Archive for February, 2009

I’ve been thinking about this American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the idea of ‘sacrifice’ that has come up again and again in conversations about the collective future of our nation. And I have come to what some might consider a crazy conclusion. Some will suggest I get my head examined. But I just want people to get a grip on themselves and the situation. And maybe we can start to turn things around…

Just a few minutes ago, I emailed the Recovery.gov website, and respectfully requested that they NOT provide me with a tax break. More precisely, I asked that I not receive a “Making Work Pay” tax credit. For those of you who haven’t heard of this yet, this is a credit in the new plan that would basically provide many middle-class taxpayers with up to $500 (or $1000 for families) in tax relief by lowering the withheld taxes in your paycheck beginning July 1st.

I’m not trying to speak for the vast majority of middle-class citizens, because for all I know, the majority could actually use this money. But speaking for myself, I know that I don’t need it. So I have requested that the federal government keep that money, and use it to do something effective like pay for a child’s health insurance, or provide job training for one of the hundreds of thousands of the ‘recently laid-off’ people in this country, or repair a bridge so that it doesn’t fall on the head of someone driving home to their family at the end of the day…And you can believe I’m going to take full advantage of my democratic voice (and their pledge to allow us to track the money) to make sure my $500 doesn’t line the pocket of some corporate VP at GM.

I have no idea if ‘they’ will even allow me to do this. But I’m willing to find out, I’m willing to ‘sacrifice’ my piece of this tiny pie, if it means that someone who needs it more gets help. What if you decided to do the same?


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On February 24th supporters from across the State are going to Olympia to join the Housing Alliance as we stand up for housing. Will you be there?


Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day is your chance to become a citizen lobbyist and join the movement to end homelessness. Join your neighbors to fight the status quo and ensure that working families can afford housing and still have enough money for basics like groceries, gas, and childcare. Stand up for housing on
Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day!

It’s time to do our part. Please join the Housing Alliance, Washington State Coalition for the Homeless, and our many partners and stand up for housing.
Register at www.wliha.org.

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It’s a simple question, really. A single human being, staring at the overwhelming landscape of need that exists (and yes, quite frankly, existed for many of our fellow human beings even before the current meltdown) in our modern culture, can still find it in themselves to ask “what can I do?” Here are a couple of ideas, things that you can do and even share with your family and friends:

  • Volunteer to help with the Community Resource Exchange. In one place, on one day, you can make a difference. Help over a thousand people experiencing homelessness in King County access the services they need (such as health care, legal services, and applying for public benefits), as well as a few that I for one sometimes take for granted (such as getting a haircut or calling my family). It is just one day. But it is a day unlike any other you will ever experience.
  • Can’t volunteer for the CRE? Then organize a supply drive! This link includes a list of items being collected. Again, I have to admit–I take so much for granted, and when I look at the list, it seems so simple. It is simple. It is simple enough TO DO.
  • And hey, maybe homelessness isn’t quite what you want to work on, at least right now. Here’s another idea, and it’s something that I like to talk about when people ask me what they can do that will have an impact for years to come.

  • Read to a child. If you want stats, I can find stats for you. And believe me, I could say a lot of things about public education. But really, what could be easier to do while having the most significant impact on our collective future? It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s fun.
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    My name is Patrick Kelley, and I will be taking over the management of United Way of King County’s Unite to End Homelessness blog. I will do my best to keep the blog fresh, and make this site a place where we can all share our thoughts and reflect on this complex and important issue. I’ve been with United Way of King County for over 10 years. I spent about eight of those years in our Volunteer Center, helping shape our services for corporate volunteer activities and managing our highly successful Project LEAD program. Four years ago, I began volunteering for our Free Tax Preparation Campaign, a key component of UWKC’s work around ending homelessness. Last year, I changed positions within the organization and took over as the Coordinator for the tax program. We started this program eight years ago, as a small pilot in White Center. I was involved in some of the initial planning, specifically around volunteer recruitment. I remember how skeptical I was, listening to an IRS representative and our own asset specialist try to convince me that regular, every-day people would want to volunteer to do other people’s taxes…but the phenomenal growth of this program since its inception proved otherwise. I am glad to admit I was wrong, and the irony of where I’ve ended up makes me smile. Since this is my first post, I wanted to keep it nice and simple, and just give you all a quick update on how the campaign is going so far: We recruited, trained, and certified over 530 volunteer tax preparers for our 2009 program. Our 15 sites are just wrapping up their 4th week of operation. As of earlier this week, our volunteers have prepared more than 1,550 returns, bringing over $3.5 million of federal refunds back into our community, of which $1.26 million is from the Earned Income Tax Credit, a federal poverty reduction program aimed at helping individuals and families earning the lowest wages in our communities. And we are doing all of this without charging people a cent. If you’re interested in getting your taxes done with us, be aware of a few things. We’ve seen an increase already in the number of people lining up at our sites. Services are provided on a first-come, first-served basis, and our site managers and volunteers have to use their best judgment in determining how many customers they can help during any given shift. We do have an income guideline for the first time this year ($42,000), and we are offering specialized services at many sites to help people use part of their refund to build their personal wealth and assets. Your best chance is to show up early, get on the waiting list, and bring patience (or a good book or magazine). That’s all for now. Like I said, I will try to maintain this blog with some regularity, maybe weekly, and I hope that readers will see this as a way to share ideas, look for ways to get involved and have an impact, and work together towards our common purpose of *ending* homelessness in our community. In the coming weeks, I will try to get some of the other people involved with the tax program to share their thoughts about what we’re doing, maybe get a guest blogger or two, and also talk a little more about my own personal perspectives on this issue. If you have any thoughts about this site, and how you’d like to see it used as a potential tool for change, I would love to hear from you!

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