the park. Williams mentioned that he doesn’t think they will see people being arrested after 2 warnings because they will feel peer pressure to not smoke. Also mentioned Parks needs to educate about where people can smoke (sidewalks/public domain).
  • Principle surrounding the ban of smoking is similar to the ban on public consumption of alcohol and amplified sound.
  • Final vote will happen at May 28 Parks Commissioner meeting. Public comment will not be heard at this meeting, but all are welcome to attend (and submit written comment!). This vote is a recommendation to the Mayor to pass or not pass ban – then a letter is sent to the City Clerk and there is a 30 day pause on implementation.
  • Highlights from open Q&A: Exclusions Vape Pens and E-Cigs; Existing 25-foot rule; Discussion of Seattle Police Department enforcement and training; How citations would work; Success in other cities? Boulder, Colorado did this and it’s not going well; If we see a disproportionate effect on people who are homeless and unstable housed, then what’s next to fix?

IV. Good/Bad/Ugly/Take Action Updates: Olympia and (Seattle) Linkage Fee
Legislative Updates . . . Robin Zukoski, Columbia Legal Services

  • There is a different dynamic in Olympia this year, and that’s a good thing. True, we still have much advocacy work to do to build stronger programs over the coming years, and to ensure that the final compromise budget is a stronger one.
  • HEN/ABD – no proposed cuts this year, and that’s a win (even if it doesn’t quite feel that way). However, you need to contact your legislators and Department of Commerce to tell them the importance of HEN and the ways in which it needs to be strengthened in order to serve more people and serve all people better. And be sure to stay tuned because there’s concern that Legislators may try to fund other programs by gutting HEN/ABD. We’ll be sure to alert you as soon as Robin sends us the word to take action.
  • TANF is not faring well, and needs our advocacy to ensure that final budget compromise increases supports for TANF and the families and children who benefit.
  • WTAP/Community Voicemail, 2-1-1 Funding: good advocacy campaigns are in motion. Continue to send Legislators your cards, letters, and love notes about the importance of this program. They simply don’t understand it’s value and that people depend upon it.
  • Homeless Students Stability Act is still in play this special session. Everyone agrees on the concept, but many disagree on the money component. Stay tuned for a TAKE ACTION alert.
  • Housing Trust Fund: $80M is our target number at this point, but it’s not a done deal. Stay tuned for a TAKE ACTION alert.
  • This was a GREAT year for Youth-specific issues. See Coalition’s blog posts about the big wins.

Linkage Fee Updates . . . Kayla Schott-Bresler, Housing Development Consortium

  • Learn more and sign the petition at growingtogetherseattle.org.
    1. “Seattle is growing rapidly. Despite our work towards building a great city, the benefits of major growth and investment are not shared by everyone. We must act soon to keep modest-wage workers and their families from being forced to move away from our vibrant city because housing costs are too high.”
    2. “An affordable housing linkage fee is a tool that can help Seattle remain a place for people of all incomes to prosper in place. A linkage fee is a per square foot fee on new development to mitigate the increased demand for affordable housing caused by that development. It’s time to follow in the footsteps of cities across the country and adopt a strong affordable housing linkage fee program.”

V. Coalition Updates w/ Staff

  • Project Cool 2015- it’s here – get involved to support students who are homeless! For more info, contact Hillary@homelessinfo.org
  • ORCA LIFT – What’s working? What isn’t? What improvements do you recommend? What ideas do you have to get more people signed up? What would make the sign-up process easier? We’re working on all of these issues, and will be submitting the Coalition’s recommendations to Metro and the City of Seattle shortly. Stay tuned!
  • Report back from the 25th Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness – We want to hear from you about your three favorite workshops! Send rebecca@homelessinfo.org your response.

 

Join us next month for our joint General Membership (open meeting) and Case Manager Training (RSVP required). Topic: Street Drugs 101 + Good Samaritan Laws + Naloxone. Mark your calendars – June 18 from 9.00-12.30 a.m. at the E. Cherry YWCA (2820 E. Cherry Street, Seattle, WA 98144). 

Reflections on a Peaceful May 1st March for Immigrant Labor Rights

As you likely know, last Friday was May 1st, also known as International Workers Day.  On this day around 5,000 demonstrators rallied together to march for Workers and Immigrant Rights, an event organized by El Comite.  Fridays are my day off so I decided to take part in the march for this important cause!

IMG_0904

My year long internship is run through the Justice Leadership Program of the United Church of Christ, a program founded on the principles of taking action through advocacy, calling for systemic change.  This is well alined with the Coalition’s work and it has been great to learn from the organizations other interns are placed at as well.  I had the opportunity to march alongside one of my co-interns who is serving at Faith Action Network; another of my co-interns has been organizing around immigration reform and rights as well this year.  It was special to be part of such a powerful and peaceful march and be working with others across the community to speak up for the rights of ALL people in our community, not just those who are US citizens, not just those who don’t face racial prejudice, and not just those who have a place to call home.

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The march ended with a program in front of the U.S. District Courthouse downtown where messages were shared and calls to action made.  “The selection of the site was very deliberate, as organizers made note to demonstrate in opposition to the U.S. District 5 Court’s challenge to the DACA/DAPA program, which if implemented by the Obama administration, would have provided relief and a temporary deferral of deportation for many undocumented students and their parents (El Comite).”

Marchers also spoke up against police brutality and racial injustice.  Anna Hacmkan, one of the organizers of the march, perfectly hit on the intersections of our work around homelessness, racial justice work, and immigrant rights work: “Many immigrants experience not only discrimination based on their documented status, but are also relegated to the social and economic margins. Many are forced into low paying jobs, and have interactions with law enforcement that closely resemble the interactions that native born people of color experience with police (El Comite).”

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This peaceful demonstration was a good reminder of the power that community holds when rallying together and inspired me to keep being part of such intersectional demonstrations and movements, working toward making our community the best it can be for all.

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

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.