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 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