The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 2

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Take Action

The second week of the state legislative session was just as busy as the first, with hearings on key housing priorities including SB 5123, the Fair Tenant Screening Act sponsored by Senator David Frockt (46th LD-Seattle). The House Capital Budget Committee had a hearing on Governor Jay Inslee’s budget proposal. The Housing Alliance and others thank the Governor for allocating $75 million for the Housing Trust Fund.  But, we ask the House to bring that up to $100 million. Please join us in sending a strong message to the legislature that we need to pass a budget with new revenue options to ensure that we prevent further holes to our already frayed safety net. Add your name to our revenue petition!

Fair Tenant Screening Act

Wednesday’s hearing on the Fair Tenant Screening Act was the highlight of the week, with incredible testimony by a strong crew of advocates, people personally impacted, and Housing Alliance staff. Thomas Green, Ashley Albert, and Kimberly Mays clearly identified the importance of SB 5123 when they shared how expensive repeat tenant screening fees have blocked their access to a home. It was Ashley’s first time in Olympia, and her testimony was quite moving. You can watch it below:

You can also read Ashley's testimony here.

Special thanks to everyone who testified: Ashley Albert, Kimberly Mays, Thomas Green, Patricia Abbate of Solid Ground, Liz Mills of the YWCA of Seattle | King | Snohomish, Eric Dunn of the Northwest Justice Project, and Jonathan Grant of the Tenants Union.

Numbers of Homeless Students in School and Racial Disparities Up

The week was overshadowed by the weekend release of the most current count of K-12 students experiencing homelessness in our state. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction announced that they identified 32,494 students as homeless in the last school year. This represents 3.1 percent of students statewide and is an increase over the previous school year’s count, which was the already too high 30,609. School districts are required to gather additional data on these students including their race because SB 6074 (Frockt) passed last year, a bill that Columbia Legal Services championed and we supported. The resulting data this year is startling, showing a significantly disproportionate experience of homelessness among kids of color. Native American, African American, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students were much more likely to be homeless than their White peers.

OSPI’s report ended with the following statement:

“Washington state school districts are identifying and serving increasing numbers of homeless students every year, and the numbers continue to rise. Between the 2008-09 school year and 2013-14 school year, Washington State experienced a 56% increase in the number of enrolled homeless students reported by school districts. In many cases, school is the only stable or safe place for children and youth who are experiencing the instability of disrupted housing and high mobility.

Knowing that homelessness impacts both the academic and the social-emotional well-being of students, it is critical for school districts to have the resources and supports necessary to ensure that all vulnerable children and youth, particularly those experiencing homelessness, are identified, served and supported.”

The Housing Alliance 100% agrees and urges state lawmakers to pass our full lead and support agenda, which together addresses the housing and safety net resources and policy solutions needed to prevent households from experiencing the brutality of homelessness.

Key Housing Alliance support agenda priorities also made progress last week, most excitingly with SB 5208 (Miloscia) passing unanimously out the Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee. This bill will allow King County to use proceeds from existing lodging taxes for bonding for affordable workforce housing. The Homeless Student Stability Act SB 5065 (Frockt), also received a hearing last week in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. The bill has not yet been voted on by the committee.

King County Homelessness Numbers Also Up

The week ended with annual Point in Time Homeless Count, with volunteers fanning out across the state during the wee hours of Friday morning to identify and count people trying to survive outdoors. While official count outcomes for the state won’t be available for several months, King County count organizer Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH) announced an increase in the number of people found in King County, with 3,772 people counted on Friday. This is a significant increase from the 3,123 found in 2014. It is disappointing, shameful, and alarming that so many people are homeless and that the number is increasing. High housing costs, lack of subsidized affordable housing, an inadequate safety net, and significant housing barriers all contribute to homelessness. Our state lawmakers have the opportunity this session to help our communities make progress and to help ensure more households have the housing and resources they need to prevent or exit homelessness.

Join the Housing Alliance, SKCCH, King County Committee to End Homelessness, and Real Change in Olympia on Wednesday to acknowledge each person counted outside in King County last Friday. Lawmakers will join us for the Ring Out for Revenue: Seattle to Olympia event as we ring a gong for each of the 3,772. And we will be highlighting what the state can do this session to make progress, including passing a capital budget with $100 million for the Housing Trust Fund.

There are still spots available for you to sign up to ring the gong here.

Highlights for This Week

This week will be another busy week for affordable housing and homelessness issues, both good and bad. In addition to the Wednesday action and accompanying press conference, the Housing Alliance will be joining a panel on Tuesday to testify in support of Governor Inslee’s Carbon Tax bill, which will tax the state’s biggest polluters. The Governor’s proposal names the Housing Trust Fund as a beneficiary of some of the proceeds. Here is the relevant language from the bills HB 1314 (Fitzgibbon) and SB 5283 (Ranker):

Two percent of the moneys, as needed to equal and not exceed fifteen million five hundred thousand dollars in fiscal year 2017, as needed to equal at least nineteen million five hundred thousand dollars in fiscal year 2018, and as needed to equal at least twenty million dollars in each fiscal year thereafter, deposited into the Washington housing trust fund created in RCW 43.185.030.

The Housing Alliance has also organized a work session on the intersection of mental illness and housing needs for the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee on Tuesday, January 27 at 10:00am. You can watch it live via TVW. Special thanks to Committee Chair Senator Steve O’Ban (28th LD-University Place) for agreeing to the work session.

The Housing Alliance will also be weighing in on many bills that may have a negative impact on access to housing, including SB 5219 (Benton) which seeks to allow landlords to use the accelerated 3-day pay or vacate eviction process for an allegation of nonpayment of fees. This bill and many others that will negatively impact both tenants and owners of manufactured housing will be heard on Wednesday, January 28 in the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee at 1:30pm. If you are on campus on Wednesday, please consider stating your opposition to these bills by signing in con. If you need some help, grab any of the Housing Alliance staff or stop by the Legislative Information Center for information on how to sign in on Senate bills.



Why you should attend Advocacy Day!

Guest Blogger: Penny Lipsou, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence Policy & Economic Justice Intern

Last year, on January 28, when I attended my very first advocacy day, I was excited, energized, and inspired! As an intern for Seattle-based community development organization InterIm CDA, I had the privilege of joining an organized group of folks headed to the state capitol to lobby for legislative issues. Our group of elders, youth, and InterIm staff piled into two 12-passenger vans at 7am for the trek down to Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day, organized by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.

Upon arriving in Olympia, we were greeted with breakfast, a symbolic red scarf, and a bold red folder full of information about key housing issues.

I was impressed by the diversity of advocates there for the day. I met youth who were currently experiencing homelessness, environmental architects, domestic violence shelter program managers, and others. I felt the electric power of solidarity pulse through over 600 people, from different communities all over Washington State, motivated by the belief that all Washington residents should have the opportunity to a safe, healthy, affordable home.

InterIm CDA intern Penny Lipsou (l) & WILD Program Manager Jamie Stroble (r) at Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day 2014.


Being more of a shy person, I felt a little nervous at the thought of discussing policy issues with a state legislator. Thankfully, I participated in an Advocacy 101 workshop. A supportive team of seasoned housing advocates coached us with helpful advice, political insight, and their own personal stories.

I felt ready to advocate when I later I joined a group of fellow legislative district residents. Then we were off to talk with lawmakers about barriers to a home and the state’s affordable housing shortage. The advocacy process became much less intimidating thanks to the workshops, structure, and overall spirit of Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day.

After meeting with several legislative representatives, I gained a new perspective on the dynamics of the political system and how to engage with lawmakers. By the end of the day, I was confidently raising my hand to let legislators know exactly how I felt about certain housing issues and why it’s important for them to do something about it.

Advocacy Day left me with a better sense of who in electorate leadership was truly supportive of affordable housing and ending homelessness. It also gave me ideas of what to say to those who weren’t so supportive! This in and of itself has been helpful in my subsequent advocacy work. Regardless of how legislators received our messages, it was important that we shared our stories and gave our hearts in an effort to push progressive policy forward. Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day was so pivotal to me, because it connected me with a bigger movement and inspired me to pursue social welfare policy as a career.

Given Seattle’s current cultural shift in the landscape of the housing market, I am looking forward to speaking with my elected officials on key issues at this year’s Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day on February 17.

If you haven't already, please register for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day here.

And if you need more details about the day, check out the Advocacy Day page here.

I hope to see you there!



The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 1

Michele Thomas, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Greetings and welcome to the first weekly roundup of the legislative session. Each week of this session, we’ll be posting a summary of how affordable housing and homeless issues fared in Olympia, as well as highlights for the current week. Our hope is to keep you informed and ready to advocate. With hundreds of issues competing for the attention of lawmakers, affordable housing and homelessness advocacy needs to be strategic and relentless. The Housing Alliance commits to bringing you the information and tools you need to advocate for change.

Take Advocacy Action

Take action today by calling the legislature’s toll free hotline at 1.800.562.6000 with this message for all of your lawmakers:

“Eliminate barriers to housing by supporting the Fair Tenant Screening Act that’s SB 5123 and HB 1257 and by investing $100 million in the Housing Trust Fund.”

Tenant Protection Legislation Updates

Fair Tenant Screening Act
SB 5123 (Frockt ) / HB 1257 (Walkinshaw)

The Fair Tenant Screening Act prevents tenants from paying for the same tenant screening report over and over again. The bill simply says that if a tenant provides a landlord access to a high quality tenant screening report and that it is no more than 30-days-old, the landlord cannot charge the tenant for another report.

Source of Income Discrimination Protections
(Bill Number TBA Kohl-Welles / Ormsby)

Everyone should have an equal opportunity to apply for housing, which is why Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th LD-Seattle) and Representative Timm Ormsby (3rd LD-Spokane) are introducing legislation to prohibit discrimination against otherwise eligible tenants based on their participation in a government assistance program.

This discrimination is referred to as “source of income” discrimination, and has been outlawed by many states including Oregon where new protections went into effect last July. Several local jurisdictions in our state already protect tenants including King County, Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland. It’s time to bring this protection statewide, so renters have access to all communities, and no one is able to say, “You are not welcome. Do not apply.”

We need to eliminate this significant and grossly unfair barrier, especially since communities across our state are increasingly looking to the private, for-profit rental market to be a resource in ending homelessness. This is also important because the state has set-aside 45% of our state’s homeless dollars for rental assistance for the private, for-profit market.

Truth In Evictions Reporting Act
(Bill Number TBA Habib / Robinson)

The Truth In Evictions Reporting Act, which will be sponsored by Senator Cyrus Habib (48th LD-Kirkland) and Representative June Robinson (38th LD-Everett), will fix how evictions are reported.

Right now, all eviction filings are reported as equal despite the circumstances and despite the outcome. Eviction filings in which a tenant prevailed, negotiated with the landlord to settle the eviction lawsuit, or had their tenancy reinstated are all reported the same. All tenants who have an eviction filed against them have a significant mark on their record that closes many, many doors.

Court is supposed to be a place where justice can prevail, but even if a tenant wins the case, they lose many housing opportunities for years to come.

90-Day Notice for Rent Increases
And lastly, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles is also introducing legislation that will give tenants more time to respond to rent increases. Right now, Washington State law allows landlords to raise the rent, or change any other rule, with a mere 30 days notice, no matter the magnitude of the rent increase. Tenants effectively have 10 days to decide if they can manage the rent increase or if they can move because tenants must give landlords 20 days notice to vacate. Households need more time to make decisions about major disruptions like a move and to save up moving costs, like first/last month’s rent and tenant screening fees.

Today is a day to celebrate the profound legacy of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. who fought for racial justice, an end to poverty, and an end to segregation in housing and public services. State policy and the state budget are either the tools of oppression or the path towards equality. And we at the Housing Alliance see a clear link between his work and our vision to expand access to affordable housing and to end homelessness. In his honor, we’d like to offer his words for reflection and inspiration. This is from a much larger speech on the Vietnam War delivered at the Riverside Church in New York, exactly one year before his murder: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

This session will likely be challenging, and we encourage you to look more into the history and legacy of leaders like Dr. King if ever things begin to feel too bleak or unwinnable.

The Week in Review

Monday, January 12 was the first day of this year’s legislative session, and we were busy making sure that affordable housing and homelessness priorities were on top of Olympia’s consciousness. We organized two work sessions to educate lawmakers. You can watch the video of each below. First was on Tuesday and focused on the deep connection between mental illness and housing instability. And next was on Thursday with a focus on homelessness among kids, youth, and young adults. Special thanks to our partners who made these work sessions a great success!

House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee - Tuesday, January 13

House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee - Thursday, January 15

In between the work sessions on Wednesday, we held a press conference and briefing on important tenant legislation. As more renters struggle under the burden of high rents, weak tenant protections, daunting moving expenses, outright discrimination, and denial of housing due to unfair eviction records, these bills offer solutions that will eliminate these barriers to housing stability. See the sidebar for an outline of the key tenant bills we are working to pass this year. Note, most bills will be assigned bill numbers this week, and one is already scheduled for a hearing.

The Budget

This long session also means lawmakers need to write the new two-year operating and capital budgets, which will go into effect on July 1, 2015. Although lawmakers are technically only given 105 days (until April 26) to finish their business, they can extend it with “special sessions” if they are unable to agree on a budget. July 1 is the more important deadline. If a budget isn’t enacted by then, the government would effectively need to shut down – a scenario that no one should want since it would gravely impact essential government functions and safety net services that low-income and vulnerable people in every community across the state rely on.

The main budget points of contention this session will be whether to enact new revenue or to make more cuts. Governor Jay Inslee released a bold budget plan in December that fully funded the Housing & Essential Needs/Blind, Aged & Disabled programs and SSI facilitation. It also allocated $100 million for affordable housing, including $75 million for the Housing Trust Fund. He was able to do this, while allocating increased funding for public education because he also proposed new revenue. The Housing Alliance supports the Governor’s proposed Capital Gains Tax and his Carbon Polluter’s Tax. The Carbon Polluter’s Tax bill creates a permanent funding stream for the Housing Trust Fund. It allocates $15.5 million in fiscal year 2017, $19.5 million in fiscal year 2018, and then $20 million each year after.

Some have asked the Housing Alliance if there will be a priority project list connected to the Housing Trust Fund allocation again this year. The way to win $100 million for the Housing Trust Fund without “a project list” or earmarks, is strategic and relentless advocacy that reaches lawmakers of all political persuasions.

Lastly, a quick update for our Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit. This particular agenda item is no longer a legislative priority for the Housing Alliance...instead it is a budget priority! We are seeking a budget appropriation this session to fund this benefit. It was legally authorized in last session's SB 6312.

You can track both of our lead legislative and budget priorities at our Bill & Budget Tracker here.

Highlights for This Week

Even though this week begins the second week of the session, many bills are scheduled for hearings including key affordable housing and homelessness priorities. If you are in Olympia, plan on signing in “pro” on each of these bills, or plan on calling the state’s toll free hotline (1.800.562.6000) to ask lawmakers to support these bills:

Lastly, don’t forget to register for Homeless and Housing Advocacy Day, which will be in Olympia on Tuesday, February 17. This is the day to rally with hundreds of other advocates and to tell lawmakers that affordable housing and homelessness priorities need to be on the top of their agenda this year. 



A different kind of resolution.

Guest Blogger: YouthCare Board Chair Matthew Turetsky, JD

While you may be making New Year’s resolutions, nonprofits are passing board resolutions. For instance, YouthCare’s board just unanimously resolved that in order to create a balanced budget supporting a thriving Washington State, our legislature must explore new revenue options.

YouthCare’s mission is to build confidence and self-sufficiency for homeless youth by providing a continuum of care that includes outreach, basic services, emergency shelter, housing, counseling, education, and employment training. We’re not public budget mavens or policy wonks. (We rely on the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance to help us sift through the policy details.) We are a service provider committed to helping homeless young people move off the streets and prepare for life. As our board took a deeper look at how budget cuts would impact the young people we serve, it was clear we needed to publically state that an all-cuts budget would be harmful for Washington’s homeless youth.

YouthCare’s Board Public Affairs Committee guides the organization’s public policy decisions. They reached out to the Housing Alliance Board Advocacy Project for help with crafting board resolution language. Based on a sample resolution that the project’s lead Ben Miksch shared with us, we were able to craft two statements supporting revenue. The next step was for the full board to discuss and approve. This was new territory for us, as we formed our Public Affairs Committee just three years ago. And this was the first big public policy discussion with the full board of directors.

Pictured l-r: Margaret with YouthCare's Pathways Transitional Living Program, Kate B., YouthCare Executive Director Melinda Giovengo, YouthCare Communications Coordinator Liz Trautman, Erin with YouthCare's housing programs, and Ben.

The full YouthCare board first reviewed the state budget process, identified key decision makers, and the budget outlook for the next biennium. (Who knew that board meetings could double as civics classes?) We discussed the state’s $4.8 billion revenue shortfall in the next biennium and the legislature’s obligation to address the McCleary decision to fund basic education. We also examined how the state might balance the budget without new revenue sources: by making deep cuts to vital human services.

Losing state funding for homeless youth programs like Street Youth Services and HOPE beds would lead to more young people on the streets and in unsafe situations. Cuts to TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) and the Housing and Essential Needs programs would be devastating to our clients who are parenting or working to access SSI benefits. When the state safety net frays, the youth we serve fall through the holes.

We believe that to improve the lives in our community, we need to do more than stave off cuts. Our state should invest in programs and policies working to prevent and end youth homelessness. That’s why YouthCare supports passing the Homeless Youth Act, which would establish an Office of Youth Homelessness for coordinating the state’s efforts to address the needs of our young people. Additionally, we support a robust investment into the newly renamed Washington Youth and Families Fund.

Board members were brimming with questions about the budget process. (And here I thought I was going to put them to sleep with talk of general fund revenues and pension obligations.) After a great conversation, the board unanimously passed a resolution affirming, “that YouthCare supports budgets that will create the most robust and stable revenue system needed to protect and strengthen the entire continuum of youth housing and human services.”

I am thrilled YouthCare is moving forward with support for changes to our revenue system. And, unlike my own New Year’s resolutions, which tend to fizzle out around February 1, this is a resolution that will endure and continue to shape YouthCare’s work throughout the legislative session and beyond. Happy New Year!


Editor's Note:
Your board can be just as awesome as YouthCare's board. The Housing Alliance offers a number of ways for board members to be active in housing and homelessness advocacy:



The Top 10 Housing Alliance Moments of 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, we reflect back on the top ten Housing Alliance moments of this year. We'll present (finally) the entire list to you here, including NUMBER ONE! Let us know about your personal housing & homelessness advocacy highlights from 2014. Share yours at our Facebook and Twitter pages. And may you have a very Happy New Year!




#10 - Our Issues Trended on the Social Media Day of Action.

We kicked off 2014 strong with a Social Media Day of Action on January 15. From 12:00am to 11:59pm, our supporters and friends made #HHAD2014 a trending hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. The day of action helped us more than DOUBLE our reach and bring attention to our 2014 affordable housing and homelessness legislative priorities.



#9 - SEA...HAWKS!!!

Housing Alliance staff had a front row seat for the Super Bowl Champions Parade that took place in downtown Seattle on February 5. Although, it took awhile for our beloved Seahawks to pass our offices on 4th & Union. Once they did, we greeted them with loud cheers, blue & green confetti, and of course, Skittles! You can see our complete set of photos from the celebration here.



#8 - 2014 Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day Breaks Records.

Every year, Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day sets the tone for the upcoming legislative session and is one of our state’s largest advocacy gatherings. At Advocacy Day 2014 on January 28, our first-ever photo booth sponsored by Seattle-based advocacy organization Firesteel was a hit. In another first, at least 1 out of every 5 Advocacy Day attendees was a nonprofit board member. Registration for Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day 2015 is now open! You can register here.

Photo courtesy of Firesteel.



#7 - Gong Ceremony at the Capitol to Commemorate Statewide Homelessness.

On Thursday March 6, advocates from all over Washington sounded a gong exactly 5,043 times to recognize the 5,043 individuals found sleeping outside at night across the state during the January 2013 point-in-time count of homeless individuals across the state. The gong ringing took place in front of the capitol dome, and 19 legislators participated. We also held a press conference to draw attention to our efforts to save the Document Recording Fee/Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge Bill.

Pictured right: Rep. Jessyn Farrell (46th LD - Lake Forest Park)



#6 - Senator Patty Murray Wows the Audience at our Annual Awards Event.

We were so pleased to have Senator Patty Murray join us at Bringing Washington Home, our 5th Annual Advocacy Awards ceremony. However, we weren’t expecting her to touch on so many of our Emerging Advocates Program graduates’ stories. In her own words, “They serve as an important reminder that the programs for which you advocate represent a lifeline for members of our communities—our neighbors or friends in need.” Emerging Advocates Program (EAP) graduates Rebecca Snow Landa, Glenda Miller, and Susan Russell were in the audience to hear Sen. Murray reflect on their experiences. They also were there to cheer on their fellow EAP grads and evening awardees Shelby Powell, and Ellie Lambert. It was a great night celebrating the power of advocacy and our community.

Pictured below (l-r): Susan Russell, Virginia Shelby Powell (2014 Grassroots Leader of the Year), Ellie Lambert (2014 Individual Advocate of the Year), Glenda Miller, Thomas Green, and Rebecca Snow Landa.



#5 - Medicaid Supportive Housing Benefit White Paper Release.

Summer in Seattle can be...slow. But policy staff were hard at work on a research paper exploring the concept of creating a new Medicaid benefit to both help end chronic homelessness and bring permanent supportive housing (PSH) to scale. PSH pairs affordable housing with intensive tenancy support services, housing case management, and care coordination. It’s designed to serve people who are experiencing or are at risk of chronic homelessness and who have a severe and persistent mental health disorder, a chemical dependency disability, or chronic and complex physical health conditions. Although permanent supportive housing exists across Washington, there is not enough funding currently available to bring this model fully to scale.



#4 - 2014 Conference on Ending Homelessness Sets Records.

The 2014 Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness (COEH) in Yakima on May 21-22 was record-setting in many ways. We had the highest number of attendees for Yakima ever: 617 housing and homelessness service providers and private sector employees from all over Washington attended the two days of workshops. Attendees could pick from 50 workshops, our highest number yet. And 22 of them offered Continuing Education Unit credits, also a record.

Our 2014 COEH keynote speakers were especially entertaining. Nonprofit blogger Vu Le first made attendees laugh when entering the stage to the epic theme music from the cable television program “Game of Thrones.” But his reflections as a young child raised in a family that recently immigrated to the US were both humorous and thought-provoking. And Rex Holbien’s presentation of the striking images and stories he’s documented for his Facing Homelessness project led to a standing ovation and not a dry eye in the house.



#3 - Emerging Advocates Program Reunites!

Our Emerging Advocates Program (EAP) trains individuals who have experienced homelessness or housing instability in a range of skills for effective advocacy. EAP participants from all three 2014 programs joined with last year's attendees for an October celebration with Housing Alliance staff. In addition to a display of art created by EAP graduates, we had a visual timeline that charted organizational and personal milestones since the program began in 2013. There was also an open mic for anyone who wanted to share their personal experiences during or since the EAP program.




#2 - Prioritizing Anti-oppression and Equity: Class Matters!

Towards the end of 2014, Housing Alliance staff and a board member underwent "Exploring Class and Class Cultures," an all-day training using materials from the organization Class Action. With support from facilitators, staff reflected on their class background growing up and how it both motivates and strengthens their day-to-day work at the Housing Alliance. We also explored messaging styles and communication norms unique to specific classes and across class. We all developed tools to challenge micro-aggressions that we may we encounter within the organization and in the broader community. The Housing Alliance staff emerged knowing much more about each other’s past and the unique perspectives and strengths we all bring to our work.




#1 (tied) - Document Recording Fee/Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge Bill KILLED in Committee.

On the evening of February 27, the thud of a gavel made shockwaves throughout the homeless community and beyond. With this single action, a committee chair had effectively killed our bipartisan-supported Document Recording Fee Bill that would have kept in place a modest $40 document recording fee to fund effective homeless services across the state. An audio recording of Senators Don Benton, Steve Hobbs, and Sharon Nelson objecting to the abrupt end of the committee meeting was released, and we went into nonstop emergency mode to spread the news far and wide.

#1 (tied) - Document Recording Fee/Homeless Housing & Assistance Surcharge Bill SAVED in the Last Hours of Session!

Yup, we just couldn't help ourselves. We have two highlights tied for number one, one a really terrible moment for housing and homelessness, and the other a really awesome triumph! In two weeks, we saw over 70 total media hits from publications all over Washington about the “legislative malpractice” that killed the Document Recording Fee Bill. The media clamor combined with our coordinated efforts to maintain and amplify the advocacy for this bill resulted in a final hours legislative win. In the last moments of the 2014 Legislative Session, both houses passed an alternate version of the bill that preserved the housing and homeless surcharge until 2019. This meant successful services across Washington could continue to transition people off the streets into shelter and stability.

Pictured below: Some of our favorite memes from this past legislative session.


What are your housing & homelessness advocacy highlights from 2014? Let us know at our Facebook and Twitter pages.




Top 10 Housing Alliance Moments of 2014 (#2)

As we get ever closer to the 2015 State Legislative Session, we're presenting the top ten Housing Alliance moments of this year in segments. We did mention that we'd be presenting the final segment of the list today. But we all here thought that number two should stand alone because it was an awesome moment for all of us here at the office. So, without further ado...


#2 - Prioritizing Anti-oppression and Equity: Class Matters!

Towards the end of 2014, Housing Alliance staff and a board member underwent "Exploring Class and Class Cultures," an all-day training using materials from the organization Class Action. With support from facilitators, staff reflected on their class background growing up and how it both motivates and strengthens their day-to-day work at the Housing Alliance. We also explored messaging styles and communication norms unique to specific classes and across class. We all developed tools to challenge micro-aggressions that we may we encounter within the organization and in the broader community. The Housing Alliance staff emerged knowing much more about each other’s past and the unique perspectives and strengths we all bring to our work.

Tune in next week as we reveal the top moment from this past year. Really. We will this time. We swear. We really have no choice.

Do you have your own housing & homelessness advocacy highlights from 2014? Share yours at our Facebook and Twitter pages.



As temps drop, City of Yakima says no to homeless shelter

Housing Alliance Staff

In our ongoing work to reduce homelessness in Yakima, the Homeless Network of Yakima County has been planning to create a permanent homeless shelter.

This truly started as a group effort that included City of Yakima leadership since the day the planning started. Local nonprofit Yakima Neighborhood Health Services took lead on the studies, surveys, funding research, and reporting to increase community support. Admittedly, overall support from city officials was lacking. However, throughout the process, the mayor and council voiced wanting a solution to shelter the city’s homeless population and voiced wanted to be included in the process. This is why the network was shocked when during the final minutes of the October 21st city council meeting, City Manager Tony O’Rourke requested an emergency vote for a moratorium on zoning for any new homeless shelters in the city limits.

At issue, according to Mr. O’Rourke (pictured right) was the proposed shelter location. The site is situated just outside of a designated business corridor in an area he considers a possible site for “gentrification.” Based on research compiled by different agencies, we believe the site is ideal for a permanent shelter because it’s located within walking distance of other service provider locations as well as the main transit center. The proposed site is also in an area where people who are homeless have historically congregated. When surveyed about the potential shelter, residents in the neighborhood were overwhelmingly supportive. The majority of comments spoke to the benefit of offering an alternative to sleeping in parks, doorways, or in empty houses. Because people have nowhere else to go, we believe the city will have a difficult time finding investment in this neighborhood. Our studies indicate the shelter is a positive step in the community’s urban renewal.

In addition, the lack of shelter has resulted in the city’s ongoing criminalization of homeless people. Increasingly police have been arresting individuals for loitering in parks or trespassing in the areas where they camp. Members of the city council have expressed their frustration with the issues of homelessness. But their solutions are to make ordinances, such as the recent panhandling law, with the philosophy that the homeless will simply “go away” if they fear law enforcement.

Fortunately, city council members questioned why the city manager presented the moratorium without community or council input. They further protested that the item was never on the agenda. Council members Kathy Coffey and Rick Ensey voted against the moratorium. The moratorium passed. However, this lack of consensus means the moratorium won’t go into effect for another 30 days. This means Yakima Neighborhood Health Services can still submit their request for the shelter zoning considerations. Also, there will be a public hearing at the November 18th city council meeting.

Homeless Network of Yakima County members, the ALPHA Team (a group of currently and formerly homeless advocates), and other community supporters are rallying to organize advocacy efforts to show the city that Yakima residents truly support a permanent shelter. Please help us tell the Yakima City Manager and Yakima City Council Members why a permanent shelter benefits the entire community:

Please join us to overcome this barrier to making a permanent shelter a reality in the City of Yakima!

Photos: Top Right: Yakima City Manager Tony O'Rourke (Photo Credit: City of Yakima). Middle Left: Emerging Advocates Program attendees in support of the homeless shelter. Bottom Right: Homeless Network of Yakima County Annual Picnic (Photo Credit: Homeless Network of Yakima County).



When even a full-time job isn’t enough for rent…

Joaquin Uy, Communications Specialist

The National Housing Conference recently released an update to their online tool that compares wages with the cost of housing in cities across the nation. Their interactive Paycheck to Paycheck database reveals what many across Washington already know: an affordable home continues to be an impossibility for many with full-time jobs.

All Washington residents should be able to afford a home and still have enough left over their basic necessities, like healthcare, food, and transportation costs. By the numbers, this means that one should only pay no more than 30% of their income for housing costs. However, as Paycheck to Paycheck shows, this is clearly not possible for many workers across the state. Take for instance the occupation of a home health aide. As our nation’s population ages and baby boomers live longer, home health care is one of America’s fastest growing professional fields.

When you examine the Paycheck to Paycheck numbers for home health aides, you find that out of the seven major Washington cities included in the database, home health aides can only afford a rental home in one of those cities (Kennewick, see left). Additionally, a home health aide could not afford to buy a home in any of these cities. In fact, if a household consisted of two home care aides (double the average salary), even then this family couldn’t afford to buy home in all seven of the areas studied (see left).

Both renting a home and owning a home has become an impossibility for more than home health aides. When you poke around the Paycheck to Paycheck tool, you’ll find that a surprisingly diverse array of occupations are also priced out of the market across the state.

This is why the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance works to ensure the state legislature passes sound policy and legislation to increase affordable homes. The state has a widening affordable housing gap. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, for every 100 extremely low-income families in King County, earning less than $23,400 a year for a family of three, only 30 affordable apartments are available. Clearly, not only do wages need to keep with rents, but we also need more homes affordable to the entire spectrum of wages in Washington.

Stay tuned, as we’ll be soon releasing our legislative priorities focused on protecting renters, ensuring a disability doesn’t result in homelessness, and utilizing the capital budget to help increase opportunities for safe, healthy, affordable homes.

Housing Alliance endorses Initiative 594

The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance believes that everyone in Washington should have the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home in a thriving community. Gun violence hurts communities and undermines that vision. For that reason, the Housing Alliance endorses Initiative 594.

Reducing gun violence in our state will help build healthier, safer, more thriving communities. Please vote yes on I-594 when you vote your General Election ballot.

What does I-594 do?

The initiative makes sure anyone buying a gun in Washington State passes the same background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from. It requires the same background check for private purchases, including those at gun shows, as are currently required at licensed gun dealerships.

For more information, visit:

Center for American Progress Gun Background Check infographic.

I-594 Frequently Asked Questions form.



An amazing summer of emerging advocacy!

Alouise Urness, Community & Member Organizer






Since I last wrote about the Emerging Advocates Program, a lot has happened.

  • Alicia met with her state senator over coffee.
  • Dawnell recorded her experience of homelessness with StoryCorps.
  • Mindy arranged a meeting with her representative on her way down to Olympia.
  • Julia pulled her legislator off the House floor to try to change her mind about a bill.
  • Nick M. and Susan were named Real Change Vendors of the Year.
  • Robin volunteered at a fundraiser for housing champions.
  • Lisa ran into a legislator at a community event and knew what she wanted to say.
  • Kirk was interviewed by a reporter.
  • August is in Washington, D.C. advocating on federal homelessness issues.
  • Rebecca is speaking out on tenants’ rights.
  • Andrea now uses social media to advocate for homelessness issues.
  • Shelby was featured in a press conference and is working to help get a bill introduced.
  • Nick R. is active with the Real Change Speakers’ Bureau and Path with Art.
  • Jamal now knows the staffer for his state senator.
  • Glenda is finding new ways to support her peers.
  • Kim has arranged to lead local legislators on a tour of the only homeless shelter in her town.

These are some of what advocates have been up to since completing the program. It’s exciting to get calls, emails, and visits from the 38 individuals who have completed the program so far. I get to hear about and support their endeavors and, I’m excited to see the Housing Alliance’s connections growing through the grassroots work of our enthusiastic program participants!

The advocates aren’t the only ones who’ve been busy! This summer, Housing Alliance staff ran the Emerging Advocates workshop series not once, but three times due to increased demand. We worked with one group of Emerging Advocates who met on Monday evenings, and another group on Tuesday afternoons. They heard from Housing Alliance and Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund staff on a broad range of issues including the importance of political work and using social media for advocacy. We brought in community experts as well. Nancy Amidei of the Civic Engagement Project taught advocacy skills. Western Regional Advocacy Project’s Paul Boden shared a history-based framework for understanding homelessness. And several former EAP participants returned to share what they had learned. A state representative even stopped by one of the sessions to meet participants.

In early September, these two groups joined together for a day trip to Olympia, where our own Ben Miksch (formerly a legislative staffer) led them through the journey of a bill becoming law as they moved through the spaces where the process occurs. Next came a mock hearing in a senate hearing room where several advocates practiced testifying, others tried out the lawmakers’ roles, and all got a deeper look into the legislative process. To wrap up the day, we pulled chairs into a circle in that same hearing room for a wide-ranging conversation with the Housing Alliance’s lobbyist and two legislators’ aides. Tara Jo Heineke, of Senator Karen Keiser’s office (33rd District-Kent), shared an incredibly moving story about a letter she wrote long ago as a young advocate and labor organizer, which was instrumental to passing a bill. Senator Adam Kline’s (37th District-Seattle) aide Bryn Houghton tirelessly answered questions. Lobbyist Nick Federici helped us see that laughter goes well with advocacy.

Just one week later, Housing Alliance trainers headed for Yakima. Ellie Lambert of the Homeless Network of Yakima County, herself a former EAP participant, had arranged for us to offer a third installment of the Emerging Advocates series. This was to be a weekend-intensive version of the workshops. Nine emerging advocates convened in a church basement for the same 12 hours of workshops that other participants experienced, but all in the course of 3 days! We had the added treat of learning from local advocacy leader Mateo Arteaga and enjoying lunch with a candidate for state senate.

These emerging advocates put their skills into practice on the final morning, some choosing to hone their public speaking by presenting to the congregation upstairs, others leading Housing Alliance staff on a tour of places and services important in surviving homelessness in Yakima. The sessions finished with a round table conversation among the emerging advocates and local housing development leaders. The advocates talked about their barriers to accessing affordable housing, and the nonprofit leaders shared some of their challenges in building it. There appeared to be a lot of common ground.

Much has happened, and there is so much more to do. I’m looking forward to working with these advocates, as we approach the next legislative session and beyond.

Photos: (Top): The combined Monday & Tuesday Emerging Advocates groups in Olympia. (Right): Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (43rd District-Seattle) meets the Monday group. (Left): Monday group participants talk advocacy. (Below): Yakima emerging advocates on their lunch break with Housing Alliance staff, Mateo Arteaga, and Gabriel Munoz.

Edited 11/11/14.




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