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[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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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’ve written previously about what can happen to someone who is renting a property that goes into foreclosure. Now there is a new law that basically ensures that the renter must be given 90 days notice prior to eviction. Read all about it here.

    Patrick

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    Here’s one of Mark Horvath’s interviews on invisiblepeople.tv from his visit to Nickelsville last week. Listen to James talk about his community, and think about if you feel this connection to your own neighbors…and be sure to check out the links in my previous post about Mark’s presentation!

    Patrick

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    Last night, I had the privilege to meet a hero that I didn’t even know I had. Mark Horvath, founder of a project that I’ve blogged about previously called invisiblepeople.tv, was in Seattle this week as part of a national tour to talk about the project. There’s a lot I’d like to write about based on his presentation and the discussion that followed, but I’m still sorting through my thoughts. I’m a thinker, it’s what I do. But here are few things:

  • Mark previously worked as an executive in the TV industry for a variety of shows, all of whom I’d heard of, but can only remember “21 Jumpstreet” right now for some reason.
  • Fifteen years ago, he was homeless in Hollywood.
  • He currently has no income, and started this project in November of 2008 with nothing but an iPhone.
  • Mark also talked about Housing First, the model I’ve referred to numerous times before on this blog, as the best available idea to help chronically homeless individuals get off and stay off the streets. It saves money!
  • Mark also had a chance to visit Nickelsville while he was in town. Check out the blog at Change.org. The video is enlightening.
  • Mark used several powerful videos in his presentation, and I’ll see if I can post those later.

    Patrick

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    Yesterday, the state of Maryland became the first in America to extend hate-crime protection to homeless people. There are several sad circumstances that lead to this type of legislative action, the least of which is that attacks on homeless people increased 65% between 2005 and 2007 and many of those attacks were performed by youth, some as young as 10 years old.

    But some homeless advocates, while lauding this legislation, also believe it sidesteps the real issues. As Shannon Moriarty points out in her blog on Change.org, lack of housing is something fixable in someone’s status, unlike their gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity. By passing a law like this, aren’t we in a weird sort of way saying ‘it’s okay to be homeless’? Just like it’s okay to be gay, Asian, etc? Instead of spending time in the legislative process to discuss and pass laws such as this, why not actually admit that we suck at affordably housing people in our communities and do something about THAT?

    This law was passed in the shadow of a very sobering study released recently by the National Low Income Housing Alliance, the 2009 Out of Reach Report. I will write more about this study as the summer progresses, as it contains such a rich (no pun intended) amount of data. But among the more dismal findings I’d like to bring to your attention are:

  • There is not a single county in the entire United States where a person working full-time at the minimum wage can afford a 1-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent (FMR) value.
  • A household must earn $37,105 to be able to “afford” the national average FMR of $928 per month for a 2-bedroom unit (“afford”=paying less than 30% of their income for housing).
  • In KING COUNTY, that annual income increases to $38,480. For a 1-bedroom unit, it’s $32,800. That means a single person wanting to rent a 1-bedroom apartment at FMR would need to make $15.77 an hour, full-time (40hrs/wk, 52wks/yr).
  • Minimum wage in Washington is $8.55/hr. That means a single person wanting to rent a 1-bedroom apartment in King County at the FMR would need to work the equivalent of almost two full-time jobs at the minimum wage.
  • The answers do exist. Housing First works. Affordable Housing projects all over the country are achieving levels of success, one unit at a time, in places as small as Steamboat Springs, CO, or Kenosha, WI, and as big as Houston or Los Angeles. (Don’t believe me? Set up a Google! Alert for ‘affordable housing’ and read it for a week). There are setbacks, to be sure. But I visited an affordable housing project in Redmond yesterday, and it works! There’s even an affordable housing “plan” available out there for us.

    When will there be a better time to do this than Right Now, when we’re fed up with rental properties and homes being auctioned off for a quick buck, while more and more families are being forced onto the very streets those properties occupy? Instead of criminalizing people who are homeless, kicking them out of parks at night and off of sidewalks during the day (or not even letting them pitch a tent across the street), might it be possible to craft a community or a country where we don’t need to legislate protective measures for someone based solely on their housing status?

    Patrick Kelley

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