Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy Renewal and Expansion: Advocacy Needed!

For over a decade, the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy (formerly known as the Vets and Human Services Levy) has funded critical healthcare, supports, and housing for our neighbors who need them most, along with domestic violence, public health, and other services.

Executive Constantine recently transmitted a strong proposal to King County Council, expanding the levy to be 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Now we need to urge King County Council members to BUILD ON and INCREASE that proposal, and place it on the November 7, 2017 ballot. People like YOU can help make this happen!

Take Liz Werley-Prieto as an example. Liz is the Project Manager of shelter programs at DESC who spoke at the conference on June 1st. Liz eloquently addressed how the importance of funding the levy is born out through the interactions between service providers and those they serve. Read Liz’s testimony then take action using this link and information below

Read Liz’s testimony here from May 31, 2017 at King County Council:

My name is Liz and I work as the Project Manager of DESC’s shelter program, located right across the street. Since January first, the shelter program registered more than 800 homeless clients seeking shelter who had not interacted with DESC’s services before. Almost without exception, the primary need expressed by these individuals was a place to live, and as service providers we have had to set the expectation again and again that getting a home will almost certainly be a long and difficult process, or that it might not happen at all.

Being homeless has an impact on the mental and physical health of a population already disproportionately affected by disabling conditions. For those of us working in social services, the urgency of having funding at or above the level proposed by Dow Constantine for the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy is born out every day in our interactions with those we serve.

For a much larger proportion of those who live and work in King County, the need for this levy is evident in other ways. The number of people living outside is ever-growing which contributes to the creation of makeshift encampments and leads individuals to meet their needs in ways that are financially and socially costly.

Research published in 2016 found a 44% reduction in days spent hospitalized among housed individuals as compared to the homeless, and an inpatient hospital stay in Washington State costs about $2,900 per day. The levy at hand attempts to serve veterans, older people, and others, such as the homeless, in a way that anticipates their housing and behavioral health needs rather than paying for emergency interventions when they are inevitably required. It does not increase spending on these supports, it has in fact saved $7 million since 2012 by reducing emergency medical and criminal justice involvement.

The $54 per year for the average homeowner that the levy would cost at the proposed level is money that will lead to a higher quality of life for all residents of King County, and most dramatically for individuals impacted by severe mental illness or complicated medical conditions. I urge you to support the levy at least the twelve cents per thousand dollars rate being proposed.

Now we ask that you TAKE ACTION:

Accessing Coordinated Entry for All at King County 2-1-1

At last week’s Coalition on Homelessness General Membership Meeting, Coalition members were joined by Danielle Winslow from All Home who discussed with us the Coordinated Entry for All (CEA) program, which is run by King County. The goal of CEA is to connect individuals experiencing homelessness to housing in the most efficient way. It does this by using a standardized assessment tool to matches the right level of services and housing resources to the individuals seeking these resources. To learn more about the basics of the program and where Regional Access Points are located, visit www.kingcounty.gov/cea.

To schedule an appointment for a CEA assessment, people need to call King County 2-1-1 to set up an appointment for an assessment. 2-1-1 is currently experiencing high volumes of calls and appointments are filling fast. Alex Williams with King County 2-1-1 sent us some tips, information, and realistic expectations that people should have when calling 2-1-1 to access CEA.

CEA Access and Information at King County 2-1-1 as of September, 2016 

General Information on 2-1-1

  • King County 2-1-1 is open to receive calls Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. CEA assessment appointments are made on Wednesday mornings.
  • Dialing 2-1-1 on a cell phone will connect you to the 2-1-1 that serves the area where your phone is based. You can also call King County 2-1-1 directly by dialing (206) 461-3200 or toll-free at (800) 621-4636. If your cell phone connects you to another 2-1-1 contact center in Washington state, they can transfer your call to King County 2-1-1 if you are calling during our hours of operation.
  • Specialists at King County 2-1-1 can assist callers in English and Spanish. To use an interpreter for other languages, push ‘5’ when prompted after calling 2-1-1. This option will connect you to a Specialist who speaks English. When the Specialist comes on the line, simply say the language you speak and the Specialist will put you on a brief hold as they make a call to bring a language interpreter on the line.
  • Call volume has been high over the past few months, and wait times have often been long. When prompted by the hold message on the 2-1-1 line, callers can push ‘1’ to activate the call-back option, after which the caller will be instructed to enter their 10-digit phone number, stay on the phone to confirm the number entered is correct, then they can disconnect and the phone system will automatically call them back when a 2-1-1 Specialist becomes available.
  • Calls and system callbacks that are still in the queue when 2-1-1 closes at 6pm will be disconnected.

Calling 2-1-1 to schedule an assessment appointment for Coordinated Entry for All (CEA):

  •  Specialists at 2-1-1 will always assess for CEA eligibility for callers who are seeking housing resources, and will assess for both safety and CEA eligibility when callers are seeking emergency or domestic violence housing resources.
  • CEA program information and eligibility is provided to anyone who calls who is currently eligible for CEA, as well as to anyone who is at risk of homelessness, and anyone who asks about the CEA program.
  • Callers can ask for a CEA intake assessment appointment by name, but 2-1-1 Specialists will also be able to identify that a caller is asking about CEA when they indicate that they’re calling for a housing appointment; they were told to call 2-1-1 for an appointment; they need a housing assessment, etc.
  • All callers getting information about CEA will be read the program eligibility verbatim. Program details and eligibility can also be sent to callers by email.
  •  A limited number of CEA appointments is made available each Wednesday morning for 2-1-1 to schedule for eligible callers. The appointments are filled quickly.
  • Since the number of appointments is limited and 2-1-1 receives many calls for CEA, there is no guarantee that there will be an appointment available for someone when they call, even if they call on Wednesday morning.
  • If no CEA appointment is available at the time someone calls to schedule one, Specialists at 2-1-1 will provide CEA program and eligibility information and let eligible callers know when to call back to try to schedule an appointment. They will also explore additional housing and other needed resources that are available.

For more detailed information on CEA visit this link.
You can also click here for more information about King Count 2-1-1 and to view their lists of resources online.

$15 Minimum Wage – A Shared Commitment

Last November, voters in SeaTac approved increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making national news and inspiring vigorous public conversations about wages, affordability, and income inequality in coffee shops and town halls, on buses, and around water coolers across our region.   Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant have been working hard on this issue, and the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee is scheduled to release recommendations at the end of April.  The Coalition on Homelessness has been a part of the conversation about the opportunities and complexities of raising the minimum wage as a member of the Seattle Human Services Coalition (SHSC), a coalition of direct service providers and advocacy groups (see background materials below).  We’ll be taking up this conversation at our April 17 General Membership meeting with Tony Lee, from Poverty Action, and other special guests.  Please join us to discuss the practical, political, and policy issues related to raising the minimum wage for all workers, including human services and housing providers. As usual, we meet on the third Thursday from 9-11 a.m. at the E. Cherry St. YWCA (2820 E. Cherry St.) in Seattle.

Background:

In late March, SHSC, together with Working Washington, SEIU 925, and Kids First Seattle issued a joint press release affirming their clear commitment to a $15 minimum wage because it “lifts workers out of poverty, boosts the economy, and strengthens people’s abilities to meet their basic human needs.” These labor and human services groups noted:

“The current citywide conversation about income inequality and the minimum wage should not be used to pit one low income group against another, because we know that those who work in poverty-wage jobs and those who receive human services can be the very same people. Thousands of low-wage workers can’t feed themselves without help from food banks, and can’t possibly afford early childhood education for their children without public support. And at $9.32 an hour, a housing crisis is never more than a paycheck away.”

The Seattle Human Services Coalition laid out five key points in an  “Issues Advisory on $15 Minimum Wage and Impact for Human Services.” Here is an excerpt from the Executive Summary:

The Seattle Human Services Coalition recognizes the importance of a livable minimum wage in addressing poverty in our community. SHSC fully supports raising the minimum wage for all human services workers (and others) to $15/hr.

We are also acutely aware that this call for raising the minimum wage must be done in such a way that does not result in a decrease in urgently needed services; any solution must take into account the impact on the vulnerable people we serve.

We call upon elected leaders and other stakeholders to take all five of these actions:

      • Include non-profit human service employees in any recommended increases to the minimum wage.
      • Ensure that wage standards and city contract requirements do not lead to a reduction of needed human services.
      • Increase local investments in pay equity, including human services employees.
      • Move the discussion beyond an hourly wage to examine the broader issue of income inequality in our region.
      • Set a base wage that does not include other forms of compensation.