If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Seattle’s proposed smoking ban in public parks is misguided.

I love parks. I intensely dislike cigarette smoke and litter.  I spent more than ten years working at the Public Health Department of Seattle & King County. Why would I not be delighted to see Seattle consider a universal ban on smoking in public parks?

Simply because the longer I work for the Coalition on Homelessness, the more allergic I become to public policies that create problems rather than resolve them.  The proposed ban on smoking in public parks in Seattle may not be intended to create another tool for law enforcement and parks department staff to use in urging people who are considered undesirable out of public spaces, but that will surely be the impact.

This ban is in line with a growing (and concerning) theme of public space use. Camping in a public park or under a bridge or roadway is illegal. Sleeping on a Metro bus is against the Code of Conduct. And yet, thousands of people resort to both of these life-sustaining activities every night in our community, and across Washington and the United States.

As Anatole France famously wrote, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.”

These nuns (below) would likely not be threatened with a fine or trespassed from the park. Spokespersons for the Seattle Parks and the Seattle Police have said that they do not intend to put significant resources into enforcing the proposed ban — and acknowledge that they have “relied on verbal requests and volunteer compliance” to enforce the current 25′ rule.

Maybe they could pass this ban and it would just be another rule that barely changes the way in which most people use our public parks.

But these kinds of laws can and are often used to target people who are homeless or poor. Current rules require a reasonable 25′ between a smoker and another person enjoying the park. That seems to work fine. The Parks Commission wants community feedback:

Smoking nuns.
Smoking nuns.

The Board of Park Commissioners will host a special public hearing on Thursday, April 16, to take comments on a proposed parks-wide smoking ban.  The Board of Park Commissioners public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Kenneth R. Bounds Board Room at Seattle Parks and Recreation Headquarters, 100 Dexter Ave. N.

So, what can you do?

  • Answer the Seattle Parks Survey: Yes or no, as a person who spends time in Seattle’s parks, do you support a complete ban on smoking in parks?
  • Submit your written comments about the proposed universal ban in public parks before May 7 to Rachel.acosta@seattle.gov. Written comments carry equal weight to oral comments.  You can also mail comments to: Seattle Parks & Recreation, Attn: Rachael Acosta, 100 Dexter AV N Seattle, WA 98109
  • Sign Real Change’s petition to Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden, Board of Parks Commissioner Rachel Acosta, and Acting Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams
  • We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please drop us a note (speakup {at} homelessinfo.org) or share an observation on our Facebook page.

The following are some of the letters/statements submitted to the Board of Park Commissioners urging them to reject the proposed smoking ban:

  • ACLU letter to Board of Park Commissioners
  • Seattle Human Rights Commission letter to Board of Park Commissioners
  • Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness letter to Board of Park Commissioners
  • IAC Statement on Seattle Parks Proposed Smoking Ban:  The IAC is concerned about the potential disproportionate impact of the proposed ban of smoking in Seattle Parks on people experiencing homelessness. The cumulative effect of smoking bans indoors and in public spaces leaves people experiencing homelessness with no place to legally smoke.

Plus, some more information:

In Support of Organized Tent Camp Ordinance by City of Seattle

The following comments, written by Alison Eisinger, Director of the Coalition on Homelessness, were shared at the Seattle City Council Meeting on Monday, March 30, 2015 in support of CB 118310, an Ordinance to permit transitional tent camps for homeless individuals as an interim use on City-owned or private property.  Hillary Coleman, Social Justice Intern at the Coalition, read Alison’s remarks as Alison was out of town at a conference.  We are glad to say that the ordinance passed unanimously!  We also supported an amendment by Councilmember Sawant to review permitting camps in residential zones which passed as well!  Thank you City Council, let’s keep working together to provide more shelter and housing options for our community. 

View testimony from many Coalition friends here.  Hillary reads Alison’s remarks at 45:40. 


Thank you for taking up Mayor Murray’s version of CM Licata’s original proposal to create more opportunities for organized tent camps in Seattle. The Coalition strongly supports passage of this proposed legislation. We also support the amendments that would address the fact that homelessness is not confined to specific neighborhoods, cities, or communities, and the solutions to homelessness — both interim and permanent — must not be restricted geographically either.
People who are without basic shelter in our community are currently living in all kinds of neighborhoods. When 1100 volunteers counted 3.772 people outside during this year’s One Night Count, they counted people in Queen Anne, Ballard, SoDo, Lake City Way, Georgetown, and Ravenna.  They also counted people in Renton, in Kent, Kirkland, ,Kenmore, Vashon Island, Bellevue, Redmond, and Des Moines.
In considering making additional city-owned property available for organized tent camps, the council should not seek to limit which neighborhoods they can occur in. Our city policy should reflect our values: people who are homeless should be living in residential neighborhoods- that is the point, isn’t it, to include and recognize people rather than literally marginalize them and make their lives more difficult.
Excluding residential neighborhoods in Seattle from consideration is an awkward and arbitrary attempt that is not supported by the evidence of more than ten years, and the personal experiences of thousands of people, both housed and homeless.  And, consider this: doing so sets a bad precedent. Seattle electeds say they want to see more, not more restrictive, demonstration of willingness to respond constructively to homelessness in municipalities across our region. What will you say to elected officials in Issaquah or Snoqualmie or Burien or Shoreline who agree to host tent cities or site shelters or services in theory, but who say that they just cannot identify suitable property that is not in a residential neighborhood?
Finally, we applaud this significant step in the right direction, even as we urge the Council and the Mayor to make good on the Mayor’s commitment following the Unsheltered Task Force to add 150 year-round shelter beds, providing indoor safety and stability. And, as we all turn attention towards renewal of the Seattle Housing Levy, let’s remember that our city has a robust responsibility to fund housing for people who are homeless.

Severe Weather Shelter in King County

Updated Severe Weather Shelter locations around King County can be found below. Please note that other Winter Shelters are also opened nightly and Severe Weather Shelters (listed below) are usually open when the weather is below freezing.  Please visit the Crisis Clinic Resource Talk Shelter page to see the most updated list of Winter Shelters around the county as well as information about Severe Weather Shelters.

This post will be frequently updated with the most recent information. If you know of new or updated information please contact hillary[at]homelessinfo[dot]org. _________________________________________________________________________

SEVERE WEATHER SHELTERS – Updated 1/5/2014

Please share information about severe weather shelters with your clients and the community.  Check back for frequent updates about openings. Information can also be found here. 

SEATTLE: Severe Weather Shelter – Print This Flyer

The emergency shelter serves men and women over the age of 18 and is operated by Salvation Army Staff. The Rainier Room at the Seattle Center is located at 305 Harrison Street just to the north of Key Arena.  This shelter is open access.  Referral forms are NOT required.

AUBURN:

Veteran’s Memorial Park 

Les Gove Overnight Shelter 

  • Location: Les Gove Multipurpose Building: 1024 Deals Way, Auburn, 98002 (between Auburn Senior Activity Center and Auburn Library)
  • Date & Time: Closed
  • Phone: (253) 876 – 1925

KENT: Kent Lutheran Church

FEDERAL WAY: New Hope Christian Fellowship

RENTON: Cold Weather Shelter

  • Location: Renton Harambee Center: 316 South 3rd St, Renton, 98057
  • Date & Time: Closed
  • Phone: 425-430-6600                                                                                                       

Severe Weather Shelters around King County UPDATED

Please share information about severe weather shelters with your clients and the community.  Check back for frequent updates about openings. Information can also be found here. 

SEATTLE Severe Weather Shelter

Location: Seattle Center Rainier Room: 305 Harrison Street (next to Key Arena)Map

Date & Time: Wednesday 11/12 & Thursday 11/13: 8:30pm to 7:00am

 Severe Weather Shelter Seattle Flyer Nov 12 & 13, 2014.

In response to forecasted low temperatures, the City of Seattle is opening Severe Weather Shelter at the Seattle Center Rainier Room on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, November 11th, 12th, & 13th.   The emergency shelter serves men and women over the age of 18 and is operated by Salvation Army Staff.  The hours of operation are 8:30pm to 7:00am.  The Rainier Room at the Seattle Center is located at 305 Harrison Street just to the north of Key Arena.  This shelter is open access.  Referral forms are NOT required.

AUBURN: Overnight Shelter confirmed open Wed 11/12 & Thurs 11/13

Until power is restored, the following Warming Centers and Shelters will be in place:

  • Overnight Severe Weather Shelter: Les Gove Multipurpose Building: 1024 Deals Way Map (between Auburn Senior Activity Center and Auburn Library)- 8 PM – 7 AM; Phone: (253) 876 – 1925
  • Warming Center: Auburn Senior Center: 808 9th Street SE – 8 AM to 9 PM
  • Warming Center: Auburn City Hall: 25 W Main Street – 8 AM to 6 PM

FEDERAL WAY: New Hope Christian Fellowship

Location: 31411 6th Ave S, Federal Way, WA, 98003 Map
Phone: (253) 269 – 6585                                                                                                  

Date & Time: 4pm-8am, open until further notice

RENTON Cold Weather Shelter

Location: Renton Harambee Center: 316 South 3rd St, Renton, 98057 Map              Phone: 425-430-6600                                                                                                       

Date & Time: Wednesday 11/12: 8:30pm – 8am

Print and share this flyer: Renton Cold Weather Shelter 11.12.2014

The City Renton is partnering with Catholic Community Services to open the Severe Weather Shelter (SWS) at Renton Harambee Center, due to dangerously low temperatures.This Severe Weather Shelter will be open TONIGHT, Wednesday November 12th. 8:30PM – check in and registration, 8AM – shelter closes, all must vacate.  All are welcome. The SWS is available for single women and men, couples, and homeless families with children who are living on the streets or in vehicles; separate sleeping spaces have been prepared for men, women, and for families with children. The SWS will be operated by Catholic Community Services staff and volunteers from the greater Renton community. All must register at the door. As with all shelters, rules for the health and safety of clients, staff and the broader community will apply. For more information please contact the City of Renton, Human Services office at 425-430-6600.

Single Adults Advocacy Committee: Report back from 25 Cities Initiative + Coordinated Entry for Single Adults

The most recent Single Adults Advocacy Committee meeting on Thursday, October 9 was focused on our community’s involvement in the national 25 Cities Initiative, designed to reduce homelessness among veterans and people who are chronically homeless. With that included how ’25 Cities’ relates to coordinated entry for single adults, and how we can be good informants and advocates as these policies, programs, and budgets are developed. Kelli Larsen, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Plymouth and a Design Team member for the 25 Cities Initiative, led us in conversation. 

Here’s a brief report of what was discussed…

The 25 Cities Initiative is in the twenty-five cities where Veteran Homelessness is highest. Goal is to end homelessness, and, locally, we know that a single solution – just increase housing, or just coordinate the stock we have – is not enough. Within this goal is a focus on creating and implementing a single adults coordinated entry, much like has happened with families (Family Housing Connection) and youth (Youth Housing Connection). This is not an easy, straightforward or simple task: the single adults population is much, much larger and still very diverse. Officially, the four principles guiding this complex coordinated entry process are: (1) assess, (2) assist, (3), match, and (4) place. More loosely, leads on this project want to ensure that the system they create and implement is simple, meets real needs, and has true benefits (that eclipse any inherent negatives).

An example of the complexity is that it is not possible to screen thousands of single adults who are homeless, and perform regular check-ins. Our community has learned (and is still learning a lot) from the successes, complications, and frustrations associated with YHC and FHC. Plus, we want to be sure to coordinate the coordination that already exists. SAAC explored important elements of a coordinated entry system for single adults, as well as discussed positives and negatives of various components.

The assessment tool of choice at the national level is the VI-SPDAT, which Kelli shared with the group. In conjunction with our local community’s involvement with the 25 Cities Initiative, this tool was tested within a handful of agencies. SAAC talked bout the positives and negatives of the tool, areas for improvement (e.g., wording, language, tone, etc.), and what is missing. Some complicating factors are that this test does not appear to be adaptable, it doesn’t plug into our HMIS system, and the process for Case Managers to upload information had many glitches. Some SAAC members had administered the test, and shared their experience and feedback as well as compared it to the VAT. As a result of this conversation, Kelli will be sharing our valuable feedback about the VI-SPDAT with the ’25 Cities’ federal partners, as they are exploring ways to improve the tool with its designer, OrgCode.

Other points of discussion centered around willingness and ability of certain folks who are homeless to easily complete the process, or gather necessary documentation to move into housing (when available). Also brought up were concerns over how an assessment could discern situational-related issues, length of homelessness, and changes over time with clients that would affect their ‘score.’ Many discussed the need for – and current examples of – continuation and coordination of care for single adults – now popularly termed “case conferencing and navigation.” In addition, the need for translation was reviewed.


Here are the advocacy opportunities we heard about… 

NOV 4 ELECTION, AND VOTE YES ON PROP 1 FOR SEATTLE TRANSIT
Speak out and call on community members to add bus service by voting YES for Seattle Transit! You should have already received your ballot — please call 206.296.VOTE to get a replacement ballot. Remember: every day until 
November 4th is election day because we vote by mail!  Encourage those around you to vote, vote early, and vote YES for Seattle Transit – Prop 1. 

SHOW SUPPORT FOR A SOUND TRANSIT LOW INCOME FARE
What’s better than one low income fare? Two that work together to keep our community members moving. We are thrilled to announce that Sound Transit is requesting YOUR input for their proposed low income fare program, which will be modeled after the low income Metro fare we worked so hard to win.

Click here to take Sound Transit’s low income fare proposal survey, and be sure to add YOUR comments about how this fare would help you, your colleagues, and the clients and guests you serve. The deadline for submission is a mere 10 days away (10/23) – don’t wait to share your support!

Here’s an opportunity to speak out and show your support in-person: Sound Transit Public Hearing – Thurs., Oct. 23 from Noon – 1 p.m. @ Union Station: 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle

SHOW UP FOR CITY OF SEATTLE AND KING COUNTY BUDGET HEARINGS
The Seattle City Council and the King County Council is in the process of meeting to set budget priorities and begin making adjustments to the Mayor’s and Executive’s budgets.  We need to REPRESENT at these public budget hearings. Invite residents, guests, clients, co-workers, and community members to stand alongside human services workers and advocates as we press our budget recommendations.

Not sure what’s at stake in the budget process? Check out our Budget Advocacy postcards to get on-point messaging! We encourage all those folks to fill out and deliver or send in the Coalition’s City and County Budget Advocacy Postcards (in the ‘What’s Hot’ box on the homepage).

Seattle City Council Budget Committee Hearing
Thursday, October 23 at 5:30 p.m.

King County Council Budget Committee Hearings
Thursday, October 23, at 6:30 p.m. (Kent)
Wednesday, October 29, 6:30 p.m. (Seattle)

More information is available in the Coalition’s earlier blog post.

 

Families with Children Committee: Resources Share from the July 23 meeting

Help and support signpostOur Families with Children (FWC) Committee held a Resource Share at their July 23 meeting. Why? Because committee members bring incredible skills, experience, and knowledge to the table each time they meet. Resource shares are a good way to problem-solve and brainstorm, as well as share new (or forgotten) information.

 The Co-chairs asked that each member come to the meeting with something to share to enrich the discussion — specialized resources, handouts, contacts, websites or whatever has been helpful. Here’s what the group came up with this time around…

  1. Child Care Resources (CCR): CCR’s homeless subsidy program to cover all costs of any licensed child care provider, financial assistance program for suburban cities (including Bellevue, Renton, Kent) – these programs are designed to help families who are not eligible for DSHS services.
  2. Additionally, CCR’s information and referral line is helpful for staff and families. Call 1-800-446-1114 to speak with staff who can help families locate licensed childcare providers that meet their specific needs/criteria. They can also do a free search online (click the register button to begin a search if not already a user).
  3. City of Seattle Child Care program – this program does not currently have a waitlist; parents in school (and not working) are eligible; the program will pay for ESL classes; great long-term solution, but program only pays partial cost.
  4. Basic Food Employment and Training (BFET) – Families who receive Basic Food Assistance (SNAP) are eligible for this program. It also applies to folks who attend any community or technical college in Washington State, and partners with Farestart and Goodwill programs. Even if the program runs out of money at each quarter, parents can still get assistance with childcare. Families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are ineligible for this program.
  5. Public Health – Kids Plus – Kids plus is a program that meets the unique needs of families who are referred by connecting them to a Kids plus case manager who can provide linkages to a variety of services (housing, mental health, physical health, etc. for parents and children). Staff are well connected and highly knowledgeable of available resources and services. The workers meet with families where they are at and have an ongoing relationship with the families. Contact them directly for a referral sheet that you can use to refer your families as needed.
  6. Atlantic Street Center – Atlantic Street Center offers a variety of programs. As part of The Family Center, families in Central and South Seattle can get up to 45 diapers per month per child! In addition:  The Family Center provides a multitude of free classes and services that help nurture, develop and celebrate family life. Activities include parent education classes, instruction for students learning English, preparation for the US citizenship exam, life skills classes, parent support groups for parents of all ages, physical fitness activities, and cultural events and celebrations. The Atlantic Street Family Center also offers a family support worker who counsels and aids families with challenges they may be facing. Families are encouraged to help with planning services so that the activities offered can best meet participants’ needs. Check out the Family Support page for more details.
  7. Wellspring Family Service’s Baby Boutique (requires case manager referral)
  8. Solid Ground’s Legal Assistance program – “Family Assistance provides information and referral, advice and direct legal representation to individuals who have had their state public assistance benefits (e.g., Basic Food/food stamps, Medicaid, ADATSA, TANF, Disability Lifeline) reduced, terminated or denied.”
  9. Parent Trust for Washington Children – Marni Port (Child and Teen Services Manger) is a great resource. Talk to her about child development, and stress management and relaxation training for children, teens, families, and to bring to your programs!
  10. Bellevue LifeSpring – This is a great service for Eastsiders re: rental assistance, food, basic needs, utilities, etc. Call 425.451.1175!
  11. Compass Housing Alliance’s Safe Parking Program (Road to Housing)
  12. DSHS Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance – “We provide a range of services to help refugee and immigrant families meet basic needs, find employment, take care of their children and elders, and successfully integrate into their new communities…”
  13. Sophia Latino (Hopelink) created this incredible East King County Financial Assistance List re: financial assistance, eviction prevention, and moving assistance resources.
  14. Rebecca Valderrama (HealthPoint) shared this Dental Resources list re: dental options for adults in King County. As a reminder: even though adult dental access is back in Washington, many people are unaware, or simply (and understandably!) don’t know how access services.
  15. South King County Mobile Medical and Dental Van – August Schedule. Check these good folks’ website to learn more and sign up for their e-mails. “The Mobile Medical program provides basic medical care, dental care, and social services to homeless individuals and families living in south King County. At each site a full free meal is served by the church. The program does not charge a fee and does not require insurance.”
  16. Laura Del Ragno shared a new transitional housing resource for teen parents ages 14-18 3/4 years old. Contact Laura for more info: 206.323.7409, lauradelragno@gdassociation.org
  17. StoryCorps is in town and looking for people to share their stories/experiences of family homelessness.
  18. Register for Best and Promising Practices in Faith-Based Solutions to Ending Family Homelessness – Aug. 20, 4-8 p.m. at Seattle University
  19. The highlight of the Coalition’s July General Membership Meeting was a screening and discussion of American Refugeesa short-film project of Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness and the Gates Foundation. The four animated shorts document the experience of family homelessness, and resiliency, and can be used to encourage people to challenge stereotypes of homelessness, and become more aware of the breadth and depth of this crisis.

The Families with Children committee will not meet in August as the Coalition will be hosting it’s annual Helping Homeless Students: McKinney-Vento 101 training that week. The next committee meeting will be on Wednesday, September 24 from 9:30-11:30 a.m.. See you then at the E. Cherry YWCA (2820 E. Cherry Street, Seattle WA 98144).

Progress: Winter Shelters extended in Bellevue & Seattle!

Many good people and organizations have worked very hard to add or extend safe overnight shelter.  Special appreciation to the staff at the City of Seattle Human Services Department; the King County Community Services Division; the Bellevue Human Services Department; and providers and advocates at the YWCA, The Salvation Army, Congregations for the Homeless; The Sophia Way; and WHEEL.

  • The King County-funded Winter Shelter (50 men) located at the King County Administration Building will be extended through June 30, 2014, with extended hours beginning on April 16th.
  • The Winter Shelter located at the YWCA Angeline’s (40-45 women) will stay open every night in 2014. The shelter will now serve women nightly through the spring and summer.
  • Winter shelters on the Eastside have been extended, through a combination of private contributions, support from the United Way and the Crisis Response of the Committee to End Homelessness, and help from the city of Bellevue.
  • The WHEEL Women’s shelter, currently hosted at Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle, has been invited to stay through April 18. WHEEL is working to secure funding to find a new location for spring, summer, and fall, and expects to keep shelter open nightly during this process.
  • Please click here to send a thank you e-mail to King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray for extending winter shelter past the April close date, providing 40-45 women and 50 men each night with safe places to find rest.

And – remember how we added funds for emergency shelter for families with children during the Seattle budget process last fall?  Following a fast RFP, the staff at Mary’s Place is preparing to shelter up to 80 people (25-30 families) at a new shelter ~ doors will be open by May 1, if not before.