No one should lose housing assistance when their disability status becomes permanent

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Christine Crossley, HEN Program Manager, Catholic Community Services

Two weeks ago, I traveled to Olympia to testify in support of Senate Bill 6502 (Senate companion bill to House Bill 2667), to remove barriers to housing assistance for seniors and people with disabilities. That day, I was surprised to find myself sitting next to a Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) client, whose testimony of hardship, endurance, and hope, shook me. Specifically, this:

“DSHS recently gave me 24 days’ notice that I would no longer be eligible for HEN benefits because they determined my disability to be long-term rather than short-term. They plan to transfer me to ABD, so instead of housing support I will receive a $197 cash stipend.

I will now face the penalties of breaking my lease agreement with my current landlord and I need to attempt to locate housing with ABD’s budget of $197.”

I have spoken before about the problem of securing housing when a client transfers from HEN to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled program (ABD). How a portion of those who move between the two programs will return to homelessness, triggering a renewed cycle of instability and emotional trauma. The additional time and effort needed to help these clients cope and move back into stable housing is incredibly frustrating when the cause is entirely preventable. Nicholas is one of those clients.

Nicholas meeting with Rep. Nicole Macri

Nicholas and I have talked several times over the past few weeks and I have listened to his story of how HEN helped him recover a measure of basic security. I have listened as he worried about how he would pay rent because he’s transferring to ABD. I have watched as he showed me his HEN termination letter and worried whether or not this bill would pass and if it would be soon enough to help him. He is transferring to a program for those too disabled to work, and while trading his housing assistance for modest $197 a month might not cause him to experience homelessness, after a year of working with him to help re-build his life, it is not a chance worth taking.

We need a change. Our lawmakers have a chance to alter the rules of the system and provide help not harm. A change in law would offer housing assistance to HEN clients transferring to ABD and to ABD clients at risk of homelessness. HEN is ready to accept them. The Senate version of this bill that I testified on two weeks ago has died, but it’s companion, House Bill 2667, could become law if our legislature takes swift action – and you can help. Join me in asking our lawmakers to support this bill, not for any grand return but on behalf of those who feel alone and forgotten. Let these people know that you see them and you care.

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