Families with Children Committee: Resources from the June 25 meeting

The Families with Children Committee explored 504 plans, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and Special Education at today’s meeting at the E. Cherry YWCA. Scott Raub, Special Education Parent & Community Liaison with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), led us through the basics, timelines, transfers, and more. Here’s an overview of what was covered:

  • The difference between a 504 Plan & an IEP;
  • The process of requesting and obtaining a 504 Plan or an IEP;
  • Which timelines need to be followed when setting up either a 504 Plan or an IEP;
  • How services are transferred when families move to another shelter or permanent housing; and
  • The timelines that need to be followed for out-of-school suspensions.

Click here to download Scott Raub’s (OSPI) presentation on Special Education, 504 Plans, and IEPs (plus discipline!). Scott graciously included information (and links) to additional resources, and his contact information. During the meeting, he made very clear that he is a resource to you, parents, etc. Please do reach out to Scott — it’s what he’s here for!

Here are some highlights of what we learned:

  • If you suspect a student has a disability – regardless of medical diagnosis – then you can request a 504 and/or special education evaluation.
  • You can request 504 and IEP evaluations at the same time; each evaluation tool can be used to determine eligibility for both 504 and IEP.
  • Transition services (e.g, employment preparation, job planning, independent living skills, continued education, etc.) are a mandatory component of IEPs beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when a student eligible for special education turns 16.

Additionally, Families with Children Committee Co-Chair Cassandra Simon mentioned a past workshop she attended that was focused on Autism and Special Education, presented by Larry Martin Davis with Special Education Advocacy. Click here to download Larry’s presentation of the ABC’s of Autism and Behavior workshop (including IEP, 504, and Special Education strategies). The ABC stands for ‘Anxiety, Behavior and Calming strategies.’

As a follow up from last month’s meeting with Ginger Kwan, Executive Director of Open Doors for Multicultural Families, sent us this flyer to distribute for their Inclusive Family Event: Kayaking, Adaptive Cycling & Picnic on July 5. Contact information is included!

We hope to see you at the next Families with Children Committee meeting on July 23, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. at the E. Cherry YWCA (2820 E. Cherry St, Seattle, WA). 

Single Adults Advocacy Committee: Long-term Shelter Stayers

The most recent Single Adults Advocacy Committee meeting on Thursday, May 8 was focused on long-term shelter stayers and how Case Managers can best assist those who seem to be stuck in shelters to get into housing. Here’s a link to the CEH Progress Report: LTSS. And here’s an brief infographic that summarizes St. Martin de Porres’ efforts:

Long Term Shelter Stayers @ St. Martin de Porres

For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact the Single Adults Advocacy Committee Co-chairs, Katie Bilek (CCS) and Mercedes Elizalde (LIHI), at saac@homelessinfo.org. 

Progress: Winter Shelters extended in Bellevue & Seattle!

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

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

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

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.

Recap: Coalition’s General Meeting – December 19, 2013

As we were bidding farewell to 2013, Alison and I discussed what we’d like 2014 to look like for the Coalition’s Everyone Counts blog.  One idea that we’re running with is to post a recap after every General Member Meeting. 2013 was a great year for our Coalition, and one we want to build off of in 2014. So, here to ring in this New Year with our new tradition is a Recap of December’s General Member meeting.

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, January 16, 2014.

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Seattle Final Budget News & Thank You to Mayor Mike McGinn

  • Our friends at the Seattle Human Services Coalition’s handout highlights our HUGE win with the City of Seattle Budget process: an additional investment of $6,891,219!
  • Out-going Mayor Mike McGinn and Jerry DeGrieck, Senior Policy Advisor to Mayor McGinn, came to receive the Coalition’s sincerest Thank You for their leadership and commitment to Seattle residents over the past four years, and also for his strong support of the Coalition’s budget recommendations this past year. Mayor McGinn shared his heartfelt thanks to the Coalition and its members for all of our advocacy, and encouraged us to keep it up.

2014 Legislative Session Preview

  • Robin Zukoski of Columbia Legal Services (CLS) provided background and an overview about the upcoming Legislative Session.
  • Ben Miksch of Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA) shared with us WLIHA’s 2014 State Legislative Agenda.
  • Carrie Dolwick of Transportation Choices Coalition shared the status of Transportation policy at the State and Local level, as well as the possibility of a low-income Metro fare.
  • Join the Coalition as we press forward on issues related to:
    • Funding affordable housing and homeless services,
    • Homeless students and youth in foster care,
    • Housing and Essential Needs,
    • Fair tenant screening practices,
    • A fairer tax system,
    • Sustainable funding for public transit, and
    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.

Coalition Staff Report

  • Rebecca Roy, Community Projects Manager, previewed the 2014 One Night Count: overnight Thursday-Friday, January 23-24, 2014 (i.e., very early in the morning on Friday, January 24 from 2 a.m. – 5 p.m.).

King County Winter Shelter Advocacy      

  • Last year, King County Executive Dow Constantine doubled the King County Winter Shelter’s capacity to provide a total of 100 beds for people who are homeless to access safe shelter and get out of the bitter cold. This year, temperatures dropped faster and much earlier than in years prior, yet the King County Winter Shelter didn’t see a correlative increase in capacity. Advocates have called, written, and petitioned, asking King County to once again double the capacity — and nothing has happened. Now, we demand that Executive Constantine respond to the need in our community just as he did last year. Please call Executive Constantine at 206.263.9600 and tell him add 50 beds to allow men who are homeless to safely sleep at the Administration Building Shelter.

Special Musical Interlude: John Shaw

  • John Shaw is a musician, activist, writer, and long-time friend of the Coalition.  He read from his newly released book, which will change how you think about the classic songs “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land.”  Lucky for us, he brought his guitar, and we shared in some good ol’ group singing.

Notes from November’s General Member Meeting

  • A full hour was devoted to Sara Robbins and Stephanie Earheart, Benefits Attorneys from Solid Ground, one-of-a-kind, in-depth presentation on the Affordable Care Act and Washington’s Health Benefits exchange. Issues covered included: transitions for current Medicaid recipients, new eligibility guidelines for Medicaid and tax subsidies and a little bit on navigating the WA Health Plan Finder. This was an incredible opportunity to get questions answered, and to better understand the sign-up process. Here’s a link to their presentation: ACA Lecture Solid Ground 11-21-13.

Save these dates on your calendar:

  • 2014 One Night Count will be overnight Thursday, Jan. 23 to Friday, Jan. 24.
    • Youth Count Activities will take place during the day on Thursday, Jan. 23
    • The Veterans Survey will take place during the day on Friday, Jan. 24.
  • Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day will be Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Register at www.wliha.org.
  • Homelessness Advocacy 101: Beyond the One Night Count Workshop will be Saturday, Feb.1, 2014 from 10 a.m. – 12 noon @ Plymouth UCC in Seattle and from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. @ Kent Lutheran Church in Kent. Register at www.homelessinfo.org.
  • Have a Heart for Kids Day will be Monday, Feb. 3, 2014
  • Youth Advocacy Day will be Friday, Feb.14, 2014. Register with the Mockingbird Society.
  • Legislative Session will be Jan.13, 2014 – Mar. 13, 2014.

We look forward to seeing you at the next General Member Meeting on Thursday, January 16, 2014! And be sure to check back here for a Recap following each meeting. 

It’s time to increase shelter capacity. King County has a good place to start: inside its own Administration Building.

Pass by the King County Administration Building at 4th Avenue at James Street in Seattle on an evening between November and March, and you’ll see a long line of about 50 people. They are waiting to get inside the men’s winter shelter that has, for many years, been hosted inside the building, thanks to funding from King County. The shelter has functioned on the loading dock of the building, in the lobby, and in other space, depending on the arrangements made between the building’s Facilities Management and the shelter provider, currently the Salvation Army. (The history of how this shelter came to be is a good story for another time.)

This is a pretty minimalist shelter: no beds, just mats on the floor. There’s access to a bathroom, but no showers. Dinner is not served, and until last year not only did the shelter not open its doors until 9.00 p.m., but men were specifically instructed not to line up before then. (Given that shelter is first come, first served, and that people who spent the night there previously have priority to sleep there the next night, this instruction is impossible to fathom, unless you accept the unspoken logic behind it: homeless people should not be visibly homeless. They should materialize 5 minutes before the shelter doors open, and dematerialize 5 minutes after they exit the building, at 6.00 a.m.)

Thanks to modest additional investments from Seattle and King County, and reasonable conversations with stakeholders, including the Coalition, last winter this shelter was expanded to double its capacity, serving 100 men each night. This expanded capacity lasted not only through the winter, but through the spring, and into the first two weeks of June. This unprecedented extension of Winter shelter revealed a simple truth: when decent indoor shelter is offered consistently, people want and need and use it — even when the weather improves. The additional 50 spaces were essentially full through May, the numbers dropping only when it was clear that the shelter would be closing, and people evidently determined that they would, once again, have to fend for themselves overnight as best they could.

Here is the letter I sent on behalf of the Coalition to King County Executive Dow Constantine and the Members of the King County Council, asking them to repeat the successful trial run of last winter and spring.

27 November 2013

King County Executive Dow Constantine
Chinook Building
401 5th Ave. Suite 800
Seattle, WA 98104

Dear Executive Constantine:

I am writing to ask you to double the capacity of the winter shelter in the King County Administration building to 100 people as quickly as possible. I write not only on behalf of the Coalition’s member organizations, and the thousands of King County residents they support with food, shelter, services, and housing each day and night, but on behalf of the nearly three thousand people whom you and I know will be sleeping outside tonight. The bitterly cold weather this past week is a reminder that shelter is, quite simply, a matter of life and death.

As you noted at the last Governing Board meeting of the Committee to End Homelessness, even one person sleeping outside is too many. While severe weather and winter survival shelters have recently opened in several other parts of King County, I understand that the winter men’s shelter in the King County Administration Building has yet to increase to its maximum service capacity.

This expansion can be accomplished quickly, and for a relatively modest amount of money. Last year at this time, thanks to your support, and special additional investment from the City of Seattle, 100 men slept safely each night in the Administration Building shelter. This compassionate and efficient increase in capacity lasted for seven months. From November 15 through June 15 the original space for 50 men was full every night. The second shelter space remained at capacity as winter turned into a cold spring. Contrary to the shelter provider’s expectations, the second shelter space provided an average of 40 men dignified nightly respite even in May. There is no question about the need and desire for this additional shelter.

Our community’s commitment to ending homelessness should and must include responding to people’s emergency needs for safety, shelter, and connection, as well as the creation of stable, accessible, and affordable housing. We have come too far in the last eight years to accept anything less than an increased and energetic commitment to our common goals. As we prepare for the January 24, 2014 One Night Count, I hope that you will take swift action to ensure that 50 more people are sleeping inside on that night, rather than on the streets.

The Coalition is deeply grateful for your work and for the King County Council’s work to ensure that the budget passed this year includes support for shelter and services for homeless youth and young adults. I urge you to work with King County Council to secure the necessary resources that will allow building staff and the Salvation Army to rapidly enact the same life-saving shelter expansion as last winter.

As always, the Coalition on Homelessness welcomes close collaboration with our partners in local government in working to end homelessness for our King County neighbors today, tonight, and tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Alison Eisinger
Executive Director

cc: King County Council Chair Larry Gossett
King County Council Vice Chair Jane Hague
King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn
King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert
King County Councilmember Joe McDermott
King County Councilmember Julia Patterson
King County Councilmember Larry Phillips
King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer

Dan Brettler, Co-Chair, Governing Board, Committee to End Homelessness in King County
Gretchen Bruce, Committee to End Homelessness in King County
Greg Ferland, King County Community Services Division
Janice Hougen, King County Community Services Division
Mark Putnam, Building Changes
Adrienne Quinn, King County Community Services Division