Opening doors to the Conference on Ending Homelessness: the Coalition’s Scholarships for people who are homeless!

The air was warm and the sun was already out the morning we rolled into the Yakima Convention Center parking lot for the first day of the 2014 Conference on Ending Homelessness. Tracey with his sweet service pup, Jennifer, and I got out of my car and gave a big stretch after the two and a half hour drive from Seattle to Yakima, Washington, a beautiful drive indeed. On our drive over the mountains, we bonded over this being each of our first attending the statewide conference, and also found common ground over interest in workshops. Maybe it was the blood flowing back freely to our limbs, but we each felt a buzz and energy as we walked across the warm cement parking lot into a sea of fellow advocates and champions of housing and homelessness from around the state of Washington. We’d exchanged contact information, made check-in plans, and off we went into this new, exciting experience!

2014 Scholarship Recipient Susan speaking at 2015 Gong Ringing in Olympia
2014 Scholarship Recipient Susan speaking at 2015 Gong Ringing in Olympia

Staff from organizations who are plugged into the Coalition told Tracey, Jennifer, and Susan – our 2014 scholarship Recipients – about the conference and the Coalition’s full scholarships for people who are currently homeless. Last year, ten people applied for our two scholarships. Luckily, we were able to stretch the Coalition’s Scholarship Fund to provide two full and one partial scholarships.

 

Neatly packed into those three sentences are some important messages that I’d like to tease out:

  • People who are homeless must be involved in the conversations and work to end homelessness — that includes conferences such as this one!
  • It’s important to ensure access to opportunities like the Conference on Ending Homelessness, and in doing so, address the many barriers that prevent people from being able to participate. That’s exactly why we provide a FULL scholarship: travel, accommodations, meals, registration, supplies, and person-to-person support (as much or as little is desired).
  • Our member organizations do incredible work day in and day out to support not just their organization’s mission and the mission of the Coalition, but also the people they serve. They spread the word about the Coalition’s Scholarships and support their clients, residents, and guests by helping them apply and prepare for the conference!
  • The interest and need for these scholarships is obvious, and greater than the Coalition can currently meet.
  • Membership dues and YOUR financial support allow us to continue and grow to meet the need. Donate today to create opportunities for people who are homeless to participate in the Conference on Ending Homelessness! (Want streeeeettttcchhh your gift even farther? Maker your donation on Tuesday, May 6 during #GiveBig!)

rally on capitol building steps

After the conference, as I drove to the local Greyhound bus stop, we spoke about our experiences at the conference: our favorite presenters, the best workshop, the people we met, and how nice it was to have a big, soft bed with  ultra clean sheets.  Will you remember to send me those membership papers? I want to join the Coalition! I loved this – I learned so much, and got some business cards. That guy said he wants to help me. I hope I remember to get off the bus in Seattle — I’m so  tired!  Yes, sleepy we all were after two days of constant interaction and learning, but Tracey, Susan, and Jennifer had an energized spirit about them — they were inspired and felt a connection to the people in the room, all aiming to achieve the same mission: to see an end to homelessness in our communities.

Everything about this conference and those who attend inspires and energizes me. That is why I am excited to report that we recently put out our initial call for applicants for the 2015 Conference on Ending Homelessness, this year in Tacoma, WA! (And we already received our first applicant – hooray!) Those who apply know that this particular opportunity is important and all too rare. Whether by conference or one of the Coalition’s many other advocacy actions, together we will work collaboratively to ensure safety and survival for people who are homeless, and to end the crisis of homelessness in our region.

Join us.

 

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