As many of you know, TOMORROW, is the final day of the 2012 general election, so don’t forget to turn in those ballots! You should have received your ballot a few weeks ago and at this point if you have not mailed it in, you should drop it off at one of the drop-box locations, which you can find on our 2012 Homeless Voter’s Guide. At this point, it may be better to drop your ballot off at a drop-box rather than put it in the mail since we are so close to election day – any ballots postmarked after November 6 will not be counted (keep in mind USPS hours!). All ballots must be post-marked by election day (that’s tomorrow!) or dropped off at drop-box by 8pm.
Here at SKCCH we are passionate about providing voter registration and information for people experiencing homelessness. SKCCH interns and volunteers spent the last two weeks out in the community providing information and helping people to register. We went to shelters, day centers, and food banks and helped 70 people register to vote or update their address.
Many times we heard people say, “I can’t vote,” and in most cases we were able to respond, yes you can! Although legislation was passed in 2009 that restored voting rights to people with felony convictions, many people are still unaware of their rights. We were able to inform people that as long as they are no longer under D.O.C. supervision, their voting rights are automatically restored. This is the first presidential election since that legislation passed and people were excited to register once they heard they could!
One man came through the line to get a sandwich for lunch and we asked if he was registered to vote and he told us he was not registered because he couldn’t register to vote. We asked him why and he said that thirty years ago he had committed a felony. We then told him that he could ABSOLUTELY register to vote. At first, he was skeptical, but we explained the new law to him and told him that as long as he was no longer on parole he had the right to vote. Seeing the joy on his face once he found out he could vote was amazing. He told us that he had wanted to vote all his life but he had thought once he committed a felony his voting rights were stripped away for life. We then helped him register, and as he completed the form, his face began to light up; he realized that voting was finally becoming a reality for him and that he would have a voice. He told us as he was leaving that we had made his day and that he couldn’t wait to vote and would definitely be casting his ballot in November.
This is a perfect example of how important it is to give everyone who has the right to vote a voice in the democratic process. This story highlights why voter registration is so important and why we believe in making sure EVERY VOTER COUNTS.
A big thank you goes out to our wonderful volunteers, especially Molly Matter who went to three different sites and registered 24 people! We’d also like to thank the ACLU of Washington for their excellent voting rights restoration materials, and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance for their help with publishing our 2012 Homeless Voters’ Information Guide.
click this image to download our Homeless Voters’ Information Guide!
Many people begin their internships with standard orientation procedures like familiarizing yourself with your computer, the filing system, office supplies and setting up voicemail and email. Not me – I spent my first day of my United Church of Christ Social Justice Internship with SKCCH at the Coalition’s Youth and Young Adult Advocacy Summit and I could not have asked for a better introduction to this small but mighty organization.
I was extremely inspired by the 25 youth and young adults who participated in the Summit on September 10-11 and I left each day far more educated on the struggles displaced youth and young adults face because I spoke with them directly about it. It was amazing to have the opportunity to sit down with these young people and listen to the inventive solutions they came up with that could solve their daily struggles. I could not have learned all I did in those two days even if I had sat at a desk for weeks reading up on issues affecting young people who are homeless.
On day one of the Youth Summit, the participants, with support from peer leaders and service providers came up with four priorities after rounds of voting and then divided themselves into groups as to which priority they felt most passionate about. The priorities for this year were:
Each group then came up with key talking points and solutions that they wanted to present to the city council member who they would be talking to on the second day. A detailed outline of these points and solutions is below.
On the first day we also had some amazing speakers present at the summit including Josh Hicks, Jim Theofolis, Steve Daschle, Kim Jones and Nancy Amidei. These experienced advocates both inspired and taught the youth and young adults about advocacy and the importance of civic engagement. We would like to thank them for taking the time to participate in our summit. The participants were constantly referring to their advice as they prepared to speak to the Councilmembers.
The second day of the Youth Summit began with time for groups to prepare their topics and presentations for Councilmembers. Crystal Shaw, from the Human Services Department of the City of Seattle, was instrumental on this day. She oriented the youth and young adults to the City Council that morning and went above and beyond by lending support to participants and organizers throughout the day.
The groups then went up and presented to City of Seattle Councilmembers Mike O’Brien, Sally Bagshaw, Richard Conlin, and Sally Clark. A collective group also presented to the Human Services Department on all four priorities in the afternoon. We would like to thank all the Councilmembers involved as well as the Human Services Department for ensuring that this Summit was a very positive experience of civic engagement for the participants. Officials took the time to really listen, giving this group, who sometimes feels silenced, a voice on policy issues important to their daily life.
This Youth Summit could not have happened without the amazing time, energy, and dedication of our Youth and Young Adults Committee Co-Chairs, Melissa King from Friends of Youth and Kathleen Murphy from ROOTS Young Adult Shelter.
The Ride Free Area has been an essential service to people experiencing homelessness and living on low incomes in downtown Seattle for 39 years. When the King County Council directed Metro to eliminate the Ride Free Area, SKCCH members immediately took up the cause and advocated across the County for the implementation of a robust mitigation plan. SKCCH members contacted King County, Metro, and City of Seattle officials, testified at County Council meetings, and organized a postcard campaign to provide relevant and vital about the impact the loss of the Ride Free Area will have on people experiencing homelessness.
As a result of coordinated advocacy efforts, the City of Seattle has partnered with Solid Ground to provide a free alternative bus service in the downtown area. The two Solid Ground circulators stop at 7 Metro bus stops along a 4.5 mile route about every 30 minutes. This new route includes Harborview Medical Center and other important First Hill services which could not previously be accessed via the Ride Free Area. The circulator buses provide necessary access to downtown health and human services for people experiencing homelessness; however the days, hours, and stops are significantly reduced compared to the Ride Free Area due to funding constraints.
More information about the Solid Ground Circulator can be found at: http://www.solidground.org/Programs/Transportation/circulator/Pages/default.aspx
Do you have any feedback regarding the word from clients, staff, residents, and guests about the Circulator and the effects on people’s daily lives and health due to the loss of the Ride Free Area?
Do you have feedback related to the circulator buses you think SKCCH should know about?
If so, contact me at Kathariner@homelessinfo.org or 206-357-3144.
Is there funding for extra-curricular activities under McKinney Vento for homeless students?
This question was asked during the Seattle/King County Coalition’s Annual McKinney-Vento 101 training on August 22nd. Jess Lewis from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Katara Jordan from Columbia Legal Services spent 2 hours introducing and explaining the complex issues in McKinney-Vento legislation to close to 100 school staff and housing and homeless service providers. The McKinney-Vento Act requires school districts to immediately register, transport and provide and pay for extra-curricular activities to homeless students. There are more than 26,000 students in Washington state that qualify for McKinney-Vento services, and school districts must pay for these services whether or not they recieve funding under the law. Most school districts do not receive this funding. Washington State has 295 school districts. Of those, 23 receive McKinney-Vento sub-grants. If a student wants to participate in extra-curricular activities, the school district is required to address the barrier to full participation. Often, school districts will look to community service providers, booster clubs, etc. to try and address the specific needs of students. If other resources cannot be found, the school district is still required to find some way to address the barrier to participation.
Another common question service providers ask and school staff often find confusing is:
What is the distance that schools are required to transport kids to school?
Many school personnel have been told that schools will not transport kids out of their county. However, there is no specific distance or commute time mentioned in the McKinney-Vento Act when it comes to school of origin transportation. So, a student attending school in Everett Public Schools, as an example, and finds shelter with her family in Seattle can continue attending her school in Everett if it is determined by all parties that this is best for the student. The main consideration is whether or not it is in the student’s best interest to remain in their school of origin. Because McKinney-Vento is a federal law, school districts often commute with students over county and state lines. School of origin transportation should not be automatically declined because the student is currently staying in a different county. The decision should be made on a case-by-case basis and the determination of best interest should be made based on the determination of whether or not it is feasible for the specific student.
For more information about McKinney-Vento and Resources check out these links:
Just a week into my AmeriCorps VISTA term with the Coalition last September, I was lucky enough to sit in on SKCCH’s 2011 Youth Advocacy Summit and chat with participants about the challenges they face living without a stable home in King County. The Homeless Coalition’s Youth Advocacy Summit is a two day event for homeless and at-risk youth and young adults to identify and discuss policy issues that are most important to them. Youth learn about and practice advocacy skills by bringing identified issues before City of Seattle and King County officials. I found last year’s Summit to be informative and inspiring – for both the youth and the elected officials involved. Youth were able to voice their opinions on issues from the need for more low-income friendly transportation to the lack of public toilets and lockers. Their top 5 priorities were the following:
- Housing/Services for Unaccompanied Minors
- Career Development
- Public Storage and Lockers
- Service Stewardship
More details here: 2011 Youth Summit Participant Priorities
This year’s Youth and Young Adult Advocacy Summit is less than 3 weeks away: September 10 and 11. Through presentations by guests speakers like Nancy Amidei (Civic Engagement Project), members of the Seattle Human Services Coalition, and staff from the Mockingbird Society, youth participants will learn about how Seattle and King County governments set policies and budgets and how their voices can make a difference in policy decisions that affect their day to day lives. Over two days participants will work to identify issues that they care about, prepare presentations, and then meet with elected officials to bring their voices to bear on policy decision-making around the issues they care about that are affected by City and County budgeting decisions.
Members of SKCCH’s Youth & Young Adults Committee (made up of area social service and housing providers) designed this year’s annual Youth Advocacy Summit to be a meaningful entry into civic engagement for young people who have already experienced disenfranchisement. SKCCH works to make sure that the people who are directly affected by public policies are part of dialogue, debate, and decision-making. The Youth Summit is an exciting and important way to do just that:
- Engage young people in expressing their opinions, identifying priorities, and speaking up powerfully
- Inform local decision-makers who often don’t hear from youth or people who are homeless or struggling to stay housed
- Support active and informed participation in democracy to make sure that Everyone Counts
Our 2012 Youth Advocacy Summit will be held on September 10th and 11th and will include youth from across King County who have personally experienced homelessness. Questions about the 2012 Youth Summit? Contact Melissa King, co-chair of SKCCH’s Youth and Young Adult Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After months of preparation, we are celebrating the smooth and successful distribution of 1,204 Project Cool backpacks to homeless children across King County. This August, more than 150 awesome volunteers gathered together over 4 days in the basement of the Columbia City Church of Hope to prepare school supplies and then fill and distribute backpacks for homeless students ages 3 to 18. You guys ROCK! Last Tuesday, Project Cool backpacks went out to 14 different Coalition member agencies to support the education of the children they serve in their various homeless housing programs (including emergency shelter and transitional housing).
We know the need is great. In the 2010-2011 school year, 4,423 students (pre-k through high school) were identified as homeless in King County school districts; 26,049 students across all Washington State schools. This was a 19% increase from the previous year and a 55% increase from 2006-2007 (for more information visit http://schoolhousewa.org/). A new backpack filled with the tools students need tells kids that they belong and gives parents one less financial burden to bear.
Backpacks may be out the door, but the work to support the education of homeless students does not stop here. Seattle Public School starts in just a couple weeks on September 5. The instability of homelessness makes stability in school that much more important for children. Luckily, homeless students have several educational rights under an important federal law – the McKinney Vento Education Act –, which helps advocates and families keep children in school even if they don’t have the right paperwork to enroll or their address changes every 60 days. The Coalition’s August 22 “Helping Homeless Students: McKinney Vento 101” training will prepare school personnel and service providers to help homeless students stay in school.
None of this work could be possible without the support of the hundreds of individuals who hosted donation drives, donated personally, and volunteered to help prepare backpacks. Project Cool is a volunteer driven project – coordinated by an AmeriCorps VISTA and supported by people like you: concerned community members, local businesses, and Coalition members. A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who came out on August 2, 4, 11, and 14 to help prepare Project Cool backpacks – we welcomed the passionate help of many community members including several old hats and Project Cool newbies like the Redmond Beach UCC Youth Group and members of local non-profit young professionals group, Ascend. THANK YOU!
During our General Membership meeting yesterday, Kate Speltz did an amazing job walking our members through the Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) proposed changes to the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act as it relates to the Interim Continuum of Care (CoC) rule. If you think this topic sounds esoteric, than you’re right. This stuff is really complicated, but it’s also THE legislation that regulates significant funding for homeless prevention, housing, and services federally and at the state level through competitive grants. The National Alliance to End Homelessness has done an admirable job summarizing the proposed changes and Kate pulled out the parts of the CoC rule which services providers and organizations who serve the homeless would be most impacted by.
The proposed CoC rule will go into effect on August 30th and individuals and organizations are encouraged to submit comments to HUD before October 1, 2012. Kate is interested in receiving comments from providers and organizations which will help to inform the Seattle-King County response to the proposal, however she encourages all concerned individuals to comment directly to HUD. Here are two areas in the proposal that Kate thinks service providers and homeless and housing advocates might like to comment on:
- McKinney Vento allowable funding. The current proposal specifically identifies which services can be paid for with McKinney funding. You are encouraged to review that list for services that you believe are important. Interpretation services, for example, are not currently included in the list. We know that many housing and homeless service organizations rely heavily on interpretive services when assessing, screening and serving homeless individuals.
- This proposal also requires states to setup and use a centralized or coordinated assessment system for all people entering the homeless assistance system by the end of 2014. It isn’t completely clear what it means to coordinate assessment, but the deadline is set. You might want to comment on the approach and/or the time frame.
If you want to send your comments to King County email them to: DCHS@kingcounty.gov
Send comments directly to HUD through the Federal Regulations website.
SKCCH invited all state legislators from King County who worked hard on our priorities and helped preserve the safety net for the homeless and low income in the last Legislative session to be personally recognized at our General Membership meeting this Thursday, July 19th.
I’m pleased to announce that 8 Legislators are able to attend on Thursday to receive thanks and awards from SKCCH members. Legislators attending are: Sen. David Frockt (aide will attend on his behalf) (46); Sen. Sharon Nelson (46); Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (34); Rep. Speaker Frank Chopp (43); Rep. Hans Dunshee (44); Rep. Gutierrez-Kenney (retiring from 46); Sen. Adam Kline (37); and Rep. Tina Orwall (33).
This event is open to the public and will be held at the E. Cherry YWCA from 9-11 a.m.
For the last two years, homeless youth had 3 days to stay in a shelter before staff was required to call and notify their parents of their whereabouts. During these three days, staff could create rapport with the young person, build trust and find out if they were fleeing a violent or abusive situation or taking a breather and that reconciliation with family was possible. After July 1, however, this 72 hour window will end. The Becca Bill was adopted by the Washington State Legislature in 1995 to protect homeless and run away youth by giving parents more control over where their children are located. The Becca Bill is connected to the truancy policy for students in Washington State. The law requires that shelter staff and other service providers contact parents of youth younger than 17 years old with their whereabouts. The enforcement of the law is controversial and two years ago, due to much advocacy, the Legislature passed a temporary provision giving service providers 72 hours to serve a minor before having to notify parents or the police. This temporary extension will expire after June 30th. Service providers will now have only 8 hours with youth before law requires them notify families or the authorities. That is, if the youth show up at all once word gets out.
The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness is communicating with agencies that this change will directly effect to coordinate advocacy efforts and to get the word out about the change to homeless youth, service providers, and the community at large. At our Youth and Young Adult Committee meeting on July 10th and at our General Membership Meeting on July 19th members of the coalition will have an opportunity to discuss advocacy and efforts under way at various agencies to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of this change in policy. Unfortunately, any policy change that might return the 72 hour window to service providers working with minors will have to wait until the 2013 state legislative session. Follow these links to find out more: