Recap: Coalition’s General Meeting — February 20, 2014

What we wouldn’t give to get a couple of extra days at the end of February. Do you feel the same? It’s a good thing we’ve been posting these abbreviated meeting notes so that you can make the most out of the time you have! Last week’s General Member Meeting was quite timely, what with the Legislative Session over half-way through and the next phase of Reduced Fare actions taking place. Be sure to catch up if you missed out, or refresh on details if you attended. Here’s what happened at the latest General Member Meeting, held on February 20, 2014. As a reminder, the General Member Meeting takes place every third Thursday of the month from 9.00 – 11.00 a.m. at the East Cherry YWCA (2820 E. Cherry Street in Seattle). For more information, check our website’s Members’ tab for a link to the ‘Committees & Meetings’ page, or simply follow this link to take you there directly. Our next General Member Meeting is Thursday, March 20, 2014. __________________ 2014 One Night Count Discussion: What did you think? What did you hear? What are the implications for your work? Your community? Many people spoke about their 2014 One Night Count experiences: Some shared that more people were awake and moving around between 2-5 a.m.. One individual noted the dissonance in counting people who are homeless amid high rises and malls. A new Team Captain from this year’s count said she took away an extra dose of compassion and humility. A first-time counter, who was able to count in his home neighborhood, noted how different it was to see people who are homeless at night than during the day, and was also surprised at the wide age range of people who were counted. A first-time Team Captain but returning counter mentioned that this year he saw …

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The One Night Count: A Lesson in Gratitude

This is the second in a sequence of posts spotlighting the experiences and takeaways of some of our One Night Count volunteers. The One Night Count is a snapshot of the number of people who are homeless outside. Overnight Thursday – Friday, January 23-24, hundreds of volunteers from across King County showed up to help with the One Night Count at headquarters in Seattle, Shoreline, Bellevue, Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, White Center, the University District, and Renton. This year, in the wee morning hours from 2-5 a.m. volunteers documented 3,123 people trying to make it through a winter night outside, while shelters were full. While volunteers share the same mission during the Count and a common vision of our community without homelessness, each volunteer has their own unique story. Keep coming back to hear more of their stories. This moving and powerful story was written by Kahla B-K, a first-time counter who is interning at Solid Ground, and was originally posted on Solid Ground’s blog. Kahla has graciously given us permission to re-post it here for you all to read. Here are her words: As we gathered in the wee hours of Friday, January 24 at the Compass Housing Alliance for our initial One Night Count volunteer briefing, I thanked the twinkling stars above it wasn’t raining. Over 800 of us would spread out across King County to search for and count people sleeping outside without shelter. The One Night Count (organized by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness) would be a snapshot of homelessness between the hours of 2 and 5am. As the count began, my team and I quietly weaved our way around the streetlamp-lit areas first, peeking into parked cars and doorways. There was no one in sight. It seemed as if everyone else in the world had vanished. That feeling …

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All Aboard! Act now to support the Reduced Metro Fare.

If you’re an able-bodied 19-64-year-old in King County, a one-way bus trip will set you back $2.25-3.00, depending on peak hours and zones being traveled. A transfer ticket will keep the money for your return-trip in your pocket, but only if you get back on the bus within two hours; otherwise, it’s another $2.25-3.00. While Metro tickets are significantly cheaper than parking, on top of the additional combined cost having and maintaining a car, we at the Coalition know that even a one-way bus ticket is out of reach for many in our community. The Coalition, along with friends and allies at Transportation Choices Coalition, the Seattle Human Services Coalition, Puget Sound Sage, OneAmerica, and the Transit Riders Union, has been a strong voice for a reduced transit fare for people who are low income. Now, we have a real chance to make this happen! See below for what YOU can do to make this a reality!  King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed a reduced Metro fare that incorporates many of our recommendations.  People living up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) would be eligible for a reduced fare of $1.50. In King County, nearly a quarter of the population is at or below 200% FPL. Eligibility would last for one year. At this rate, eligible riders could get a monthly ORCA pass with unlimited rides for $54. While we are very pleased to see such a progressive and innovative proposal, we are urging the King County Council to further reduce the fare for people who are working to make ends meet.  There will be a special election this April, to raise revenue to save 600,000 hours of bus service: we are asking King County to use this opportunity to ‘buy down’ the fare to $1.25. Metro …

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How the One Night Count changed my perspective.

Overnight Thursday – Friday, January 23-24, hundreds of volunteers from across King County showed up to help with the One Night Count‘s Street Count of people sleeping without shelter. They started at headquarters from Seattle to Shoreline to Bellevue, Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, White Center, the University District, and Renton. And together, over three hours, they helped us to document 3,123 people who were trying to make it through a winter night outside, while shelters were full. While volunteers share the same mission during the Count and a common vision of our community without homelessness, each volunteer has their own unique story. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting the stories of One Night Count volunteers. This first story is from Rebecca R., who coincidentally shares my first name and last initial! Here are her words: I did not know what to expect going into my first One Night Count. I work with people who are homeless every day in my job at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank, but that’s different. For starters, it’s not in the middle of the night. Next, people usually come to me; I don’t seek them out, potentially invading their space and privacy. So I woke up at 1 a.m. Friday morning feeling a strange mix of excitement, nervousness and grogginess. I requested and was placed at the Renton Headquarters. The rest of my team was made up of our Team Captain, two other counters, and me. It was wonderful to connect with other people who work in fields that are different from mine, but that all touch the same populations. We set out right at 2 a.m., all piling into our Team Captain’s car for our first stop. We stopped at stores, parks and underpasses, always searching for sleeping forms or tents. We tried …

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When bad media gets a good answer: A thoughtful social worker takes on KIRO

Sometimes when I happen to see the nightly news, it reminds me of why I’m glad I got rid of my television set.  What passes for news is too often sensationalist, hysterical, and devoid of any actual reporting. It’s depressing. Without good journalism, it’s hard to have meaningful dialogue about complicated public policy issues.  Then, sometimes, a thoughtful person gets disgusted enough to write out a reply, which is a good reminder that we do not have to let the public discourse be so degraded, and degrading. The following letter was written by James Watkins, a social worker at DESC, one of our member organizations.  James kindly agreed to let us post the full text of his letter, which he wrote as a personal response to the KIRO video piece. He is not speaking on behalf of his employer ~ but he is speaking on behalf of many, many people who live and work and shop and pay taxes in Seattle.  Read his letter, and resolve to write your own letter the next time something infuriates or saddens or provokes you about how people who are homeless are described in the media. November 15, 2013 Henry Rosoff, KIRO News 2807 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121 Dear Mr. Rosoff: I work at one of the supportive housing facilities you depicted in “The Most Dangerous Block in Seattle.” Our organization cares for individuals who do not have the physical, mental, or emotional skills to care for themselves. The residents we support are chosen based on an assessment of their vulnerability; every single one of them is struggling daily to overcome a cycle of trauma, addiction, homelessness, mental illness; and many are also coping with developmental disorders, physical disabilities, and terminal illnesses. My job is to fulfill the community’s obligation to keep its …

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Senate Releases Proposed Budget that Slashes Funding for Housing and Human Services

The Washington State Senate released their proposed budget yesterday which, if enacted, would be devastating for housing and human services.  Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) was cut by 50% and the Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) program, with the tiny cash benefit of $197 a month for people waiting for federal Social Security benefits, was completely eliminated.  Working Connections Child Care – a program that helps low-income parents pay for child care – was cut by $180 million.  In addition, advocates are concerned that there is a chance that neither the Senate nor the House will allocate funds for the Housing Trust Fund, our most powerful  tool for creating affordable housing and good jobs across Washington. The Senate’s proposed budget is unacceptable.  We need to let our senators know how we feel about this budget, which places heavy burdens on low income people. Yesterday, the Coalition’s Alison Eisinger was among several housing and homelessness advocates who went down to Olympia to deliver testimony on the importance of the programs that were cut in the Senate’s proposed budgets.  Here are two strong testimonies from Greg Winter, Director of Whatcom  Homeless Service Center in Bellingham, and from Ania Beszterda-Alyson, Community Engagement and Advocacy Manager with the Low Income Housing Institute. Greg Winter, Whatcom Homeless Service Center I’m here to ask you to support the Disability Lifeline programs – Housing & Essential Needs and Aged, Blind & Disabled. I’ve witnessed first hand how these programs have transformed the lives of Whatcom County residents who were extremely vulnerable. I understand that your budget released today eliminates ABD – this is a very bad idea. This program provides modest support for people who are disabled and applying for SSI. The state receives approximately $50 million in reimbursements from the Federal Government for the modest cash grant and …

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Sequestration: taking us from bad to worse

Seattle Housing Authority recently accepted 24,000 applications for a coveted 2,000 placements on the Section 8 waiting list. Last week it announced that the 2,000 households had been chosen through a random lottery, but there’s a catch. Due to sequestration, the local housing authority also announced that it would be unable to issue vouchers to any of the selected households in the foreseeable future. This announcement comes amid news that the King County Housing Authority has suspended issuing any new vouchers to households on their waiting list as a result of sequestration. Local Section 8 wait lists are often closed for years at a time because of the overwhelming need for affordable housing in King County. In the space of a few weeks, sequestration has taken the situation from bad to worse, with 2,000 not-so-lucky households added to a wait list that for now looks indefinite. Our partners at the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance provide a more in-depth look into the effects of sequestration on Section 8 recipients and local housing authorities here. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides an overview of the national impacts of Sequestration on Section 8 and other housing and homelessness funding sources.

Bill Affecting Youth who are Displaced or Homeless Becomes Law

Update to previous post on February 20, 2013: Huge Success for Youth! But there’s still work to be done! Governor Inslee signed SB 5147, a bill concerning a 72 hour notification period for agencies to inform parents of a juvenile seeking crisis services, into law on February 27. This allows young people who leave their homes in crisis, and the shelter staff who want to help them, more time to connect and work out safe resolutions. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to correct this flaw in the law: Columbia Legal Services, The Mockingbird Society, Youthcare, Friends of Youth and youth shelter providers across the state, as well as parents, law enforcement, and legislators who realize that it’s far better to make sure youth can turn to shelter workers than to discourage them from seeking help. We also have our eye on the Youth Opportunities Act, HB1651, as it moves through the legislature. By sealing juvenile court records to the public, except in the case of serious violent offenses or sex crimes, this bill would remove barriers for young people seeking opportunities, and keep them from paying for childhood mistakes in their adult lives. We don’t need more barriers for folks trying to get housing, please encourage your legislators to support the Youth Opportunities Act by contacting them today at 1-800-562-6000!