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!
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!)
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.