Posts Tagged ‘basic needs’

[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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My co-worker Yuri wrote a great post yesterday about the Community Resource Exchange. I liked it so much, I want to refer to it again. Not only does this event offer people currently dealing with homelessness an opportunity to connect with a variety of different resources in one place on a single day, but it also offers something unique to those of us lucky enough to volunteer.

We get to talk with people attending the event. We get to walk with them, side-by-side, from service provider to service provider. We get to sit down and eat with them. We share stories about our lives (‘How’d you end up in Seattle?’, ‘Where’d you go to college?’, ‘I dated a guy named Patrick back in high school’, etc). We have a chance to remind ourselves just how alike we really are; how simple acts like listening to someone or sharing a meal really can have a significant impact on someone’s life.

And I’m not actually talking about the homeless person here. Although I like to think I’ve affected them positively, as well.

So what can you do? Well, we have the volunteers, and just about all of the logistics are set.

But, here’s something: you know that backpack or duffel bag sitting in the garage, attic, or trunk of your car? The one that is in fairly decent shape (not ripped apart at the seams), but you never use it anymore? Or maybe you just bought a new one for your kid as he or she gets ready to head back to school, and you figured you would just toss the old one?

Don’t. Instead, drop it off at United Way of King County, 720 2nd Avenue in downtown Seattle (corner of 2nd & Columbia). Or you can email me at pkelley@uwkc.org, and we can figure something out.

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Our old friend Mark Horvath stopped in at Nickelsville earlier today. You can check out his photos and link to his Invisiblepeople.tv Road Trip stories. Anyway, I heard about this, and I got to thinking, [insert post title here].

[Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur asks the same question at the end of her heartbreaking article today about Philip Carrasco. I like to read Ms. Brodeur’s column regularly, but even if you don’t, check this one out. And thank you, Nicole, for telling stories “that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.”]

Now, back to Nickelsville…what do you think, Seattle? (Mike) “McGinnville” definitely has a better ring than (Joe) “Mallahanville”, but that could just be because it sounds like McMinnville (I guess it’s a place in Oregon?). I’ve gone through both official websites, and have to say sadly that I’m not all that impressed with either candidate’s stance on homelessness, poverty, or affordable housing. Mr. McGinn mentions ‘housing’ exactly once as far as I can tell, although he does spend quite a bit of time talking about how he will effectively reduce poverty by providing broadband Internet access to ALL, which I take to mean EVERYONE. Huh. Maybe Mr. Mallahan can help him out with that by getting T-Mobile to offer up free handheld, broadband-access devices to the tens of thousands of Seattle residents living below the poverty level. Because when we talk about ‘basic needs’, that’s right up there with food and shelter.

Speaking of Mr. Mallahan, his site does a slightly better job of describing at least some experience in working on these issues. But although he does provide some thoughts on homelessness in Seattle, he doesn’t really seem to say much more than ‘as Mayor, I’ll make sure these programs are funded and held accountable.’ Where haven’t we heard that before?

I kind of look at both of these guys and think things like, sure, traffic’s a pain in the ass. But I mostly take the bus, and the bus works just fine. And surprisingly enough, I can’t live on a bus, or eat one.

When it comes to elections, I have kind of a whacky way of choosing who I vote for. I’m generally not interested in knowing what a candidate will do for me. I’m usually more interested in knowing what they’ll do for someone who doesn’t have what I have. In this case, I’m talking about a roof over my head that I can afford and enough food to eat. And right now in that regard, I’m just not seeing either one of these candidates much differently than the guy we just kicked out. That could definitely change.

And in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to admit that I did not vote for either Mr. McGinn or Mr. Mallahan. As a matter of fact, I volunteered for one of their opponents (not the incumbent guy). But I do have close friends who are intricately involved in the campaigns of both of these men. And by all accounts, they are both men of intelligence, fairness, and integrity, insofar as human beings can be. I wish them both the best of luck in the general election, and hope beyond all doubt that, no matter the outcome, neither man does anything that would lend credence to having a homeless encampment named after him. Because that would be weird.

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If you can spare that much time right now, give this a listen. It includes the story of a woman currently staying at the Jubilee Women’s Center in Seattle. The familiarity of these stories gives me pause. Not to mention a 40% increase in the homeless population would be catastrophic.

How can you help?

  • Volunteer to lead a supply drive for the Community Resource Exchange on September 11th. You can help make sure a family currently experiencing homelessness gets the assistance they need to make it through the winter.
  • Want to volunteer? We do need 25 people or so to help us assemble about 1,500 hygiene care packages on September 10th. You can sign up right here.
  • “The future is not shaped by people who don’t believe in the future. It will be built by people who see the complexities that lie ahead but are not deterred; people who are conscious of the flaws of humankind but not overwhelmed by the doubts and anxieties of life; people with the vitality to gamble on their future, whatever the odds…”–John W. Gardner

    Patrick Kelley

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    “I open up my window at night, and all I see is the skyline lit up. You know what I call that? I call that hope.”

    I saw The Soloist over the weekend, and have been doing some reading this week about Skid Row. I thought the movie had some definite Hollywood elements that I probably would have edited (pigeons as the ornithological representation of Beethoven?), but I was not disappointed overall. Go see it.


    There are several quotable lines in this recent article in the LA Times, but the one at the top of this post was my favorite. The article is about a few housing projects on Skid Row in LA, projects similar to our 1811 Eastlake here in Seattle and other Housing First programs. Like the movie, the article also contains some rather rose-colored prose…

    But as I sit here typing this, I think maybe the movie and the article could be more accurate than I give them credit for. Next time I’m in LA, maybe I’ll check out the Abbey Apartments to see if they really do look and feel like more than a “budget-driven box”.

    Patrick Kelley

    PS–On May 31st, United Way of King County is co-hosting “A Conversation with Steve Lopez”, the author of The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music. Click here for more information.

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    [It’s Monday morning, and spring has once again managed to elude our weekly weather report, so there’s sure to be a healthy dose of ‘blah’ in this post. If that’s not your cup of tea today, then check back later this week for thoughts about the state budget cuts and foster youth homelessness. I’m sure things will be ‘sunnier’ then.]

    During my participation in the United Way of King County Hunger Challenge, I tried to limit my reading of our blog only because I figured someone experiencing hunger at that level wouldn’t necessarily have the same system of access or support. And the support WAS amazing, I have to say. Thank you to everyone who participated, who posted their thoughts and ideas on how to live on $7 of food a day, and especially to those who wrote about why they were participating. As many of you said, this wasn’t meant to be a contest. And no matter how easy or difficult the Challenge was, none of that should overshadow the sad fact that this is Reality for tens of thousands of people right here in King County, including an embarrassing amount of young children, who do not have a choice. Many of us (myself included) have tended to look at things like this as just another one of life’s incovenient truths. But just because it can be done doesn’t make it acceptable. My sincere hope is that participating in this whatever-you-want-to-call-it has changed that mindset for you. It has for me. Here are some of the thoughts I had during the week:

  • So much for exercising! I ran 3 miles on Monday morning, and wasn’t able to do anything of the like for the rest of the week. Not only is that type of diet lacking in nutritional value, but it sure as hell also doesn’t provide the type of energy to maintain an exercise regimen.
  • I stole some M&Ms. There’s a bowl of M&Ms in my office which I usually partake of once or twice a week. The difference? I was cheating…I was stealing…and I actually looked over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching me. I would never advocate this behavior. I know right from wrong. But it did make me think, what if that were the only option left to me?
  • I was definitely more irritable than normal, and everyone around me could tell. I couldn’t focus at work. I wasn’t coherent in conversations. I was distracted in practically everything I did the entire week. I did fall off the wagon a few other times, only because I’m lucky and privileged enough to choose to do so…
  • So, at the end of the week, United Way of King County announced our plan. It’s a plan that I’m currently reading, and I hope that you will, too, and that you take action. But before I even look through the entire thing, I have to wonder how close we really are (or are NOT) to finding the answer. Should we sign more people up for food stamps because they’re eligible, or should we advocate for changes in a societal structure that makes people dependent on food stamps in the first place? Nobody likes going to a food bank, so how do we (the people who are lucky enough to not have to) make it so that nobody has to? If the pursuits of Life and Happiness are truly inalienable rights for everyone, how much sense does it make for those pursuits to be so substantially financial in nature?

    These are the things that keep me up at night, now that I’m no longer hungry…

    Patrick Kelley

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    On Wednesday, April 8th, dozens of service providers and hundreds of volunteers assembled at Qwest Field to offer assistance to individuals and families experiencing homelessness in our community. We received a lot of media coverage for the event (probably in light of the current recession), and I also wrote a little about some of the people I met that day in a previous post. We hope to do this type of activity twice a year, so keep an eye out for it in the future!

    We had 863 people access different services throughout the day. While that was lower than we expected, we did see a 60% increase in the number of people who reported being chronically homeless throughout the past year. 85 agencies and other service providers offered everything from employment support to housing services, free haircuts to foot washing. Over 400 volunteers spent their day guiding, helping, eating with, listening, laughing, and sometimes crying with another human being…someone who they otherwise would never have come into contact with. Here a few of their stories:

  • Today I learned that there are many more homeless in the area than I thought. I’ve also never thought about someone being homeless but having a job. I met someone who had been working a steady job for 2 years but remains homeless to this day.
  • My favorite part of the day was running into a formerly homeless man we had served at the first CRE, who now has a job and place to live.
  • My favorite interaction of the day was with a young mother of five. I walked over to her as she approached with her stroller and 5 kids in tow. She was incredibly polite and grateful, and her kids were darling. After further conversation, I found out that she was living in a motel with her children because she had come out of a domestic violence situation. She was so happy, though, because she was able to find help and had a prospect for housing by the end of the day. It broke my heart to hear her story, but I felt so happy that she was able to find help.
  • I heard one gentleman tell a co-worker of mine that he felt like a million bucks. Feet washed, new clothes, manicure and haircut and a great meal! He was so appreciative of these things it really made you stop and think what is important. It was a very eye-opening, sad and happy day!
  • Indeed.

    Patrick Kelley

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