Blogs

Why I Advocate

Elimika James, Housing Advocate

 

My name is Elimika James, and this year was my very first time at Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day! As a working single-mother, it can be difficult to find the time to be an advocate while balancing a job, being a parent, and taking care of my own needs, and I appreciated the opportunity to participate.

I recognize that I have a lot of friends and family members who are struggling to keep their homes and some people need to be given a voice. It energizes me to be able to speak up on behalf of people who don’t have the opportunity.

I heard about Advocacy Day through the Tenant’s Union. This fall I was introduced to the world of housing advocacy when I had helped the organizing effort to prevent many households in my community from being evicted because they used a Section 8 voucher to pay their rent. Our organizing pushed the City of Renton to pass a temporary injunction protection for tenants who use Section 8; but it is set to expire this summer, and I don’t want to see anyone else go through this.

At Advocacy Day, I saw that this is just one of many important issues in a larger problem of access to affordable housing. For instance, my rent has increased over $400 this year without warning. More needs to be done to keep rents affordable—landlords should be able to reasonably raise the rent, but I think that there needs to be more limitations on that power, and more resources to keep people from becoming homeless.

The opportunity to meet with my lawmakers really struck me. I remember going to Olympia as a kid, but that was just to learn and spectate. At Advocacy Day we actually sat down with public officials to have a genuine conversation with them.

I spoke with Representatives Hudgins and Bergquist from my district—there were about 5 or 6 of us, so it was really personal. When we talked about banning source of income discrimination, they said they verbally supported it, but there were many challenges to get it through the legislature that made their role tricky. This was a little discouraging because they have the final decision.

But I guess that is why this kind of advocacy is so important. We, as advocates, were able to talk to them about how Section 8 is stigmatized and affects our lives. Seeing people that care enough to come all the way out to Olympia to talk about what it is important to them might motivate lawmakers to change their minds.

Overall, I think the day made me feel like I could make a difference. Standing with people from across the state during the Rally for Homes reminded me of the scene in the movie "Lean on Me" - together we were powerful. I plan to be back next year to learn more and get more information on important issues and how to advocate.

Guest Post - Get Out and Testify

Christine Long, HEN Program Manager King County

Since the Legislative session kicked off two weeks ago, I have sat through two budget hearings with the folks at the Housing Alliance, done email blasts, signed petitions, marched, and met with so many inspiring people that it makes my head spin. We’ve waited through four hour-sessions to give two-minute testimonies and sat at our desks compiling email addresses to send out requests for the support of low-income housing and care. All of this, in support of the effort to ensure access to safe, healthy, affordable homes for everyone in Washington. 

There are some incredibly intelligent, talented Representatives and Senators supporting this cause but they have a lot of issues vying for their attention. This is where the job of advocates like us comes into play. While you and I know that financial and housing assistance programs like Housing and Essential Needs (HEN), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Aged, Blind and Disabled (ABD) are important, it is up to us to remind the House and Senate of this fact.

Speaking up about these issues is important but it can seem overwhelming. How do you get started? A great activist recently told me that you should gather like-minded folks together and set small, daily goals. Find a part of this larger cause that you are passionate about and set a daily goal of writing a postcard or email to your local officials. The next day, make a phone call to your Senator or Representative’s office and plan to take part in one of the many advocacy days happening in Olympia over the next three months. The important thing is that you get out and testify; send postcards, emails, call your Representatives and Senators, make your voice heard. We may get the word out in different ways but we all support the same issues and the more testimonies we present, asking for the same, larger goals, the more attention we will get. 

I would like to share the testimony I gave before the House and Senate on the HEN Program as an example of how easy it is to get started. If you have something to say, we want to hear it and so do the people in power. So get writing!

Testimony is from the House Appropriations Committee Public Hearing (1/9/17) and Senate Ways and Means Committee Public Hearing (1/11/17):

Good Afternoon Members of the Committee. I am Christine Long, Program Manager for Catholic Community Services Housing and Essential Needs in King County.

I am here today to thank you for your continued support of this program as a crucial social service, providing housing, rental assistance, move in costs, transportation and hygienic needs for nearly 2,000 people per month in King County alone and now nearly 10,000 in total as we enter our 6th year. 

For many of our clients, the question of where they will sleep tonight or next week was once a source of unlimited stress but through HEN, we give them back that basic stability of knowing that you will have heat, running water and indoor plumbing and, most importantly, you can apply for jobs and go to work without the fear that everything you own might be stolen while you are gone. It is that simple security that enables many to go on to lead successful lives. One client in the 31st district stated that because of the HEN program “I’m not homeless, cold or hungry. I feel blessed and I am able to look for work. Because of HEN I am alive today.” 

When surveyed, 83% of our clients who entered as homeless are now housed. It is because of your tireless work here, that we are able to provide these lifesaving services.

This year, the Governor’s budget includes a $20 per month transportation stipend for clients to travel to local agencies to access basic necessities.  I commend the office on this proposal and urge your support of this as it will be of tremendous benefit to those counties with limited transportation funding and for continued funding for those counties who have existing transportation programs, such as King County. We also applaud the Governor for eliminating the Asset limit for TANF and the ABD programs and we encourage the House and Senate to eliminate the Asset limit for Housing and Essential Needs as well.   

I respectfully ask that the Governor’s budget to be approved through the House and Senate with these additions. 

Thank you. 

If you’re not sure who represents you, click here for a detailed list of officials and addresses by city. 

Housing Advocacy in Action! Week of Jan 23

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Bills, Bills, Bills!

The 2017 state legislative session is 2+ weeks in and many bills are still being introduced. The pace and feel of the campus is hectic, with many people working to get their issues in front of lawmakers.

To keep track of all the bills this session, the Housing Alliance has created a bill tracker on our website where we will list our position on bills that impact affordable housing and homelessness, and other important issues including racial equity, voting rights, safety net services and more. Be sure to check back often, as we are updating this all the time!

Do you want to testify this session? We can help!

Testifying on a bill can be an empowering experience that helps to educate lawmakers on the need to pass a bill or to invest in a program. Especially if you have a personal experience with an issue, your story can profoundly impact where a lawmaker stands. Let us know if you are interested in learning more or if you are already planning on coming down to testify. Fill out this simple survey and we will be in touch!

 

WHOA: HB 1570

Last week was exciting with the development of HB 1570 by Representative Nicole Macri from the 43rd legislative district. This bill will prevent a massive cut in state homelessness funding while also increasing resources to meet Washington’s growing homelessness crisis.

If coupled with new Housing Trust Fund investments, the bill would ensure housing for 6,515 more people each biennium (each 2 year budget cycle). And it would enable Washington to:

  • End family homelessness,
  • Reduce chronic homelessness by 50% and,
  • Ensure that no youth exits a public institution into homelessness.

You can TAKE ACTION today to make sure your lawmakers know how important this bill is!

Here is an overview of what HB 1570 does:

Eliminate the sunset on the homeless housing and assistance surcharge. This sunset would result in a loss of 62.5% of state funds to prevent and end homelessness. Every homeless and housing safety service in the state would be deeply impacted by this cut, including services for victims of domestic violence, youth & young adults, families and people with mental illness, seniors, veterans and more. HB 1570 eliminates the sunset and makes this fund-source permanent.

Increase resources to prevent and end homelessness by adding $40 to homeless housing and assistance surcharge. This would bring this total surcharge to $90. These are charged when real estate documents are recorded with the local auditor’s office. Real estate documents are recorded in a variety of instances, including when a house is sold.

Amends the mandate that currently requires 45% of all state funds be set-aside solely for for-profit landlords. The for-profit market is difficult, and sometimes impossible, for low-income tenants exiting homeless because of the outright refusal of for-profit landlords to rent to people using rental assistance to help pay the rent. This discrimination limits the effectiveness of rental vouchers, while the lack of rent controls in Washington also make private rental vouchers an increasingly expensive intervention. HB 1570 will provide the state and counties with flexibility to use vouchers in nonprofit owned housing where tenants exiting homelessness are welcome.

Improves state and county reporting requirements. HB 1570 will also improve reporting requirements to ensure more transparency in how state homelessness dollars are being spent, including by requiring homeless housing plans to be updated every five years.

You can find the bill on this page and sign up for updates as the bill progresses.

 

What Trump could mean for affordable housing and homelessness

Last week we all witnessed the historic shift of power to a new administration. A Trump White House could have very significant impacts on affordable housing and homelessness. Ben Carson, the Trump administration’s pick for HUD (Housing and Urban Development) does not have a history of supporting affordable housing programs. While his lack of experience in this area generally makes the impacts of his appointment unknown, there will likely be significant alignment between his conservative worldview with the policy priorities of congressional leadership. This could have significant budget implications, but it could also impact HUD’s fair housing enforcement, regulations that protect public housing tenants and more.

The Housing Alliance encourages you to sign up for alerts from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. This organization has a long history of informing housing and homelessness advocates on federal developments. You can sign up on their website here.

I also encourage you to check out this blog post from after the November election in which they outline the potential impacts of Trump.

In these uncertain times, it more important than ever that we stand up against hate, discrimination and attempts to weaken fundamental protections. To that end, the Housing Alliance has crafted a support agenda that reaches a little further to include issues that impact poverty, racial justice, immigrant rights, voting rights and other important issues that effect justice and equality in our state. You’ll see us taking action on more issues this year, while still leading on affordable housing and homelessness priorities. Check out our lead agenda and support issues here.

 

Resources for Advocates

Check out the Housing Alliance website for advocacy resources including policy overviews for each of our priority issues. Additionally, you can find key resources including this Housing Trust Fund talking points document. Note: our one-pager on the Medicaid Transformation Demonstration is coming soon. 

 

We need you!

Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day is around the corner, and many of you have not yet registered! We know you are coming, but we need you to register so we can order the food and plan all the logistics of the day including ensuring enough room for lawmaker meetings. Please register today. If you have questions or need help, you can contact Alouise at the Housing Alliance.

We are also still looking for volunteers, including people who will lead the lawmaker meetings. If you are interested in volunteering, the first step is to fill out this form.

 

Help us educate lawmakers with stories from people impacted by homelessness, discrimination or housing insecurity.

The Housing Alliance is in the process of creating a one-page document for each legislative district in the state that will include data about housing and homelessness, and a personal story of someone whose life is better because they have a safe, affordable home. The stories are approximately 250 words with a picture. Because session has already started, we need these stories as soon as possible for our lawmaker meetings!

We need stories from the following legislative districts:

1 (Mountlake Terrace, Bothell)
2 (Parts of Pierce and Thurston County including Graham, Yelm and Eatonville)
4 (Parts of Spokane County including Liberty Lake and Spokane County)
7 (Includes Oroville, Tonasket, Republic, Colville and Chewelah)
11 (Includes South Seattle, Tukwila and parts of Renton)
12 (Chelan and Douglas Counties, including Winthrop, Twisp, Chelan, Leavenworth, Wenatchee and Grand Coulee)
15 (Parts of Yakima County including Wapato, Toppenish, Zillah, Granger, Sunnyside and Grandview)
16 (Parks of Columbia and Walla Walla County including Walla Walla city, Prosser and Pasco)
17 (Parts of Clark County including Battle Ground and part of Vancouver)
18 (Parts of Clark County including Ridgefield, Camas, Washougal and parts of Vancouver city and part of Battle Ground)
25 (Parts of Pierce County including Puyallup and Fife)
26 (Parts of Pierce and Kitsap Counties including parts of Bremerton and Port Orchard)
28 (Part of Pierce County including University Place, Lakewood, Dupont and Spanaway)
30 (Federal Way, Des Moines and parts of Auburn)
31 (Parts of South King County and NE Pierce County including Auburn, Bonney Lake, Enumclaw and Sumner)
34 (West Seattle, Vashon and parts of Burien)
39 (Sedro Woolly, Arlington, Monroe, Gold Bar, parts of Marysville)
44 (Parts of Marysville, Lake Stevens, Snohomish and Mill Creek)
46 (Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and Lake City)

If you have a story to share, or if you know someone who does, please email dimitrig@wliha.org and he can coordinate with you!

 

Advocate Calls

Join us every-other-Friday at 11am for a conference call detailing the very latest on housing and homelessness priorities in Olympia. These calls will cover progress of important bills and advocacy opportunities, and you don't have to be a policy expert to follow what's happening. The next call is on Friday, February 3rd, followed by calls on 2/17, 3/3, 3/17, 3/31, and 4/14. Anyone can join, just email reinyc@wliha.org for your call in code. Feel free to invite your colleagues, friends, and family to join.

Don’t forget to take action and hope to see you in Olympia on February 2nd,

- Michele and the Housing Alliance team.

Housing Advocacy in Action!

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Welcome to the first “Housing Advocates in Action” update of the 2017 legislative session! Watch for an email in your inbox, and a full blog post here every week or so. This update will serve as a “what’s happening” in Olympia with housing and homelessness policy, and will include the best ways for you to TAKE ACTION and be a housing advocate. In the past these have been weekly emails, but with so much happening in Olympia, we didn’t want to constrain ourselves to a strict timeline. These are great emails to send to your colleagues, board members, and family who share your passion for ending homelessness and expanding affordable housing opportunities. So, bookmark our blog, and watch for our emails so you’re always in the know!

For this first post, on the week of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I'd like to start with a quote:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
London, December 7th, 1964
For the full speech, listen to Democracy Now 1-16-17

“The other myth that gets around a great deal in our nation and I’m sure in other nations of the world, is the idea that you can’t solve the problems in the realm of human relations with legislation, that you can’t solve the housing problem, the job problem, and all of these other problems with legislation, that you’ve got to change the heart. We had a presidential candidate just recently who spoke about this a great deal. Mr. Goldwater sincerely believed that you couldn’t do anything though legislation because he voted against everything in the Senate, including the civil rights bill. And he said all over the nation throughout the election that you don’t need legislation, that legislation can’t deal with this problem, that you’ve got to change the heart. I want to go half way with brother Goldwater because I think he is right. You’ve got to change the heart. You must change your heart where there are prejudices. If we are going to solve the problem of mankind, every white person must look in their heart and look deep down within to challenge prejudice that may be there and believe that every negro and every colored person must be treated right… but after saying all of that I must go on to the other side and this is where I must leave Mr. Goldwater and others who believe you can’t solve this with legislation… it may be true that you can’t legislate integration, but you can legislate desegregation, it may be true that morality can’t be legislated, but behavior can be regulated, it may be true that the law can’t change the heart, but it can restrain the hardness. It may not be able to make people love me, but it can prevent people from lynching me and I think that is pretty important also.”
 

Housing Alliance advocates traveled to Olympia to educate lawmakers on the House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee about the importance of the Document Recording Fees in their local efforts to prevent and end homelessness. Special thanks to Kay, Rhonda, Tess and Mary Jane for their extremely informative presentations.

Pictured here: Kay Murano, Executive Director, Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium, Rhonda Hauff, Chief Operating Officer/Deputy CEO, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Tess Colby, Manager, Pierce County Community Connections, Mary Jane Brell-Vujovic, Director, Snohomish County Human Services Department

The Housing Alliance team hit the ground running when the legislative session started on Monday, January 9th. With two work sessions on affordable housing and homelessness, four budget hearings, and many lawmaker meetings, it was a very busy first week. But every week during the session is likely to be equally as busy, especially since our movement has done an excellent job of raising affordable housing and homelessness to the forefront of legislative priorities for many lawmakers.

With expectations low, we strive even higher.

The legislature, as in years past, is divided with the House controlled by the Democrats and the Senate controlled by the Republicans. Many are already predicting that this session, which is scheduled to end on Sunday April 23rd, will be prolonged until the day before a state budget must be signed – June 30th. Technically, the legislature’s sole job is to pass a budget for the next two fiscal years, which begins on July 1, 2017. If a budget isn’t passed by then, the state government will shut down. That is an unlikely scenario and expectations are that, although it may take a while, agreement on a new budget will be reached. The question is, what will be in the final budget and will it invest in affordable housing and homelessness?

The Governor invested deeply in affordable housing and homelessness – but even his budget left room for improvement. Important highlights include:

  • Doubling of the ABD (Aged, Blind, and Disabled) cash grant from $197 to $400. This cash grant helps extremely low-income, disabled adults meet their basic needs while they are applying for SSI. $400 puts the program on par with the average HEN (Housing and Essential Needs) rental assistance, thereby helping to prevent people from becoming homeless when they are transferred to the ABD program. This transfer, per state law, happens once someone is determined to have a permanent disability and the very low $197 per month is not enough to cover the loss of the HEN rental assistance.
  • $20 Million dollars for the Home Security Fund to increase resources to prevent and end homelessness. The Governor’s budget would put new money from the state general fund into the Home Security Fund, allowing the state to send out more money to local communities for homelessness services. This is the same account (The Home Security Fund) that document recording fee revenue is deposited in and would fund the same kinds of critical services including domestic violence shelters, homeless youth programs, permanent supportive housing services, rental assistance, and more.
  • $116.5 Million for affordable housing development, plus $28 Million for weatherization of low-income single-family homes. The Governor’s Capital Budget proposes a total of $116.5 million for affordable housing, including $88.8 million for the Housing Trust Fund and $10 million for the preservation of currently affordable housing that is aging. These investments are good starting point, but we are urging that the legislature to get much closer to our ask of $200 million dollars between the next two budget years (the biennium). $200 million for the Housing Trust Fund would create over 5,700 new, affordable homes while also creating 9,000 local jobs and over $655 million in local income.

In contentious times, we need to stay on course with a clear focus on the top affordable housing and homelessness priorities. As in years past, persistent, loud, and righteous advocacy can move mountains in our state. In the face of a Donald Trump becoming our nation’s president and his cabinet of Wall Street, far-right extremists, it is more important than ever that our state stands up for and invests in the needs of our lowest-income neighbors. While the Housing Alliance will be leading on the top affordable housing and homelessness priorities, we will also be supporting efforts to protect immigrants, protect voting rights, protect the rights of LGBTQ communities, especially our transgender neighbors whose non-discrimination protections are under attack, and of people of color. All of these communities, and more, are being targeted, and the Housing Alliance will stand with our allies against hate and discrimination. 

Affordable housing and homelessness top priorities

Expect to see new bills filed this week that will,

  • Secure and preserve funding for homelessness services: Eliminate the sunset on the document recording fees, increase the fee and fix the 45% mandated use on just on purpose – private, for-profit rental vouchers.
  • Outlaw discrimination based on a renter’s source of income: Everyone should have an equal opportunity to compete for housing, yet many landlords categorically deny applications by people relying on lawful sources of income to help pay their rent. Discrimination based on the use of a Section 8 voucher or SSI income has a profound impact on low-income households, many who have waited years for their housing assistance. It has disparate impacts on people already at high risk of discrimination based on race, disability, family status, age, or status as a veteran because all these households experience disproportionately high incidences of poverty. Local jurisdictions in our state have passed or enhanced source of income protections for renters, including most recently Vancouver, Seattle, and Renton, but this discrimination should be outlawed to ensure all of Washington’s tenants are protected.

Exciting developments last week for the Medicaid Demonstration Transformation (aka the “1115 waiver for Permanent Supportive Housing):

The Health Care Authority (HCA) announced on January 9 that the federal Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Washington's Medicaid Transformation Demonstration, also known as Washington's 1115 waiver. This includes the new supportive housing services Medicaid benefit that the Housing Alliance has been advocating for over the past several years. CMS has approved high-level “special terms and conditions”, and now the HCA will work to finalize the benefit design and implementation timeline. DSHS is hosting a webinar to provide updates to stakeholders on January 26 at 8:30 AM; you can register for the webinar here.

A couple of messaging notes for advocates--the state will now be referring to the 1115 waiver as the "Medicaid Demonstration Transformation." The benefits within initiative three, which includes the supportive housing benefit, will be referred to as "Community Transition Support Services."

Lastly, here's a link to the state's official announcement.

Affordable Housing and Homelessness are top legislative priorities

Despite the grim state budget fights that lie ahead and the many scary impacts of a Trump administration, our movement has pushed affordable housing and homelessness to the forefront of Olympia’s agenda. In these otherwise uncertain times, this means we have a very strong foundation to build off of and that means that we can still secure significant wins this session. But wins will require advocacy and determination, so let’s start of this week with a bang. Please take action today and tell your lawmakers to support at $200 Million investment in the Housing Trust Fund, and to eliminate the sunset on Document Recording Fees and raise the fee.

Housing and Homelessness Advocacy day is a fun, uplifting and impactful day of action. And we need you!

On February 2 in Olympia, over 600 advocates from nearly every district in the state will put on their red scarves and converge on the capitol for meetings with legislators, a rally on the capitol steps (one of the biggest of the year!), as well as attend workshops on important issues and advocacy skills, inspiring words from some of our legislator champions, and more. This day helps to show the depth, breadth and passion of the affordable housing and homelessness movement. And it helps move lawmakers on our key legislative priorities. Register today!

Another way to help make Advocacy Day a success is as a volunteer. Volunteers for a variety of roles are still needed, from registering attendees in the morning, to leading meetings with your district's lawmakers (this role is especially crucial - if you've been to Advocacy Day before, please consider taking it on). Sign up to volunteer here.

If you have questions about Advocacy Day, contact Alouise at the Housing AlIiance. I hope to see you on February 2!

Help us educate lawmakers with stories from people impacted by homelessness, discrimination or housing insecurity.

The Housing Alliance is in the process of creating a one-page document for each legislative district in the state that will include data about housing and homelessness, and a personal story of someone who’s life is better because they have a safe, affordable home. The stories are approximately 250 words with a picture. Because session has already started, we need these stories as soon as possible for our lawmaker meetings!

We need storytellers for the following legislative districts: 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 25, 26, 28, 30, 31, 34, 39, 43, 44, 46.

If you have a story to share, or if you know someone who does, please email dimitrig@wliha.org and he can coordinate with you!

Do you want to testify this session? We can help!

Testifying on a bill can be an empowering experience that helps to educate lawmakers on the need to pass a bill or to invest in a program. Especially if you have a personal experience with an issue, your story can profoundly impact where a lawmaker stands. Let us know if you are interested in learning more or if you are already planning on coming down to testify. Fill out this simple survey and we will be in touch! 

Again, with expectations low for this session, we strive even higher. Together, we will continue our track-record of making significant gains for affordable housing and homelessness. But your advocacy is needed more than ever – please join us in being bold, loud and persistent.

Advocacy Calls

Starting January 20th, join us every-other-Friday at 11am for a conference call detailing the very latest on housing and homelessness priorities in Olympia. These calls will cover progress of important bills and advocacy opportunities, and you don't have to be a policy expert to follow what's happening. Calls will be held on 1/20, 2/3, 2/17, 3/3, 3/17, 3/31, and 4/14. Anyone can join, just email reinyc@wliha.org for your call in code.  

- Michele and the Housing Alliance team.

P.S. Join the Housing Alliance on Saturday, January 21st for the Seattle Womxn’s March.

When: Sat. Jan 21
Meeting time: 10:00am
Meeting location: West entrance of Judkins Park near 20th & S. Charles St.

10:00am Arrive & find group - look for Housing Alliance banner and red scarves
10:30am Rally/speakers begin
11:00am March begins

End Location: Seattle Center, 400 Broad St, Seattle 98109
Route Length: 3.6 miles

 

A KEXP Benefit Concert...For Us!

Rachael Myers, Executive Director

We have some exciting news - The Housing Alliance has been chosen by 90.3 KEXP and the Seattle Foundation to be a part of the re-launch of the their Community Partnership program!

Four community nonprofits* are being recognized for their civic engagement work, specifically for voter turnout programs, and for working in underrepresented communities. Right now, promotional spots for the Housing Alliance are running on-air to highlight the importance of our work, and on Nov. 17th, KEXP is throwing us a benefit concert!

When Kathryn Jacoby from Imagine Housing saw the opportunity to apply, she knew that the Resident Action Project and our Get Out the Vote efforts working with people living in affordable homes would be worthy of this type of public recognition. When she sent us the idea, we jumped on it!

Given the huge election year, we know that it’s critical to register and turn out as many voters as possible who are directly impacted by housing affordability issues. We know that, while voting is important, voters voices become much more powerful when voters are engaged in the year-round cycle of advocacy. AND, movements are built when folks who are most directly impacted by issues are organized and leading the charge for change. That’s the potential of the Resident Action Project.

The Resident Action Project aims to be a statewide network fighting for policy change that is led by residents of affordable homes and folks in need of affordable homes. This year in the Resident Action Project, we’ve been learning and growing. After several community meetings, advocacy and civic engagement training, and volunteer opportunities, the Resident Action Project is gearing up for the legislative session, and it’s going to be a loud voice! We aim to be transformational - not transactional - in our organizing, which means that we’re interested in providing opportunities for leadership development and growth for RAP participants. We are working hard to provide opportunities for folks to participate meaningfully in the democratic process, and we are grateful that KEXP and the Seattle Foundation are recognizing and supporting this work through the Community Partnership Program. 

KEXP is currently airing promotional spots featuring our mission statement, and my personal testimony about why this work is important. Be sure to listen for those!

But wait, there’s more!
Warning: this might be the coolest advocacy action we’ve ever asked you to do 

KEXP is throwing us a benefit concert** and we want to see you there!

IG88, Maiah Manser, and Jus Moni will be performing, and tickets are only $8!

Thursday, November 17th, 7pm

Buy your tickets today! Attend a fun concert and support housing justice at the same time. We hope you can join us! 

 

*Along with the Housing Alliance, the Partnership is also recognizing the Washington Bus, Latino Community Fund of Washington State, and Open Doors for Multicultural Families.

**Proceeds from this night’s concert will be split between the Housing Alliance and the Washington Bus.

Been here a couple months, and want to say hi!

Hello! I’m Andrew Lewis-Lechner, and I’m excited to introduce myself as the new Development Director at the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance! In my new role, I’ll primarily be responsible for expanding our member base, managing donor relationships and connecting the Housing Alliance with partners who can help us further our mission: to ensure that everyone in Washington has access to a safe, healthy, and affordable home. 

I grew up in northern Illinois, and went to college in northeastern Iowa. There were farm fields basically as far as you could see. It was very picturesque, in a Children of the Corn sort of way. When I wasn’t hiding from he-who-walks-behind-the-rows, I was practicing my cello and trombone, or had my nose buried in a book. My parents are both teachers, and my we have union ties going back a long way in the family. Those connections and communities instilled in me a value of equity of opportunity and helped me see first hand the benefits of union jobs in terms of stability and a living wage. I was always taught about the benefits of collective action, and that we’re stronger as a group then we are alone. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been motivated by a desire to make real, lasting change in the communities I have called home and I feel privileged to be able to work for housing justice on a daily basis.

I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1999, and have been in the nonprofit sector basically my whole working life. Most recently, I was the Development Director for Courage360, a Tacoma based organization providing job training and housing services targeted to single parents working to increase their earning power and build stability for their families. From family self-sufficiency, to self-determination for the terminally ill, to international conflict resolution, I’ve found it a privilege to come to work every day for organizations that are shaping progressive change.

I’m excited to step in on some new membership drives for the Housing Alliance to help us more deeply connect to the broad groups of stakeholders statewide who are doing work on housing issues. When I’m not working to advance our mission, I’m rebuilding my vintage pinball machine, officiating roller derby, playing with my 5 month old Belgian Tervuren puppy or remodeling the tiny 1942 salt box house my partner and I share in Tacoma.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by talented, motivated and compassionate staff and leadership at the Housing Alliance, and I couldn’t be happier to join the team! 

And our first annual Nancy Amidei Movement Builder Award goes to...

Alouise Urness, Community and Member Organizer

It is with great honor and excitement that I announce the recipient of our first annual Nancy Amidei Movement Builder Award -- Matthew Anderson!

(be sure to join us at Bring Washington Home on Sept 27 where Matthew will accept this award)

Matthew is the very essence of a movement builder. Every day, he represents the work the Housing Alliance is doing and works to empower the next generation of advocates in our movement for housing justice.

Matthew first connected with the Housing Alliance when he quietly came to Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day in 2013. The next year, when he applied for a transportation grant to bring others to advocacy day, I didn’t know a thing about him but I could tell how driven he was by the effort he put into that process. And it was successful: low-income housing residents arrived at advocacy day in an accessible van and the energy and enthusiasm they brought was palpable. The year after that, Matthew brought TWO vans of advocates to Olympia with him!

In 2015 Matthew organized 5 Seattle Housing Authority residents to participate with him in the Emerging Advocates Program, and in the fall he spearheaded a conference so that more SHA residents could participate in housing advocacy.

This past year, Matthew not only organized vans of advocates for Advocacy Day, but he also presented a workshop with Nancy Amidei and served as a co-lead for the 43rd district. He became a leader in (and recruited others for) the Resident Action Project, co-facilitated the Emerging Advocates Program at the Conference on Ending Homelessness, and presented on a panel workshop there. He is again organizing a conference for SHA residents, and is tapping into his theater and comedy background to lead a theater workshop in the fall for our new Emerging Advocates Program class of advocates.

Matthew is a humble leader, motivator, and organizer. He does this work not for the recognition, but for the tangible difference it makes in the lives of the people he brings along with him. I can truly think of no one more deserving of the first annual Nancy Amidei Movement Builder award.

Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations. It was really cool to see our community come together to recognize the great movement builders in the housing world. We are very excited about the work that these advocates will continue to do, and to learn more about how we can work together to realize the mission of ensuring everyone in Washington has access to a safe, healthy, and affordable home!

Nominees:
Maureen Fife, Board President, Habitat for Humanity of Washington State
Andy Silver, Executive Director, Council for the Homeless
Community Health Worker Collaborative of Pierce County
Dennis Saxman, Community Organizer, Resident Action Project
Floribert H. Mubalama, Executive Director and Board President, Congolese Integration Network
James Pickus, Volunteer, Tenants Union of Washington
Judith E. White, Chair, Legislative Action Team serving the Manufactured/Mobile Home Community in Washington
Julia Sterkovsky, Executive Director, Seattle Human Services Coalition
Anitra Freeman, Board of Directors, Real Change
Ubax Gardeere, Program Director, Puget Sound Sage
Rizwan Rizwi, Director, Muslim Housing Services
Alison Eisinger, Executive Director, Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness
Estela Ortega, Executive Director, El Centro De La Raza
Teresa Clark, Director of Organizing, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (we are humbled and honored that someone from our team was nominated!)

Meet Dimitri!

Dimitri Groce, Member Organizer

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dimitri Groce, and I am the new Member Organizer at the Housing Alliance! My work will primarily focus on supporting our robust coalition of volunteer board members in their advocacy role as ambassadors of the organizations they represent. 

Although I am only three weeks in, the steadfast commitment of the Housing Alliance team in their roles as champions of affordable homes for all is abundantly clear… I’m talking Game-of-Thrones-Nights-Watch-Winter-is-Coming type commitment… 



If you are reading this blog, I probably don’t need to convince you of that. It is an honor to be a member the Housing Alliance community!

So—how exactly did I find myself in such a place? I was fortunate enough to be raised by a father who made sure that anxiety over the next eviction notice or rental application status did not interfere with school. I have seen many people struggle without the privilege of this same support, and even a college degree and full-time job did not exempt me from the structural pressures that put people out on the street, nor the indelible mental health impacts this strife creates. I have felt the sting of folks asserting they lived in this community when I spoke out—knowing the underlying assumption was that I did not. I have puffed my chest up with the pride of a Seattle native son claiming to know every curve and contour of this city, and I have sheepishly laughed at myself when this same pride has gotten me lost.

Though a “home” was not always certain, the daring ability to feel at home kept me afloat. I learned this from change-makers who knew that the future of our communities depends on unapologetically centering around working class families, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and immigrant and refugee communities. They taught me that the power of telling one’s story is fundamental to moving people towards authentic, community-driven solutions.

Working in the child welfare system in Los Angeles, I was exposed to how young children of color are acclimated to a life of transience and impermanence, which often leads to institutionalization or incarceration. In cities like Chicago, New Orleans, and Los Angeles, I have seen how different faces of neighborhood disinvestment give way to the same displacement and gentrification that we feel in communities around Washington. I was inspired by advocates, service providers, and community members around the country who were fighting to show that a safe, affordable home is fundamental to getting (and keeping) a good job, caring for their children, and building resilient communities.

These experiences led me back to Seattle to become a better organizer. However, in these few weeks at the Housing Alliance, I have realized that being drawn to do this work is really about that feeling you get when you have a place to call home. And I’ll be doing my part to ensure everyone in Washington has that opportunity.


McCleary Sanctions Should Advance, Not Restrict, Educational Opportunity

Housing Alliance, Children's Alliance, Equity in Education Coalition, and Columbia Legal Services

In 2012, in McCleary, et al. v. State of Washington, the Supreme Court ruled that the State of Washington has been violating its constitutional obligation to amply fund K-12 education, and gave the legislature until 2018 to comply. 

If the legislature funds basic education at the expense of other supports that help low-income students and students of color, the promise of McCleary will not be met. It is for this reason that we teamed up with the Children’s Alliance, Equity in Education Coalition, and Columbia Legal Services to write an amicus brief to the Washington Supreme Court to urge the court not to implement sanctions that would undermine other critical services. 

Almost half of all Washington children—4 in 10—live in a family with inadequate income. And a rising share of the state’s student body are children of color, who tend to face implicit, institutional and structural racial bias that forms imposing barriers to their success. These factors—whether they take the form of financial insecurity, homelessness, foster care placement, poorer access to health care or household hunger—make a child’s educational opportunity fragile.

The brief argues that, as the Court considers next steps in its oversight of the McCleary decision, it must avoid harm to social service programs that stabilize families and schools, protecting children. To do otherwise would further endanger children’s rights to educational opportunity.

“Education is a primary pathway out of poverty,” says Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children’s Alliance. “When the route to educational success is blocked for some children, our entire state suffers for years to come. When almost half of students are denied the resources they need to succeed in school, we all feel the consequences. Today’s disparities in educational outcomes for children in low- income families and students of color are unacceptable. The next steps in the McCleary case should be laser-focused on improving student outcomes and closing these gaps. Today’s children will soon become tomorrow’s parents, workers, volunteers, and decision-makers. All Washington’s children need a wide, broad path forward into the healthy futures we dream for them.”

Poverty often forces changes in schools and other threats to academic achievement. Social programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, State Food Assistance, the Washington Families Fund, the foster care system, and the Housing Trust Fund provide a source of stability that keeps kids learning.

Yet in defining basic education, the Legislature has not included non-academic supports commonly relied upon by low-income students and their families. If ample funding for education pursuant to McCleary comes at the expense of such programs—including early learning—educational opportunity would suffer another setback.

“The constitutional promise of McCleary can never be met if we don’t invest in all of our kids,” says Katara Jordan, staff attorney with Columbia Legal Services. “If some students are allowed—or worse, compelled—to fall further behind, we all suffer the consequences in every Washington classroom and in our state as a whole. Educational opportunity must be available to all students, no matter their race or socio-economic background. Remedies that deny or impair the supports that students need to thrive in the classroom are unacceptable.”

“Making ample provision for the opportunity of a basic education means we serve students—each and every student—in schools. It means we honor their parents, we honor all the cultures and families that make up Washington’s communities, and we make sure their basic needs are met. We prevent educational crises brought on by health problems, an eviction, a job loss or incarceration in the family from ending a child’s opportunity to an education and a bright future. And we do so in collaboration with early learning and higher education—and not in competition,” says Sharonne Navas, co-founder and executive director of the Equity in Education Coalition.

“We need more money flowing into educational systems, including early learning and higher education, because our educational systems need to be responsive to the hurdles our students face, like homelessness, hunger and poverty,” Navas continues. “A well-funded educational system can mitigate these hurdles.”

“It is imperative that we not only fund basic education for all students in Washington, but that we eliminate barriers to educational opportunity for low-income and homeless students,” says Rachael Myers, executive director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. “This means providing for children’s basic needs outside the classroom too. Things like having a safe home and enough food to eat make all the difference in whether or not a child can truly take advantage of great classrooms. Sacrificing one to fund the other is like cutting off the head to save the body.”

The Amicus parties have expertise in non-academic supports that bolster educational opportunity, such as affordable housing and homelessness prevention, foster care, food security and other services. They argue that the Court and the Legislature should eliminate barriers to opportunity. The Amicus participants are:

Columbia Legal Services has extensive expertise advocating for the rights of homeless families and children and foster children, and to fund programs that provide an income to families with children, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The Equity in Education Coalition is a statewide coalition of communities of color working toward a more targeted and comprehensive approach to close the opportunity gap. It works to provide an excellent education to children of color, children who live in low-income households, children with special education or language needs and children from immigrant and refugee communities.

The Children’s Alliance is a membership-based organization of 10,000 individuals and 58 member organizations. It works to improve the well-being of children through positive change in public policies, priorities and programs. The Children’s Alliance convenes public and private partner organizations and leaders so they can collaborate on issues affecting kids and families.

The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance works to ensure that everyone in Washington can live in a safe, healthy, affordable home. Since 1988, the Housing Alliance has worked to improve public policy and public investments in affordable homes to achieve this mission, in partnership with 140 organizational members and 8,000 individual members, nonprofit housing providers, social service providers and homeless service providers.

The brief, filed June 7, is available on the state Supreme Court’s McCleary page, or by clicking here.

Lifelong Advocates Are Born Out Of The EAP Program

Matthew Anderson, EAP Graduate, Housing Advocate

At this year’s Conference on Ending Homelessness, I had the opportunity to help with the Emerging Advocates Program (EAP). The experience was especially rewarding to me, because I am an EAP graduate. The program has changed my life, my work, and it is very dear to my heart. If you read this post and feel inspired like I am, I encourage you to apply for the EAP fall session, which runs September-November, 2016. Applications are accepted until July 24, 2016.

EAP is an intense advocacy-training program for individuals that have experienced homelessness and are currently advocating for housing and social justice issues. This year’s cohort consisted of 22 advocates. It was an extraordinary experience to hear their stories, to learn about their work, and to witness their passion.  The conference program for EAP consists a jam-packed day of training the day before the conference begins, EAP approved training during the conference, and a debrief session.

The first part of day one consisted of an introduction to the Housing Alliance and an Advocacy Workshop by Nancy Amidei. During a workshop discussion, a participant stated, “how important it was to do advocacy work,” especially since he could “not vote due to a past felony.” Immediately Nancy asked him if his time and supervision was completed. He said, “oh yeah, for quite some time.” Nancy explained to him that he was eligible to vote, and took a voter registration card out of her bag. Within minutes it was completed and in a stamped envelope. The impact and celebration from the room was electric!

The afternoon featured two workshops, one on housing policy and the other on how to tell your personal story. It was eye opening how many of us at the workshop had benefited from the funding and policies that the Housing Alliance has advocated and fought for! It helped to go more in depth on what’s happening in Olympia, and to discuss how EAP participants are working on these issues in their own communities.  The story-telling workshop was emotional. It is still difficult for many of us to write down and reflect on our story, because it means having to go back and relive times of hopelessness, hurt, and the struggles related to experiencing homelessness and other traumatic situations. I have to say, this workshop was done in a safe, welcoming, and confidential environment. It was also a way to practice the shorter versions of our stories; the things we want our legislators to hear and understand. At the end of the workshop, it was clear that everyone had become closer and shared a special bond.

The EAP dinner consisted of graduates from previous years and the new attendees in Spokane -- what a powerful group! It just felt right being there. It was like being with family. Hugs were abundant, and it was easy to see the room was full social justice advocates. Every time I am around people from my class and others, I witness that look of love in their eyes. It was awesomeness at its best!

Over the next 2 days, participants attended their choice of EAP approved conference workshops, and the Been There Breakfast.  I was the facilitator of that breakfast; a safe space where everyone could talk about the training, the conference, and how their lives were impacted. Day one had paid off not only in excellent training, but also in bringing the group closer together. One attendee, Billy, commented that, “knowing other people from EAP really made the workshops at the conference better and more comfortable”, and many others shared this sentiment.

At the end of the conference the EAP participants attended a debrief session that I will never forget, it was just one of those incredible experiences that stay with a person. Everyone sat in a big circle and talked about what they got out of the training. Every person, almost to a tee, talked about specific ways they could take what they learned and immediately incorporate into the work they do, and how important the relationships they had made were. The passion and love in the room was incredible. When each person spoke it was clear that, if you were hurting, or needed help, this was who you would want to grab your hand and pull you up. We went out to take a group photo and the last thing I heard was “hey there is a feed tomorrow, is anyone available?”

Here is what EAP some participants had to say:

Alfredo

”Meeting all the other advocates really reminded me of how our causes overlap. It’s not just what I am doing that is important, but what we are doing to change the situation with housing and social justice.  Alfredo went on to say, “if I had to put into words what I got out of EAP, it is the fact that it ignited a fire, a fire that was already there but it wasn’t hot like it is now!” Alfredo gave an example of this, he is holding a direct action to try to get the sit and lay policy changed in Spokane.

Renee

“I'm a homeless advocate, that's currently, homeless. This isn't my first time homeless, but prior to being homeless.... I've always had a passion to advocate for the homeless. 
With that being said, I cannot find words to express how much I enjoyed the conference in Spokane 2016. I enrolled and applied for a scholarship to the EAP part of the conference. As you guessed, I was selected.”
“The other applicants and the staff are so totally committed to the mission. The training you receive really helps you step up your advocacy work with elected officials, in a manner that is empowering. So empowering, you feel confident to talk with electeds in every forum you see them in.”

Billy

“The Emerging Advocates Program is awesome! Were already connecting a network of organizations through all of these truly amazing people. Coming up with plans of action to advocate more effectively. I love being in a room with so many altruistic people who share the same passion for improving the lives of others. Feels kind of good being in their presence when they are so few in everyday life... But we are all here to change that!”

EAP wouldn’t be possible without community support. Amerigroup Washington recently presented a $5,000 contribution in support of the Emerging Advocates Program, because they believe in aiding leadership development and advocacy support for individuals with direct experience of housing instability or homelessness. The check presentation took place at the first joint Housing Alliance and Housing Alliance Action Fund Member Meeting, in April. 

For more information about the Emerging Advocates Program, visit www.wliha.org/eap.

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