We had a fun and informative general membership meeting on Thursday, August 15th at Southside Commons. State Senator Joe Nguyen from the 34th legislative district spoke about some of the hard fought changes to important public benefits programs. He emphasized that the bills that get passed are the ones that have the most attention and passion behind them, emphasizing the importance of member advocacy. Check out a summary of the 2019 Basic Needs Wins!
TANF and HEN law changes and updates
This was followed by a deep dive into the specifics of these changes led by David Hlebain (Statewide Poverty Action Network), Christine Long-Crossley (Catholic Community Services HEN Program), and Jason Austin (our Coalition’s Membership Organizer). David discussed changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF), a crucially important lifeline that provides a modest amount of cash assistance to families with children living below the poverty line. For years TANF has been difficult to access for many of those who need it the most. Some of the frustrating aspects of the program included a stringent “three strikes” policy, resulting in a lifetime sanction or ban for families who struggled with onerous on-going reporting requirements, and a time-limit that could not be extended regardless of circumstances.
Thanks to legislation championed by hard-working legislators in Olympia and advocated for by Coalition members and partners, families who were previously kicked off TANF are likely eligible again:
If a family was kicked off TANF due to:
- Sanctions that led them to be permanently disqualified, OR
- For reaching the 60 month-limit, but a family is currently experiencing homelessness
That family is again eligible for TANF due to these law changes! Please share this flyer and information with families you know who might now be eligible again.
In addition to common sense TANF reform, the recently passed state budget includes exciting changes to the Housing and Essential Needs Program (HEN). HEN provides a rental housing voucher and other support services to those deemed too disabled to work and with no income, and acts as the only assistance for many of the most vulnerable in our region.
After years of not adding additional funding to HEN, the state legislature passed a budget that included an additional $15 million in funding above what it has ever allocated for HEN before. Christine highlighted that while this was short of what the Coalition and other housing advocates requested this investment represents a significant shift in Olympia towards more support for rental voucher programs and will bring thousands of vulnerable adults out of the cold. Details of the housing voucher provided through HEN can be found in this sample enrollment letter. Below are a few key points to know about this program:
What does HEN provide?
- Housing Payment Assistance: HEN issues monthly rent and utility payment checks of varying amounts depending on details of housing unit (see enrollment letter for more information).
- Transportation Assistance: Clients are issued either an unlimited ORCA metro public transportation card for King County, or a gas card that provides 10 gallons of gasoline weekly
- Hygiene Supplies: Once per month, clients may receive a bag full of toiletries and cleaning items; which may include toilet paper, laundry detergent, dental hygiene items etc.
- Employment Assistance: HEN staff includes a dedicated employment specialist, and works closely with FCS-funded employment services to offer help with job search and job training assistance for interested clients.
What does HEN NOT provide?
- Housing Placement: HEN does not maintain a list of available apartments, and is unable to place clients directly into housing. This is done intentionally; housing search is something clients need to be actively engaged with as a part of the program. Landlords must accept HEN payment, refusal to do so is a violation of our state’s Source of Income Discrimination Law.
- Household Furnishings: While third party referrals are made when possible, household items such as furniture and cooking utensils are not offered through the program.
An important reminder, HEN eligibility is determined by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Once you have a HEN approval letter from DSHS, please call 206-328-5755 to enroll for services with Catholic Community Services of King County.
This information has been complied by Coalition staff. For more details on program specifics, please visit the HEN CCS website.
While the improvements are significant, we know that these there is still much work to be done. We closed the meeting by emphasizing the importance of sharing compelling client stories as a key element of fighting for additional funding.
Poverty Action is looking for real life accounts of the difficulty of trying to make it on $197/mo. We believe that we have a strong case to make for increasing the size of the Age, Blind and Disabled cash grant program (ABD), and need your help in making that case to the legislature. You can find more info about sharing stories here.
LEGAL ASSISTANCE: If you or someone you are working with is having an legal issue related to these benefits, Solid Ground provides free legal assistance to connect you with the assistance you are entitled to. More information here in English y también en español.
Updates from Membership Organizations
Emergency Safety Planning service from El Centro de la Raza to protect immigrant families
This is a service provided by El Centro de la Raza for undocumented immigrants in the US at risk of being detained or deported by immigration authorities that help them assign a person they trust to take care of their children and make decisions related to their supervision in the case that one or both of their parents are detained or deported.
Through this service, undocumented people are also oriented on how to protect the assets they acquired in the US if they are at risk of being detained or deported for not having defined their legal status in the country.
If interested,you should call El Centro de la Raza at (206) 717-0089 and set an appointment whenever you find most convenient. Their team of bilingual professionals are ready to serve you.
King County HEP A Update:
A Hepatitis A outbreak was declared by the Washington State Department of Health at the end of July based on multiple cases of hepatitis A in four different counties. King County has had three confirmed cases in persons living homeless. We want to ensure that you keep aware of the situation, and have information, contacts, and resourcesto helpkeep your staff and those you serve healthy and safe. For more information on how to stay safe and healthy please visit this post from King County’s Helathcare for the Homeless Network.
In addition to this helpful info, King County Public Health is also making on-site vaccine clinics available to agencies and programs who serve the homeless. To request a visit follow the link here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TMDPS5T
Upcoming Coalition Opportunities
Helping Homeless Students: McKinney-Vento 101 Workshop – September 26
It’s back to school season again, and in the spirit of helping every child have a fighting chance at success the Coalition is once again hosting a Helping Homeless Students: McKinney-Vento 101 workshop. Come learn about what assistance is available to help unhoused children succeed, we will discuss some of key points of the McKinney-Vento Act and how to best take advantage of this assistance. This workshop will be hosted on Thursday, September 26th at South Seattle College Georgetown Campus, 6737 Corson Ave room #C122. Training is free but registration is required. Register today!
Voter Registration & Education Drive for people experiencing homelessness
Help the Coalition register voters this Fall! We work to make sure that people know You Don’t need a House to Vote and will be hosting a voter registration drive in October and November.
Volunteer Orientation with the Coalition is Mandatory prior to volunteering, there are two date options:
- Thursday, October 10, 6:00 – 8:00pm at Kent Panther Lake Library, 20500 108th Avenue SE, Kent 98031
- Monday, October 14, 5:30 – 7:30pm at Columbia City Library, 4721 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, 98118
Volunteers will be trained on the basics of helping people who are experiencing homelessness register to vote, key aspects of filling out the form without a traditional residential address, updates from recent (positive) law changes to increase voting access, the Voting Rights Restoration Act (for people with felony convictions), and more. Sign-up today!
Do you work at a service agency that wants to take part in our Coalition’s community voter registration efforts? We encourage you to attend one of the orientations as well! Email Hillary to let her know if you want to partner.
Lawn Bowling Party & Fundraiser: Saturday, September 14, 5pm – 8pm at Jefferson Park Lawn Bowling Club
Get your tickets now for a wonderful evening ~ a tasty salmon dinner, sunset over Elliott Bay, friendly games, and great conversation with people who care deeply about safety, housing, and justice for people experiencing homelessness. There are lawn bowling lessons for those new to the sport and the possibility of fierce competition once you have mastered your technique.
Early Bird Tickets $25 | General Admission Tickets $35 starting August 25 (this Sunday)
Tickets available now through Brown Paper Tickets
Suggested donation: $100 – $1,000
Upcoming General Membership Meetings:
Every 3rd Thursday from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. at Southside Commons, 3518 S Edmunds St, Seattle, WA 98118 in Columbia City
No registration is required and anyone is welcome to attend.
Thursday, September 19th
Thursday, October 17th
Thursday, November 21st
Thursday, December 12th, Legislative Preview Meeting (note, 2nd week of December)
Thursday, January 16th 2020
Thursday, February 20th
Thursday, March 19th