Final Assignment to Olympia: Housing!

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  • 3,772 people were counted sleeping outside in King County, WA (counted January 23, 2016)
    • ~ 6,000 slept in temporary shelter
    • These numbers are 21% higher than last year’s count (1)
  • 1,202 students in East King County school districts were homeless during the 2014-2015 school year. (2)
  • More than half of homeless families in King County reported that they became homeless because of high housing prices. (3)
    • A $100 increase in rent, leads to a 15% increase in homelessness in urban areas (4)

The WA Low Income Housing Alliance sets up Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day each year. This set-up includes over 600 people from around the state coming together to speak with their districts’ legislators encouraging them to vote for housing related legislation that will promote equality and affordable housing choices.

The 650 people, including myself accompanied by a few other Imagine Housing staff, attending Advocacy Day on February 2, 2016 were split into groups guided by a facilitator who each set three appointments with three different legislators.

The mission included picking 2-3 main prerogatives from:

1) Stress the importance of the addition of $10 million to the Housing Trust Fund from the Supplemental Capital Budget

2) Address the fact that the Consolidated Homeless Grant needs $3 million more than last year due to the severity of the homelessness issue

3) Ask to maintain the funding levels for services (e.g., HEN, ABD, Medical Care Services,   and SSI Facilitation)

4) Protect HB 1565 / SB 5378 prohibiting discrimination against renters who rely on   housing subsidies

5) Support the compromise resulting in SB 6413 / HB 2811, Tenant Screening and  Evictions Reporting Compromise Bill, enforcing the reporting of evictions as tiered rather than treating all evictions as equal

6) Support WA’s waiver request to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requesting Medicaid be allowed to be billed for certain supportive services to make progress in ending chronic homelessness

My three legislators were Representative Roger Goodman, Senator Andy Hill, and Representative Larry Springer.

My personally chosen mission was to impress upon them the need for Housing Trust Fund increases so that development organizations, like Imagine Housing, can leverage more public money to obtain more private money to build more communities in the Eastside. When higher income locals see the bulk of a particular project being funded, they are more likely to invest in social impact enterprise (i.e., invest their own money in a low return deal).

My second mission was to tell my story and make them open their eyes to a larger audience–this issue is no longer just about at-risk populations; it’s becoming about a huge portion of the American population graduating from university each with $100K in debt. There is a growing number of working people including nurses and teachers qualifying to live in affordable units. The wait-list for my organization alone is 2,643 separate individuals (and we only serve the Eastside Cities).

How did my mission go?

  1. The first legislator admitted his wife works for housing issues but he just can’t do anything about it this year and for the long-term issues, those are beyond his power.
  2. The second legislator did not give a hoot and in fact began pulling other issues from thin air to prove why he couldn’t give funding. This is not my opinion; other legislative staff explained this tactic to us.
  3. The third legislator gave us a lot of time and seemed to be between a rock and a hard place. He has been in support of housing from his beginnings and always votes for increases in housing support. However, there was something very wrong. He impressed the issue of the others. The others don’t think low income people deserve more, and he has been hard pressed to figure out how to fight so blatant a stance against other humans.

The mission went. But next year, we’re going again, and we’re gonna be ready!

Seattle has 1,600 shelter beds and over 10,000 homeless people. (5)

NYC shelters house over 60,000 people every night. (6)

Dear Washington, we have to do better than we are. This isn’t about equality. It’s about equity.

There’s a toll-free line to the Capitol. You can call the number to leave a message about things you feel strongly about and someone will write down your message and deliver it to the Governor, supposedly: 1-800-562-6000

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(1)  One Night Count. King County. Count occurred on January 23, 2016. http://www.homelessinfo.org/what_we_do/one_night_count/

(2) State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Education, Homeless Students in Washington State by School District, 2014-15 Data.  

(3)  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Sound Families Initiative Report, Summer 2008

(4) Byrne, Thomas, et al. “NEW PERSPECTIVES ON COMMUNITY‐LEVEL DETERMINANTS OF HOMELESSNESS.” Journal of Urban Affairs 35.5 (2013): 607-625.

(5) http://murray.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/11.2.15-Homelessness-FAQ.pdf

(6) http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/the-catastrophe-of-homelessness/facts-about-homelessness/

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