The cherry blossoms are blooming, the Mariner’s had their first at-home game of the season, and the sun is finally out in full force. With all these new beginnings, it’s a natural time to start Project Cool for Back-to-School, our Coalition’s beloved backpack and supply drive to support homeless students!
Learn more about Project Cool on our website, and keep reading to find out how you can get involved over the next few months to support homeless students through Project Cool.
Ready… Set… Go!
Here are 4 ways you can get involved:
Supply Drives. Now is a great time to start your own donation supply drive, and encourage others to do the same. We hope you to have fun with them — there are so many ways to be creative and think outside the box. For example, Northwest Honkers Baseball will ask their game day patrons to donate school supplies in lieu of a gate fee during summer games. Use this Project Cool Supply Drive Flyer (with Wish List). Contact me if you’d like a tailored flyer.
Dental Donations. We need your help to reach out to Dentists for floss, toothbrush, and toothpaste donations. Do you have an upcoming dentist appointment, or is there a nearby dentist office in your community? Use our Dentist Letter to ask your personal or local dentist to donate to Project Cool.
Facebook. ‘Like’ Project Cool on Facebook, invite your friends to do the same, and share posts to boost our reach online. Your action makes a huge difference!
And be sure to mark your calendars for Volunteer Days in early July 2014. During the first two weeks of July volunteers have fun counting, sorting, and organizing supplies to fill backpacks for distribution. We’d love your help, and we welcome groups! If you’d like to help or even arrange a group, then let me know.
Thank you for all you do to support Project Cool students!
Coalition Members with Sen. Frockt at Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day (#HHAD2014) in Olympia, WA.
Today marks the 37th day of the Legislative Session, and also the House of Origin Cutoff (by 5 p.m.). All bills that originated in the House of Representatives must be approved and sent over to the Senate for further consideration (and vice-versa for the Senate). A bill will only become law once it has successfully passed through both the House and Senate.
I mentioned in Part 1 of our update that “there is still enough time and many opportunities to make a difference.” I can tell you heard that message and acted upon it, because there’s good news on many of our priority bills! Thank you for being such strong advocates. Even over halfway through Session, there’s still so much you can do to support these bills through the process. Together we will pass these Acts into Law!
Remember that the “secret” to getting heard in Olympia is simple: tell Legislators that you care, include a short message about why you care, and do it in a way that’s easiest for you. Whether you want to e-mail your Legislators, leave a message through the Legislative Hotline (1-800-562-6000), or travel to Olympia to meet in-person, your voice is valuable and needed.
Here’s an update with Action Alerts on important bills:
The Youth Opportunities Act unanimously passed the House (ESHB 1651) and has been sent to the Senate’s Human Services and Corrections committee. Contact members of the HSC committee and urge that HB 1651 gets a quick hearing and passes out of the Senate.
The Homeless Children Education Act passed out of both the House (HB 2373) and Senate (SB 6074), and both bills have switched houses. Please call the Legislative Hotline at (800) 562-6000 to urge your lawmakers to vote yes on HB 2373/SB 6074.
The Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity did not make it out of the House (HB 2399), and did not have a companion bill in the Senate. The bill is no longer being considered this session; stay tuned for another attempt to pass CROP next session! Contact your Legislators throughout the year to let them know the importance of CROP.
Thank you for all you do to ensure that Everyone Counts 365 days a year.
Happy near-end of January, everyone! We’re in the midst of one of our busiest month’s at the Coalition on Homelessness. But that doesn’t mean we’re giving up on our new Recap Tradition. Without further ado, here’s what happened at the Coalition’s General Member Meeting, held on January 16, 2014.
As a reminder, the General Member Meeting takes place every third Thursday of the month from 9.00 – 11.00 a.m. at the East Cherry YWCA (2820 E. Cherry Street in Seattle). For more information, check our website’s Members’ tabfor a link to the ‘Committees & Meetings’ page, or simply follow this link to take you there directly. Our next General Member Meeting is Thursday, February 20, 2014.
Introducing the new Director at Committee to End Homelessness King County
Mark Putnam, who last worked for Building Changes, is now the new Director at the CEHKC.
Mark spoke about why this work is important and what his goals and hopes are as Director. Here’s a quick paraphrase of Mark’s words:
Our community is vast and large, and we are committed to listening. Will be holding many community meetings to get input and hear from folks.
Speaking with Legislators about legislative priorities.
Understands that people are looking for solutions and leadership beyond incarceration/police involvement, moving folks who are homeless from one neighborhood to the next.
We’re thinking hard about what’s next — the long-term, clear goal is focus.
Committee to End Homelessness: Governance changes and process
Kate Speltz, King County – Homeless Housing Programsm, and Eileen Denham, City of Seattle Human Services Department, joined us to give background and information on next steps. Here’s a quick paraphrase of what they shared:
Useful terminology: HEARTH Act is the re-authorization of McKinney.
Useful terminology: Continuum of Care = all of us who work together to end homelessness.
Considering the Federal requirements, we’re aiming to be competitive and solid, asking ourselves, “How can we work better.” This is why we are looking at the structure of CEH.
(Side Note: The Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH) holds positions on CEH’s Governing Board and Interagency Council. Expect to get quarterly reports on both at our General Member Meetings.)
In spring, CEH will hold large, community-wide meetings re: Continuum of Care.
Taking a step back: Good things have come out of the HEARTH Act, such as 71 projects that are funded, Continuum of Care, CEH, and HUD is even providing money to fund a staff (as opposed to the City of Seattle and King County subsidizing staff).
Kate and Eileen posed three questions to the group: (1) What recommendations do you have for getting input from the community? (2) What kind of communication is most helpful? (3) What other questions or concerns do you have?
As a group, we all shared our connection (if there is one) with CEH. Answers ranged from no involvement to too much information to digest each month (send a monthly one to two-pager!) to make language accessible to I don’t know about it but want to hear more (PR campaign?).
Please contact Eileen (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kate (email@example.com) to get more information and/or provide feedback. All of it is very welcome.
2014 Legislative Session Update
Tony Lee of Solid Ground spoke about the current Legislative session, which runs from January 13 – March 13, 2014. Here’s a quick paraphrase of what he said:
This short session is all about fixing technical problems and adding to the Supplemental Budget.
EDUCATION. House Democrats and the Governor want to put more money into K-12 education. Remember that the State Supreme Court just ruled to retain jurisdiction (very unusual!) over the case, saying that our State isn’t doing enough to fully fund basic education (see: McCleary decision). The Court wants $4-6 Billion more to fund basic education, which means we either need the revenue to do so or there will be more cuts to Health and Human Services (HHS). Governor Inslee says that he won’t create a crisis in HHS to fund the K-12 crisis. Big question right now: how will the State deal with this over the next 4-5 years?
BASIC NEEDS. Preserve Aged, Blind or Disabled (ABD) Cash Assistance program. Most folks on ABD are there because they are waiting to get onto SSI. For those who qualify for SSI, the State is refunded; it’s only a small percentage of people on ABD who don’t qualify. A big problem right now is that folks who moved from HEN to ABD are losing their Section 8 housing.
BASIC NEEDS. There are concerns aboutTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) because there will be a surplus and it’s important this money not be swept to the General Fund. Remember, surplus is not for lack of need — it’s because (1) the 5-year time limit and (2) we’ve restricted the grant size, which directly restricts recipient qualification.
South King County and East King County have swing Legislators and they will determine a lot of what happens. So, please call and have everyone you know out that way call, too.
A question was asked about the Housing Trust Fund. Tony’s response was that the Housing Trust Fund is the best method to decrease homelessness among school-age children. We must put pressure and call out Governor Inslee and the Legislature on this issue without attacking. The Governor is a passionate, decent person, so being politically active is the way to go. “If poor people and advocates don’t make noise, bad things happen.”
New Legislation briefing: Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP)
Merf Ehman and Melissa Lee of Columbia Legal Services presented on this new piece of legislation.
Applies to almost all crimes. Sex offenses cannot qualify at this time.
The $50 fee can be waived if one cannot afford it. Remember that the fee is a document recording fee, which funds our work in homelessness. It’s important for us to advocate with people who need the fee waived.
Rep. Walkinshaw (new 43rd District Representative) is working the House Bill. There will be a Senate Bill.
Unique piece of legislation because King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg is partnering on this issue. He is working on re-entry issues.
Big Ask: Please share storieswith Merf (Merf.Ehman@ColumbiaLegal.org) and Melissa (Melissa.Lee@ColumbiaLegal.org). As they said, this is a small but important step to moving forward. We need more justice and less homelessness.
Access to Public Transportation Advocacy: Reduced Fare proposal advances!
Doug Hodson of Metro and April Putney of MoveKingCountyNow came to discuss this new, exciting proposal. Here’s what they had to say:
[April says...] Starting this fall, there will be 17% cuts to Metro because of the Transportation gridlock in Olympia. King County Executive Constantine said that we are moving forward without the State.
[April says...] MoveKingCountyNow is a broad, fast-moving coalition that supports a fairer fare. The timeline for this campaign is a short three-step: (1) February 4, 2014 public hearing on if Metro should save bus cuts; (2) February 10 and 24, 2014 – King County Council will take action; and (3) Vote YES! on your ballots come April.
[April says...] Yes, it’s grossly inadequate funding sources, but this is all we have; this is where we are. (Remember, we used to have a tax on the value of a car but that option was taken off the table after an Eyman-driven vote.)
[Doug says...] All current fares are subject to a 25 cent increase — includes Youth, Seniors, and people with Disabilities. The reduced fare would notbe subject to an increase.
[Doug says...] About the reduced fare proposal:
200% of Federal Poverty Line will qualify.
Goal is for it to be non-stigmatizing, ready to work
$54/mo unlimited pass would be available
This will help increase the circulation of Social Service tickets by approximately 30%.
SoundTransit is aware and involved on this issue as it will affect how they move forward with their plans.
One Night Count
King County Winter Shelter advocacy
Federal Reserve Bank
Save these dates on your calendar:
2014 One Night Count will be overnight Thursday, Jan. 23 to Friday, Jan. 24.
Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day is Tuesday, Jan. 28. Register at www.wliha.org.
Homelessness Advocacy 101: Beyond the One Night Count Workshops: Saturday, February 1 FREE , fun, interactive! In Seattle and Kent. Register at www.homelessinfo.org.
Have a Heart for Kids Day: Monday, Feb. 3
Youth Advocacy Day: Friday, Feb. 14. Register with Mockingbird Society.
Legislative Session runs January 13 – March 13, 2014
We look forward to seeing you at the next General Member Meeting on Thursday, February 20, 2014! And be sure to check back here for a Recap following each meeting.
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’ tabfor 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.
Seattle Final Budget News & Thank You to Mayor Mike McGinn
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.
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.
Is there funding for extra-curricular activities under McKinney Vento for homeless students?
This question was asked during the Seattle/King County Coalition’s Annual McKinney-Vento 101 training on August 22nd. Jess Lewis from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Katara Jordan from Columbia Legal Services spent 2 hours introducing and explaining the complex issues in McKinney-Vento legislation to close to 100 school staff and housing and homeless service providers. The McKinney-Vento Act requires school districts to immediately register, transport and provide and pay for extra-curricular activities to homeless students. There are more than 26,000 students in Washington state that qualify for McKinney-Vento services, and school districts must pay for these services whether or not they recieve funding under the law. Most school districts do not receive this funding. Washington State has 295 school districts. Of those, 23 receive McKinney-Vento sub-grants. If a student wants to participate in extra-curricular activities, the school district is required to address the barrier to full participation. Often, school districts will look to community service providers, booster clubs, etc. to try and address the specific needs of students. If other resources cannot be found, the school district is still required to find some way to address the barrier to participation.
Another common question service providers ask and school staff often find confusing is:
What is the distance that schools are required to transport kids to school?
Many school personnel have been told that schools will not transport kids out of their county. However, there is no specific distance or commute time mentioned in the McKinney-Vento Act when it comes to school of origin transportation. So, a student attending school in Everett Public Schools, as an example, and finds shelter with her family in Seattle can continue attending her school in Everett if it is determined by all parties that this is best for the student. The main consideration is whether or not it is in the student’s best interest to remain in their school of origin. Because McKinney-Vento is a federal law, school districts often commute with students over county and state lines. School of origin transportation should not be automatically declined because the student is currently staying in a different county. The decision should be made on a case-by-case basis and the determination of best interest should be made based on the determination of whether or not it is feasible for the specific student.
For more information about McKinney-Vento and Resources check out these links:
Be Cool! Project Cool for Back to School 2012 Buttons
After months of preparation, we are celebrating the smooth and successful distribution of 1,204 Project Cool backpacks to homeless children across King County. This August, more than 150 awesome volunteers gathered together over 4 days in the basement of the Columbia City Church of Hope to prepare school supplies and then fill and distributebackpacks for homeless students ages 3 to 18. You guys ROCK! Last Tuesday, Project Cool backpacks went out to 14 different Coalition member agencies to support the education of the children they serve in their various homeless housing programs (including emergency shelter and transitional housing).
We know the need is great. In the 2010-2011 school year, 4,423 students (pre-k through high school) were identified as homeless in King County school districts; 26,049 students across all Washington State schools. This was a 19% increase from the previous year and a 55% increase from 2006-2007 (for more information visit http://schoolhousewa.org/). A new backpack filled with the tools students need tells kids that they belong and gives parents one less financial burden to bear.
Backpacks may be out the door, but the work to support the education of homeless students does not stop here. Seattle Public School starts in just a couple weeks on September 5. The instability of homelessness makes stability in school that much more important for children. Luckily, homeless students have several educational rights under an important federal law – the McKinney Vento Education Act –, which helps advocates and families keep children in school even if they don’t have the right paperwork to enroll or their address changes every 60 days. The Coalition’s August 22 “Helping Homeless Students: McKinney Vento 101” training will prepare school personnel and service providers to help homeless students stay in school.
Eric joined us on August 11 with the RBUCC Youth Group. Filling hundreds of backpacks with school supplies can be tiring work!
None of this work could be possible without the support of the hundreds of individuals who hosted donation drives, donated personally, and volunteered to help prepare backpacks. Project Cool is a volunteer driven project – coordinated by an AmeriCorps VISTA and supported by people like you: concerned community members, local businesses, and Coalition members. A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who came out on August 2, 4, 11, and 14 to help prepare Project Cool backpacks – we welcomed the passionate help of many community members including several old hats and Project Cool newbies like the Redmond Beach UCC Youth Group and members of local non-profit young professionals group, Ascend. THANK YOU!
Friday morning, Kathleen called me from the road: “Hi Ally, I’m about 5 minutes away. Do you have a cart that we could use to unload the supplies? I don’t think we can carry it all in a single trip.” Last Friday, Kathleen Cromp, member and Sunday school teacher at the University Unitarian Church and Executive Director of local nonprofit Wallingford Community Senior Center, dropped by the SKCCH office with the back seat of her car filled to the roof with school supplies for Project Cool for Back to School.
The numerous boxes and bags of supplies Kathleen had brought to donate was a result of her work with a Sunday school class of 2nd and 3rd graders at the University Unitarian Church. This spring the class discussed issues of homelessness in our community and after weeks of discussion the kids wanted to take action and do something to help. The class partnered with Project Cool for Back to School and hosted a supply drive at the University Unitarian Church to collect school supplies, toothbrushes, and toothpaste for homeless students across King County starting school in September. The students worked hard to bring in donations for Project Cool by making collection boxes, designing and hanging posters (like the one pictured here) to solicit donations, sending out emails to church members, and speaking about their supply drive in front of the entire congregation during Sunday church service!
These kids are right, homelessness is hard for kids. School can be an important source of stability for a child, especially when life outside of school is confusing and unpredictable. Just getting to school for a child staying at a shelter across town can be a nearly insurmountable challenge. Making sure children have the tools for success in school is a simple but important step in helping a homeless student fit in, learn, and go far.
As Kathleen and I unloaded boxes upon boxes of toothpaste, toothbrushes, folders, binders, glue sticks, crayons, paper, notebooks, pencils, and markers onto my cart last week, I was overcome by the generosity of the UUC congregation and the amazing impact that can be had when 15 youth speak up in support of equal education and opportunity for every student in our community.
Want to start your own supply drive to support homeless youth through Project Cool? Contact me at 206-357-3149. See our wish list.