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We’ve Moved!

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Hello faithful blog readers!

We have some exciting news — we’ve moved!  Come check us out on our shiny new blog:

http://www.uwkcblog.org

Don’t forget to update your bookmarks and RSS feeds!

Plus, if you only want to read our posts on homelessness, you can do so by going here: http://www.uwkcblog.org/category/homelessness/

Get involved with United Way of King County’s Free Tax Preparation Campaign and join the nation’s largest anti-poverty effort! Help low-and moderate-income individuals and families in King County keep more of what they earn! With the assistance of over 530 volunteers, the 2009 Campaign filed 13,631 tax returns, and returned over $17.3 million in federal refunds; $5.2 million in Earned Income Tax Credits. All of this was accomplished at no cost to our tax customers, and we estimate that we saved our customers over $1 million in tax preparation fees!

The United Way Free Tax Campaign Needs Volunteers!

By volunteering once per week during the 2010 tax season, you can help us meet our goal of putting more than $17 million back into the pockets of low-and moderate-income working individuals and families in King County. Speakers of Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Somali, Korean and Russian languages are especially needed.

No Experience Necessary! All volunteers receive free tax preparation training and are certified by the IRS. Slots at some sites tend to fill up very fast, so don’t wait! Sign up now! And then send this along to someone else who should sign up. You can select your own site and shift, and select your preferred days of training. It’s really easy. And you’ll feel better.

If you need more information or have any questions, feel free to contact Courtney Noble (cnoble@uwkc.org, 206-461-5048), Patrick Kelley (pkelley@uwkc.org, 206-461-5083) or Matt Levin (mlevin@uwkc.org, 206-461-4562).

Moving the needle

hHighlight_photo1That’s the phrase used quite a bit these days when we talk about impacting something on a societal level, “moving the needle”. I get asked a lot in my work about what I think an individual can really do in terms of that process. Like, how can I get involved where I can be relatively sure that what I’m doing is going to have a long-term impact? Here’s what I tell them:

Read to a child. It doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s so simple. And it’s highly entertaining. And you absolutely will be helping achieve something better and brighter for tomorrow.

A lot of items have crossed my screen recently that piqued my interest. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Is ‘a doll always a doll’, really? Would you pay $95 for a ‘homeless’ doll? We asked your opinion on our VibeGlobe page. I had to take a few days to process this one, but I’ve settled in on an opinion similar to the one expressed by Shannon Moriarty on Change.org’s blog. I could hop on my soapbox and excoriate Mattel, like others have. But I think this is less about a company doing what companies are supposed to do (make $), and more about how we (me, you, and the person sitting next to you) are afraid to accept the possibility that a child’s toy might be a little too real for us adults…
  • If you’re a reader of the Unite to End Homeless blog, you’ll be familiar with my muted disdain for the editorial board of the Seattle Times. I don’t always disagree with them, and I’m not the only one who does whenever I do. But when I read this recent editorial about Councilmember Tim Burgess’ proposed panhandling ordinance, I couldn’t remember what city I lived in. So I pose this question to you all: have you ever felt intimidated enough by someone asking for change that you felt compelled to give it to them, short of them having a weapon of some kind (that ain’t panhandling, that’s robbery). If you have, tell me. I want to know! I want to write your story! Because in all my time here, in the thousands of times I’ve been asked for money by someone who obviously needed it more than me, I have NEVER had anyone say anything to me other than ‘thank you’, ‘God Bless you’, or ‘have a nice day’, regardless of whether or not I gave them anything more than a smile. So let me hear it! I want to know! To paraphrase the last sentence of the editorial: ‘The city has a duty to regulate–within the law, within reason–the manner in which it treats its most vulnerable citizens as they go about their daily lives.’
  • And speaking of Mr. Burgess (and the Times editorial page, for that matter), it appears he had some overnight guests earlier this week. In this particular instance, I actually find myself agreeing with the editorial writers for the most part. Money is definitely tight, in everyone’s budget, and pulling something like this isn’t going to make someone like Mayor Nickels or the City Council open up their empty pocketbooks. As the writers stated, it would be far more productive for us to focus on getting the housing levy passed in November and other long-term issues like working with a new city administration.
  • And finally, since I’ve made it clear how I feel on Proposition 1, a few words about a few other items coming up this fall: Initiative 1033 and Referendum 71. While supporters of I-1033 would like you to believe that capping tax revenue makes government more accountable, all it really does is make it harder for government to fill its role as sole provider for such frivolous things as education, law enforcement, and public transportation, not to mention indispensable social services such as public health clinics and senior centers that, while also supported by nonprofits and religious organizations, would suffer immensely without government support. Now, I know this might not be a popular stance to take, that many of us truly believe taxes are evil and government is wasteful, slothful, etc and we want our money back! I just read the website, and it sounds wonderful. But the fact is that this Initiative would make it more difficult for government services to be enacted during the very time that they are needed the most. We’ll make it harder to hire more teachers, place more unemployed or underemployed people into job training and skill development programs at community colleges, or have an adequate response method in the event of a public emergency (last time I checked, we had a few active volcanoes in the region). ALL of that, and more, is paid for with tax revenue.
  • As for Ref 71, you may not see a link between a domestic partnership law and homelessness. But consider this: nearly 40% of homeless people under 18 years of age identify themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT). And if you don’t think being homeless had anything to do with their sexual orientation for these kids, just stop reading this because it’s not worth my time. They’re kicked out, they run away, they end up on the street. They’re called queer, fag, freak…and they are smacked in the face by laws in their own country that prevent them from growing up, falling in love, and marrying the person that they want to spend the rest of their life with.

    You may not think Ref 71 is about equal rights for gays and lesbians, and that’s fine. But passing this referendum will, at the very least, provide the residents of Washington with an opportunity to look into the faces of some of these young people and say: You are not worthless. You are not weird. You and your loved ones will be treated like everyone else.

  • Who is Homeless?

    I posted a story about Coreen a few days ago. Here are a few more stories, courtesy of The Arizona Republic and invisiblepeople.tv:

    “The Robinsons are like most middle-class families you know. Bridget worked at…”

    This is Yong, recently homeless in Greensboro, NC.

    Who is Homeless?

    I had a chance to participate in some organized panel discussions recently, and one of the questions for the panelists asked about ‘the face of homelessness’. The truth is, this issue has many faces. I’ll write more about this over the next week or so. But today, I wanted to share this story with you. It’s from a project that I’ve mentioned several times before, invisiblepeople.tv. This is Coreen. Unlike many of the stories you hear these days, Coreen isn’t homeless due to the recession…

    [This post was written by guest blogger Michael Kelly, Mobilization Coordinator for the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance – Patrick]

    Everyone deserves the opportunity to live in a safe, decent, and affordable home.

    In Seattle, we have a chance to ensure that our city can fund the development, construction, and preservation of affordable housing; later this fall, we’ll vote on Proposition 1, the renewal of the Seattle Housing Levy. Seattle has boomed over the past thirty years and during that time housing has become increasingly unaffordable. We realized this and have renewed our commitment to affordable housing four times, and our investment in the Seattle Housing Levy has helped local families find that safe, decent, and affordable home for 28 years.

    Seattle has become a national leader, a model for other cities and states. We have consistently said that it should be possible for working people to afford housing and still have enough money for the basics like groceries and gas and childcare. We have a chance to renew our commitment again. Voting to renew the Housing Levy will provide more than 1,850 affordable homes, serving thousands of families over the next fifty years. It will prevent homelessness for over 3,000 families and individuals. A vote for the Seattle Housing Levy will create over 4,000 jobs and bring other funds–federal, state, and private–into Seattle. Your YES vote on Proposition 1 will continue to help our most vulnerable neighbors including seniors, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence and working families and will only cost the typical homeowner $65 a year.

    It’s pretty simple (to me); a home is the thing. The Levy has been an amazing success. It has put thousands upon thousands of families and individuals in a home. It has helped people afford their rent and kept seniors housed, prevented people from ending up on the streets, and even helped some people purchase a home. Every neighborhood has benefited. Seattle has benefited.

    When you get your ballot in the mail, please vote YES on Proposition 1. Renew the Seattle Housing Levy. For more information about the campaign, visit YES for Homes. You can read more about the levy, volunteer, and donate.

    Don’t forget, ballots must be postmarked by November 3, 2009.

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