Volunteer Days are over for 2016, but you can help make back-to-school cool throughout the year!

These are Katherine’s reflections on Project Cool 2016:

Last Wednesday, a volunteer placed the final Project Cool backpack into a case manager’s van and I began to reflect on this year’s Project Cool Volunteer Days. As we transition to the next phase of Project Cool, I am able to appreciate Project’s Cool full year cycle and the breadth of people and communities the program touches. We have enjoyed each Project Cool volunteer day, and I feel lucky to have organized, packed and inventoried supplies alongside such fantastic volunteers! As we look forward to the next few months and connecting to community members through supply drives (want to host one where you work or play? Contact Hillary – hillary[at]homelessinfo[dot]org), we know that 1,417 colorful backpacks will enter the first days of school swung over the shoulders of students ranging from Pre-K to 12th grade.

Having only joined the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness a few weeks ago, I entered my first volunteer day with enthusiasm, excitement, and a bit of nervous anticipation of the amount of work to be accomplished in just a week. I could not wait to see the weeks of donation and volunteer coordination I had supported, as well as the year-long effort Hillary and Julia contributed to Project Cool, come to bloom! My expectations were surpassed and my qualms eased by the awesome volunteers that arrived with enthusiasm for each shift.

I feel hopeful for the future of the children that Project Cool serves after discussing many volunteers’ commitment to ending homelessness. Over the past week I learned more fully how raising a child can require mobilization from an entire community. Participants demonstrated how volunteering quickly builds community amongst initial strangers. Participants bonded over their passion for service to form productive, fun work teams. For many of these supporters, Project Cool has become a cherished tradition. Some volunteers even shared their experiences supporting Project Cool for up to 9 years (thank you, Hunskor family!).

Project Cool volunteers illuminated many reasons that can inspire someone to donate their time and resources. A few volunteers shared their own backgrounds experiencing Packed Backpacks for Salvation Armyhomelessness and understood firsthand the difference a Project Cool backpack can make. One mother shared with volunteers that her own children had received free school supplies while growing up and so she wanted to support other parents preparing their children for the school year.

Between rulers and notebooks, dental kits and crayons, inspiration and hope was also packed into each Project Cool backpack, and you can help fill bags for next summer’s Project Cool Days starting today! Here are five easy ways to get involved throughout the year, starting this summer and fall:

  1. Host a supply drive:
    Organizing supply drives are fun and have lots of room for creativity! You know your community best and how to most effectively to elicit donations — whether it is placing a box at your local community center or going door to door. Here is a helpful brochure on what to donate: Project Cool Supply Drive Flyer (with Wish List).
  2. Donate to Project Cool:
    Monetary donations are important and appreciated! All contributions make a significant difference in packing backpacks with the best quality school and dental supplies for students experiencing homelessness. You can donate today on our secure website and dedicate your donation to the work of Project Cool.
  3. Ask your dentist for dental donations:
    Heading to the dentist before the school year starts? Consider bringing in this Dentist Letter that asks for toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss donations.
  4. ‘Like’ Project Cool on Facebook to stay updated on Project Cool throughout the year, and invite friends and family to do the same. The more people that are connected to our social media, the easier it is to spread the word about awesome Coalition happenings!
  5. Volunteer next summer: This year’s Project Cool Volunteer Days are coming to a close but consider volunteering next summer! Stay tuned about when volunteer signups are available by receiving our Friends of Project Cool e-mails.

What’s next for the Coalition’s work in supporting homeless students? As part of our year-round advocacy, we host an annual Helping Homeless Students training for case managers, school employees, advocates, and community members to learn about homeless students’ educational rights. This training is coming up on Wednesday, August 24 at 9 a.m. at Highline High School. Registration is required, so sign up today.

Coalition Support helps the Homeless Student Stability Act stay Alive!

Katara Jordan of Columbia Legal Services shared the following message with supporters of the Homeless Student Stability Act (HB 1682), which is alive and well (currently scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education at 8am, Thursday, March 19).  She especially wanted to thank Coalition members for their great support, calls, and postcard signing which was critical to keeping this bill alive and moving.  

Keep calling in and letting your legislators know that our state needs better support for students experiencing homelessness and this is possible with the Homeless Student Stability Act! Visit our bill tracker for most up to date info.


Friends,

Friday, February 27 was critical in the fight to increase state support for homeless students. That morning, it appeared that the Homeless Student Stability Act would not receive a hearing in either the House or Senate budget committees. The 27th was the last day for bills to pass out of state fiscal committees. And generally bills must receive a public hearing before they are allowed to do so.

Your effort calling your Representatives helped us secure a public hearing in Appropriations on the Homeless Student Stability Act —a necessary step to increase state support for homeless students. You were genuinely instrumental in securing a hearing for this bill! THANK YOU!

 

We have even more exciting to news to share! On March 6, the House overwhelmingly passed HB 1682 (the Homeless Student Stability Act) in a vote of 82-16! Representatives Fey, Stambaugh, and Magendanz all gave great speeches on the importance of supporting homeless students and their families!

This bill would provide increased in-school support for homeless students as well as create new housing partnerships between school districts and community organizations. With this bill, we could not just shelter hundreds of families and children across the state – we could house them. The bill also requires, for the first time, that school districts across the state begin to identify unaccompanied homeless youth. While schools are already encouraged to do so, many simply report “0” unaccompanied homeless students. Columbia Legal Services, a non-profit legal organization backing the Homeless Student Stability Act, estimates that there are approximately 4,400 unaccompanied youth in our schools, more than 2,000 more than are actually identified.

That said, HB 1682 heads back to the Senate!

To keep this bill moving, your voice and action is needed to make sure HB 1682 becomes law. Please call to ask the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education to give HB 1682 a hearing.

Simply call 1-800-562-6000 and leave this message for the operator:

“The Homeless Student Stability Act will result in short and long term savings, as well as better educational, health, and life outcomes for students and their families. Please support this important issue.” 

After you leave a message for your legislators, if you really want to go the extra advocacy mile, you can also directly call members of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education to give them the same message. The Senators labeled with two asterisks after their phone number are the most critical.

Education:

  • Senator Steve Litzow (360-786-7641)**
  • Senator Andy Hill (360-786-7672)**
  • Senator Bruce Dammeier (360 786-7648)**
  • Senator Rosemary McAuliffe (360- 786-7600)
  • Senator Andy Billig (360-786-7604)
  • Senator Joe Fain (360-786-7692)
  • Senator Mark Mullet (360-786-7608)
  • Senator Ann Rivers (360-786-7634)
  • Senator Christine Rolfes (360-786-7644) Senator Rolfes has been a huge champion. Please consider thanking her for her support

Best,

Katara Jordan, Staff Attorney, Columbia Legal Services, Children & Youth Project

katara.jordan@columbialegal.org | www.columbialegal.org
Connect with CYP: Website | Twitter |Schoolhouse Washington

Sign up for Columbia Legal Services newsletters and updates.

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). 

The Coalition takes Tacoma!

Last week, Coalition staff were excited to be joined by our two fantastic scholarship recipients at the 23rd Annual Statewide Conference on Ending Homelessness. The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance put on this informative and exciting conference, this year in nearby Tacoma. We were joined by Susan and Tracy (pictured below) and spent two full days learning and connecting with people from all around the state committed to ending homelessness. I had the pleasure of getting to know both recipients both before and during the conference and their enthusiasm was contagious!

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For me it was great to see how many passionate people are out there fighting to end the homeless situation, and how these groups are dealing with the changing face of homelessness today. I especially enjoyed seeing the different programs and how they work … by attending I now have found some advocacy groups that I will get involved with most definitely now. -Susan