Blogs

Register Now - 22nd Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness

Registration for our 22nd Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness is now open!  You can register online or download and return the registration form here.

This year’s theme is The Changing Face of Homelessness.  There will be workshops on a variety of topics including youth and child welfare, veterans, employment, overcoming NIMBYism, the McKinney-Vento and HEARTH Acts, communications, and policy and advocacy workshops that will offer tools to build a movement to end homelessness. The conference will include the popular SOAR academy which helps service providers better assist people who are homeless to access disability income benefits.

In addition to skill-building workshops, we'll have keynote speakers--including Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn--who will engage you and address current trends, and opportunities to network and get to know your peers from around the state.

New this year, we're adding a special awards dinner and reception on May 17th from 6 to 8pm to bring together homelessness and housing advocates to celebrate the Coalition for the Homeless and the Housing Alliance joining forces and the progress we've made together so far.  We'll also recognize our legislative champions and some of the advocates who have insired us and made that progress possible. This event will take place Thursday evening at a nearby location.  You can purchase your ticket when registering for the conference. The event is a fundraiser to support our ongoing advocacy work, and guests will be invited to make a contribution. Dinner, wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages are included in your ticket price. We look forward to seeing you there!

Rates for the conference are shown below.  Limited scholarships will be available.  Applications are available on our website and are due back to the Housing Alliance by noon on April 9th.

 

Full Conference

Wed or Thurs only

Friday only

Early Rate (until 4/20)

$275

$175

$100

Regular Rate (until 5/5)

$375

$275

$100

Late Rate (after 5/5)

$450

$325

$100

Awards event

$25 for conference attendees, $30 for others

I hope to see you in Yakima in May!  In the meantime, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email me.

Sincerely,
Jon

Budget Choices and Consequences

The budget debate -- much like the cold weather here in Seattle -- seems to be dragging on and on. And unfortunately, the budget, much like inclement weather, seems to hit those without a home especially hard.

The Seattle Times recently pointed out that most of the difference between the latest GOP budget and the Democrat budget proposals is made up by cuts to three programs: $41 million from the complete elimination of Disability Lifeline; $155 million by taking all of the unexpended funds from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and then adding additional cuts, and then $54 million from the complete elimination of Housing and Essential Needs (HEN).

The choice presented to Washingtonians is a very stark one. On one hand, we can fund programs that protect the most vulnerable in our society. This approach leads to stories like this one:

“Thank you for this assistance, I am currently homeless, camping by the river in a tent. I have been since October 2011. Thanks to the HEN program I have been able to get the resources to look for housing and they put me in a motel so I don’t have to be in the cold. I was currently diagnosed with Hepatitis C and my health is very poor. I believe I can have a much better future with this program. It has made me more focused and determined to find housing because now I have hope, knowing I have this help. Thank you.”

Or, on the other hand, we can make deeper and deeper cuts to critical services. The result of that choice, we saw last week, was new data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction showing the largest year-to-year increase in the number of identified homeless students since Columbia Legal Services started analyzing the data in 2007 -- a flabbergasting 19% increase. This means there are more than 26,000 homeless students in Washington, or close to 1 in every 40 students. 

I wish we could say this was surprising news, but our members have been telling us for quite awhile now that the fastest growing population of recipients of services has been single mothers, many of whom have never received services before. More than 13% of people in Washington struggle to survive with incomes at or below the poverty line, and among single women with young children that percentage jumps up to 47.9%. When the state made cuts to the safety-net last year, housing advocates across the state said that we were going to see more homeless families. 

On one hand, we have Senator Murray's Operating Budget, which reverses cuts and can lead to stories of people leaving homelessness and finding independence. On the other hand, we have the latest Republican budget, which will lead to more and more families falling through the holes in what was once our state's safety-net. This is why it is critically important that we keep letting our elected officials know that they need to stand strong through the special session and budget negotiations and make sure the ending budget protects these safety net programs. Please take a minute to let your legislators know that you support a budget that protects the most vulnerable.

Click here to send a message to your legislators to stand strong and protect safety-net programs.

Thank you for your advocacy,

--Ben

 

This Week in Housing Advocacy: Special Session Update

The Capitol was still and quiet until Thursday when the Senate Republicans unveiled yet another surprise budget. Like the last one, it was shrouded in secrecy. Senate Republican leadership hid it even from the Governor with whom they met for budget negotiations in the hour before the unveiling. Although the release of yet another Republican budget was a surprise – the contents weren’t. The safety net was slashed again, but even worse this time, with the Housing and Essential Needs program completely eliminated, Disability Lifeline Medical completely eliminated and TANF deeply cut.  


The Governor’s response to the unveiling was fierce. She called it a theatrical performance and told reporters that she wanted lawmakers to negotiate in good faith, and she threatened to veto many of the remaining bills sent for her signature.

"I'm disappointed and I'm frustrated. This is no way to get a budget. I've had everyone in my office for four consecutive days… but then, yet again another budget by only one group that will not get us out of town. Let me remind everybody that it is 25, 50 and 1 [referring to the votes needed in the Senate, the House and her signature]. We will not get out of here unless everyone comes to the table and negotiates in good faith…. I want a budget…To help them hear the message I have denied the members, I have denied the lobbyists their bills… Stop passing bills by only one of four corners of the legislature…this does not advance trust in the room." - Governor Gregoire on the surprise unveiling of yet another Senate Republican budget.

The Governor said that she is only signing bills that are “too important to veto” and so the Housing Alliance was relieved that one of our top priorities already secured her signature when the SSB 6315 – the Tenant Screening Act – was signed into law on Thursday. It will go into effect on June 7th. Watch the Governor sign the bill by clicking here.


These are Critical Times - Take Action Again!

We have to repeat ourselves over and over again to win. Until final budgets are signed that fully fund HEN, DL and TANF and that invest in the Housing Trust Fund – we must continue to take action and to ask others to do the same.

There is immense pressure on our elected officials to compromise and get out of Olympia. Our champions need encouragement and our opponents need to be pressured to do the right thing. Click here to take action again today.


Housing Trust Fund Call - Thursday March 22nd at 12:00.

When regular session ended on March 8th, no Capital Budget had yet been voted on. Since then, a new House proposal has been introduced that reduces the Housing Trust Fund allocation to approximately $71 million. This was in response to ongoing House negotiations with the Senate.

New language was added to the Housing Trust Fund appropriation that attempts to provide more flexibility from the set-asides and project list. To better understand the political constraints and the possible implications of the project list, please join the Housing Alliance for a discussion. On Thursday, March 22nd at 12:00 we will host a call in which we will provide updates and a chance to hear directly from Commerce. Sign up here to participate in the call.

These are critical times  - with the fate of Housing and Essential Needs, Disability Lifeline, TANF and the Housing Trust Fund yet to be decided, the wellbeing of thousands of men, women and children across the state is at risk. Please take action today and ask at least three others to join you. Send them this email or send them the link to the action page – tell them why you care and how much their voice matters.

Stay tuned for more updates and more strategic opportunities to take action.

As always, thank you for your advocacy,
Michele

 

The Governor Signed the Fair Tenant Screening Act

At 2:00p today, Governor Gregoire signed into law the Fair Tenant Screening Act, a law aimed at addressing growing problems in tenant screening reports that puts Washington in the forefront of the nation in addressing these issues.

You can read our full press release over in the Press Center - or click HERE.

This Week in Housing: What Happens Next?

Last night the tumultuous 2012 legislative session came to a temporary close. With the final swing of the gavel and the declaration of “sine die”, the legislature closed their session with significant work remaining before them. And the Governor immediately called for another special session to start on Monday the 12th.

With two of our biggest priorities on the line, what happens next has big implications for affordable housing and homelessness. The Capital Budget/Jobs Package and the Housing Trust Fund allocation are yet to be resolved. And the future of the Housing and Essential Needs program – slashed to the bone in the “Zarelli Budget” – hangs on the line.

On Thursday morning, the House released new Operating and Capital Budgets in an effort to reach agreement before the midnight “sine die” deadline. They started to debate the new Operating Budget in the late afternoon and passed it almost along party lines, but with three House Democrats voting no. The Capital Budget, with a new striking amendment by Representative Dunshee, was not voted on. 

“Magical Session” 

That was the way one of our members described the session recently. Although drama and rapid developments in Olympia can sometimes bring about sudden changes that overshadow even recent wins, there were incredible victories this session that shouldn’t be forgotten. Here a few:

  • The document recording fee bill will bring resources to prevent and end homelessness to every community in the state.
     
  • The passage of the Fair Tenant Screening Act, and the stakeholder commitment to continuing to work on the remaining issues, is a very important step forward for tenants' rights. 
     
  • The preservation of the Housing and Essential Needs program in both the House and Senate majority party budgets, gives this program a good starting point in the upcoming negotiations on the budget.

And thanks to the hard work of our allies and members, almost every single one of our support bills passed this session. EHB 1398, which will make it possible for more jurisdictions to waive impact fees for affordable housing, passed yesterday. The bill to “take back the TANF box”, EHB 2262, also passed yesterday after years of negotiations. This bill gives the legislature more control over the spending and regulations of TANF – a critical program that prevents and ends homelessness for very low-income households with young children.

These are just a handful of the victories from this session. And many of these victories were very hard fought. With last minute unfriendly amendments, political hostage-taking, sudden opposition when all seemed well – these bills faced turmoil and roadblocks that were all overcome because of persistent, passionate and strategic advocacy.

Please call the Governor’s office today at 360-902-4111 and ask her to sign in full the following bills: HB 2048, SB 6315, HB 2262 and HB 2592.


(These bills, in order, are the document recording fee bill, the Fair Tenant Screening Act, the TANF box bill and the Foster Care to 21 bill). 

*The reason to ask her to “sign in full” is because the Governor technically has the authority to do line-item vetoes. These are good bills and we don’t want to see anything vetoed. 

What Happens Next? 

On Monday, at least a few lawmakers will return to Olympia to begin budget negotiations anew.  The session can last for up to thirty days and some are already predicting that it will take them that long to reach agreement. Although the Senate only needs one more vote to pass the House's budget, there were some very clear and hard lines drawn by both parties that makes for a rugged, and even treacherous, path to final agreement.

With the Housing Trust Fund, Housing & Essential Needs, and funding for other important programs yet to be decided, sustaining and expanding our advocacy will be critical. Please email Moque if you’d like to talk about how to bring your advocacy efforts up a notch for special session. We’d love to work with you to explore how to best bring your unique voice to the budget debate.

Thank you for all you have done this session. Stay tuned for our upcoming Monday action alert.

Sincerely,
Michele

 

 

Take Action on the Zarelli Budget!

As you may have heard by now, last Friday Senator Zarelli [R-18th LD] led conservatives in a back-door deal to pass a budget that hadn't gone through any public hearings, which means without a process in which our voices could be heard.

By a narrow margin, the Senate passed this budget. If that budget were to pass in the House and become law, the huge cuts to social services would lead to a dramatic rise in homelessness in every community across the state. 

Some of the low points include:

Slashes Housing and Essential Needs program by 75%

Redirects funds in a way that will make it almost impossible to fund capital projects like the Housing Trust Fund

Cuts over $200 million from the TANF program and implements a 48 month lifetime limit and further reduces the cash grant.

Eliminates Disability Lifeline medical

Eliminates food supports for thousands of families

It is incredibly important that we thank the Senators who voted NO on this budget for standing up for us and for a fair Democratic process that listens to the voices.

It is also incredibly important that we let our Representatives know that they need to stand strong against the Senate's budget and stand up for full funding for the Housing and Essential Needs program, TANF, and other critical programs that make up our safety-net.

I know that it has been a long Session, and it looks like it's going to go on even longer--but that's why it's all the more important that you keep on fighting for the programs our communities depend on.

Please go to our Take Action page and contact your legislator right now: CLICK HERE

This Week in Housing Advocacy: Victorious, Historic and Tumultuous

It is hard to believe that last week was just seven days long. It started with the House passing the Fair Tenant Screening Act - SSB 6315. Tuesday brought the Senate budget proposal that preserved the Housing and Essential Needs program. On Wednesday we celebrated the amazing victory of the document recording fee bill - ESHB 2048. Then Friday morning two important Housing Alliance support bills passed: ESHB 2592 - extending important supports to some youth aging out of the foster care system, and SHB 2194 - clarifying provisions of the mobile home landlord tenant act. But then the week ended with a Friday evening coup by Senate conservatives who used a procedural motion to force a vote on a surprise budget that slashes safety-net services to the bone. “Victorious”, “historic” and “tumultuous” – all describe the last week for affordable housing and homelessness.


But Did You Want Proof that Advocacy Works?
The passage of the Fair Tenant Screening Act, the preservation of Housing and Essential Needs in both the House and Senate majority budget proposals and then the passage of the document recording fee bill were all won from hard fought battles sustained and elevated by the persistent advocacy that kept coming from every corner of the state. But as the budget coup on Friday night made clear, we have a lot more work to do. Lets savor our victories and harness our energy to save Housing and Essential Needs, TANF, and other critical safety-net programs, and to secure $100 million for the Housing Trust Fund. 

“Skipping a pension payment, gutting state services and subverting the public process is not how you write a budget. Ignoring the stories of the people who spent 12 hours in committee hearings talking about how their lives would be changed by the budget cuts we faced, the people who would lose a quality education, the people who feared they would become homeless – disregarding our citizens – that is not how you write a responsible budget.” – Senators Murray and Brown in a public statement Friday night.

A Gated Community Approach to Budget Writing
When Senator Murray (Chair of Ways and Means) and the Senate Majority party released their proposed Operating Budget last Tuesday, many human services advocates were stunned that it was missing the deep cuts to the safety net that have almost become commonplace.  But then there was a dramatic, and perhaps historic, Friday night takeover of the Senate that allowed a secret budget written by the minority party to be brought to the Floor and voted on. The Zarelli budget (so called because Senator Joe Zarelli, R 18th, is the author of it) was kept in secret and the normal process that allows public comment was intentionally bypassed. No stakeholders had a chance to comment before it was voted out of the chamber and sent to the House. It is fair to call this a "gated community approach to budget writing" because the process was seemingly used to protect the budget writers from hearing from the poor and vulnerable who will be deeply impacted by these cuts.

The budget coup also undermines both chambers’ Capital Budget proposals.  The Zarelli budget redirects over $70 million from a solid waste tax that traditionally funds Capital Budget expenditures and was relied on as a funding source for both "Jobs Package" proposals.

“If you are a poor woman, let me just say, tonight is not your night.” – Senator Brown on the Zarelli budget.

There were over 30 amendments to the Zarelli budget offered on the Floor during the budget debate and it is very significant that the first amendment was to restore funding for Housing and Essential Needs. Each successive amendment tried to restore some part of the safety net, public school cuts or environmental protections.  All failed on a consistent 25-24 vote, except for one that restored a cut to a scholarship program for low-income public college students. Highlights from other amendments include one offered by Senator Brown that would have protected the Working Connections Childcare program from the significant cuts in Zarelli’s budget. Senator Hargrove introduced an amendment that would have saved Disability Lifeline Medical from complete elimination, and other Senators made passionate proposals and speeches in defense of TANF and other important programs.

Click here to view a particularly galvanizing moment from the debate when Senators Nelson, Kilmer, Harper, Brown, Haugen and Chase challenged a budget that allocates money for prizes at fairs, while cutting services to the bone.

Every Senator that voted against the Zarelli budget deserves thanks for their passionate defense of the safety net and for their righteous anger. Although the budget meltdown was horrifying, it was also galvanizing and heartening to hear speech after speech defending the role of our government in supporting safety-net programs. After years of cuts and anti-government rhetoric, Friday night could mark a turning point in the broader debate on how to solve budget deficits and on the role of government in meeting basic needs. Please take action today to send your message on how the cuts proposed by Senator Zarelli will hurt your community.    

To see the differences between the Zarelli budget that passed Friday night and the Murray budget that was heard last Tuesday, click here for a PDF. Note, both proposals were offered as striking amendments to SB 5967. Senator Murray's is referred to as the "Sen Chair Proposed" while Senator Zarelli's is referred to as "Alt Striking Amd".

A Look at Some of the Proposed Cuts
The following are highlights of some of the cuts proposed by the Zarelli budget. Please note that the descriptions include comments by nonpartisan legislative staff (obtained from budget documents) and should not be construed to reflect an opinion by the Housing Alliance. Some of the cuts below may be exacerbated by cuts to federal matching funds. The amount given below should be read as the minimum cut and in some places may not be entirely accurate, as some programs have multiple funding sources and could have been cut even further.

Housing and Essential Needs: $42.565 million cut
Funding is provided for the Housing and Essential Needs program, pursuant to Chapter 36, Laws of 2011 (ESHB 2082) to reflect 25 percent participation beginning April 1, 2012 for the remainder of the biennium.

CSHD Homeless Assistance: $1.575 Million cut
Funding from the state general fund for homeless assistance is eliminated in FY 2013. These funds go into the Consolidated Homeless Grant and fund shelter, rent assistance, transitional housing.

Home Security Fund: $6 Million cut
Over the years, more and more programs have been taken out of the general fund and put into the Home Security Fund which is funded by document recording fees. The Home Security Fund supports emergency shelter programs, emergency rent assistance, programs for foster youth and more. $6 million is allocated from the account to fund the meager amount left for the Housing and Essential Needs program.
 
Disability Lifeline Medical and DL/ADATSA programs: $50.743 Million cut
The Disability Lifeline and the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Treatment Support Act (ADATSA) medical care services programs are discontinued effective June 2012. The programs provide medical coverage for approximately 15,500 low-income persons per month who have disabilities considered not sufficiently severe or too temporary to qualify as disabled under the federal Social Security Act.

TANF and Working Connections Childcare: $202 Million cut
Funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) programs is adjusted to reflect caseload and per capita projected under expenditures. Additionally, a $11.8 million contingency reserve is provided in the event there are changes in caseload or per capita costs. Funding is also adjusted within the TANF and WCCC programs to reflect a 4,000 slot decrease in WCCC, a 2 percent reduction in the grant, and instituting a 48 month time limit for TANF clients. Funding is reduced for WorkFirst activities.

Eliminate the State Food Assistance Program: $13.884 Million cut
The State Food Assistance Program will be eliminated on July 1, 2012. This state-funded program provides food assistance to approximately 12,000 families per month who are not eligible for federal food assistance.

Reduce Weatherization Activities: $3.348 Million cut
Funding is reduced. This will result in less home weatherization assistance activities provided for low-income individuals.

Special Session
The extreme differences between the House budget and the Zarelli budget will almost surely take longer than the next four days to resolve. The House passed their version of the budget last Wednesday the 29th and the session was scheduled to end on Thursday March 8th. Many are now predicting that it will take at least another month to reach agreement. This likely means that final decisions on the Capital Budget and the Jobs Packages will be dragged out to the bitter end. However, delaying a decision on the Trust Fund allocation also means we have more time to make our case for it.

Stay tuned for more opportunities to weigh in. And keep taking action. The many victories last week illustrate how incredibly powerful and effective advocacy is. Let's keep it going - 

Sincerely,
Michele

Did you tell the Senate what you thought about their budget? Tell us about it!

The Washington State Senate released their Operating and Capital budgets yesterday, which included full funding for the Housing and Essential Needs Program -- which is great! -- and an allocation of $30 million for the Housing Trust Fund -- which is good, but far from the $100 million allocated by the House.

It is really important that we thank the Senate for the strong funding they provided for Housing and Essential Needs and human services. It is also very important that we push for the Senate to match the $100 million allocated by the house for the Housing Trust Fund. 

You can click on our handy Action Alert and we'll help you send a message to your Senator. Here's the link: The Senate just released their budget - tell them what you think!

If you've already called or emailed the Senate, let us know in the comments! We'd love to hear how it went.

Send a message of thanks to elected officials for supporting an end to homelessness

The incredible advocacy coming from every corner of the state and from many diverse voices is tangibly making a difference. Take for example the document recording fee bills – 2048 & 5952. On Wednesday (February 22nd), 2048 cleared the Financial Institutions Housing and Insurance Committee unanimously.  When its twin bill, 5952, was voted on just weeks prior, it was minus two votes. Since then, advocates have worked hard to gain the full support of the Committee and we won. Every single member voted yes – Democrats and Republicans – and now it is time to thank them. The unanimous support gives the bill a helpful boost for its next hurdle in Ways and Means. Thank you for your tremendous advocacy – and keep it coming. We are closer than we have ever been in passing this important bill. With it, every county in the state will have resources to prevent a dramatic rise in homelessness.

Use the comment box below to post a public comment of thanks. We will make sure that all the committee members see the messages.
 
Members of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee:
 
Senator Steve Hobbs (D), Chair, 44th Legislative District
Senator Margarita Prentice (D), Vice Chair, 11th Legislative District
Senator Don Benton (R), Ranking Minority Member, 17th Legislative District
Senator Joe Fain (R), 47th Legislative District
Senator Karen Keiser (D), 33rd Legislative District
Senator Steve Litzow (R), 41st Legislative District
Senator Mary Margaret Haugen (D), 10th Legislative District

Housing and Essential Needs: A story from Snohomish

One of the things we’ve been talking a lot about is the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program, which was the replacement for the Disability Lifeline. It’s a core safety-net program that helps ensure that temporary disabilities don’t force people onto the streets by providing access to some of life’s most basic household and sanitary needs.

I know sometimes that with all the debates around the different budgets, and which chamber included which programs and for how much, the actual people that depend on these programs and these stories can get lost in the shuffle. That's why I wanted to take a second and share this story, which was sent to us by a service provider in Snohomish County:

[My client] was literally homeless when she applied to the HEN program. She had been sleeping outside in her car the night before she applied for assistance. She had run out of options for people to stay with, as no one could afford to support her or allow her to stay with them long term. Everyone she knew was struggling from the bad economy and she literally had no supports or financial resources. This client had experienced much grief and loss over the last few years and developed some mental health problems that were debilitating. She lost her husband a few years before and her son within the last year. She had been a stay at home mother throughout her marriage and came out a widow with limited job skills.

This woman experienced homelessness more than 4 times over the last few years and it had really become difficult to secure and maintain housing. She was unable to secure housing without the HEN rental assistance and cried when she got approved for HEN, knowing that she would be able to get housing. She located and identified a landlord that would rent to her and got moved in right away and had no more nights of sleeping outside. She was also able to access the essential needs part of the program as well, which was a great help since she was homeless. 

If you haven’t already, take a second to send a message to your Senator and ask them to match the House’s allocation for the Housing and Essential Needs Program (Click here for the Action Alert). 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - blogs