The arts not only reflect our society, but also have the potential to re-shape it by raising awareness and inspiring action. We’re excited to launch “Culture Watch,” a new blog series examining how issues related to homelessness are portrayed in movies, TV series, music, visual art displays, stage plays and more. Frequent guest blogger Perry Firth, a graduate assistant at Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness, contributed this first post. After watching the movie “Eden,” filmed in Eastern Washington and based on a true story of sexual trafficking, Perry was moved to reflect on the relationship between trafficking and homelessness.
An expert panel of community members who have experienced homelessness spoke at the Conference on Ending Homelessness. Photo credit: Janice Tufte.
The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance's excellent 2013 Conference on Ending Homelessness featured many of the speakers you'd expect -- direct service providers, policy wonks, elected officials, and leading advocates. But organizers also offered a panel discussion by experts we don't see often enough at these types of gatherings: people who have experienced homelessness themselves. They are, of course, voices we should be listening to as we advocate for an end to homelessness, and we commend the Housing Alliance for including their perspectives. We recorded a couple of their stories, and we've included videos of Mindy and David.
Featured advocate Norene Roberts has worked as a social services provider for over a decade.
What's the first step you should take when you advocate for an end to homelessness? Listen. "Advocating for any person or group first requires that you know what it is that that person or group wants and needs – not what we think they want and need – and that requires opening your ears before your mouth," says Norene Roberts, program manager at The Salvation Army’s Catherine Booth House, a domestic violence shelter for women and children. Norene shares her thoughts on advocating for housing stability in this installment of our "I'm An Advocate" series.
Monica and her eight-year-old son Eric are grateful that the Housing Trust Fund helped build their safe, affordable community. Two years ago, they were on the verge of homelessness. Photo credit: Degale Cooper.
Right now our state lawmakers are making important decisions about investment in the Housing Trust Fund. Their budget decisions will have life-altering effects on people statewide. Through our "Policy Matters" blog series, we’re introducing you to community members who are directly impacted by state housing policies. Monica, a single mother who was on the edge of homelessness but found stability at a community built by the Housing Fund, shares her story in today’s post. Read Monica’s story and find out how you can advocate for a budget that invests in families and communities.
On Monday state lawmakers started a special session to work toward a budget agreement. Their decisions about investment in social safety-net services for the disabled and the Housing Trust Fundwill affect community members across the state. Our "Policy Matters" blog series introduces you to people whose lives are directly impacted by state housing policies. Today we share the story of Ron, a single father who lives at YWCA Family Village at Issaquah. Ron's community, along with many other safe, affordable homes, was built with help from the Housing Trust Fund. Read on to find out how this fund helps people like Ron, and what you can do to encourage our legislators to invest in our communities.
Many of us have had the experience of walking somewhere, and encountering someone asking for food or money. Or we see someone who is clearly homeless, and in dire need of basic services. The majority of us usually keep walking. Why? What feelings does seeing people who are homeless, specifically individuals who are homeless, bring up for us? What do these emotions mean for advocates trying to both engage and mobilize the public? How can we humanize/put a face to people who are homeless? Guest blogger Perry Firth from Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness considers these questions.
This month in Olympia, Washington's lawmakers will come together to hammer out a budget agreement. With investment in social safety-net services and the Housing Trust Fund on the line, our legislators' decisions will have a huge impact on YWCA clients and other community members across the state. In a guest opinion piece published today on Crosscut.com, YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish CEO Sue Sherbrooke asks state budget negotiators "to step back from the revenue and expense line items for a moment and look at these big-picture budget matters with an eye for the bigger picture."
Today the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism annual event brings together hundreds of thousands of people across the nation, from all walks of life, to call attention to the legacy of discrimination and raise awareness that racism still exists. In the four days leading up to the Stand Against Racism, we examined how discrimination and institutional racism can block violence survivors from accessing housing services and other resources. We've compiled the series for you here, co-authored by YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish's GirlsFirst and Volunteer Services Coordinator Nanyonjo Mukungu, and YWCA Walla Walla's Communications Coordinator Sara Rasmussen, who became friends while students at Whitman College. Will you take a stand alongside Nanyonjo and Sara? Reading their blog posts is one important way to grow awareness and sharing one or more posts with others is a great way to continue to build that awareness.
In our final Stand Against Racism post, Nanyonjo, our YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish Americorps volunteer, reflects on her own healing process as a survivor of sexual violence. She found support in her community of friends and two organizations that gave her the tools to understand the importance of personal and community accountability. In Nanyonjo's words, "It is a continuous process to be an ally to a survivor, not an end goal. In order for the process of justice to begin, we must examine the way our own communities further rape culture, victim blaming, and the silencing of survivors." Unfortunately not all survivors of violence receive the same support which too often leads to instability and homelessness. Nan calls us to examine how systems of privilege and oppression shape our everyday lives and work towards a world without domestic and sexual violence.
Friends of YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish march at the 2012 Pride Parade, showing their support for and solidarity with the LGBTQ members of the YWCA community. Read more about the “many faces of pride” in our "Participating & Proud” blog series.
With its expansion and renewal earlier this year, the Violence Against Women Act made an important step in ensuring that its protections and services fully include and extend to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. But changes in the law won't instantly end discrimination against LGBTQ community members and create access to services they need. As YWCA Walla Walla Communications Coordinator Sara Rasmussen points out in this third installment of our Stand Against Racism blog series, we need to continue to shift the cultures of law enforcement, service providers and shelters, amongst staff as well as those they serve, in order to protect and better meet the needs of the LGBTQ community.
Guest blogger Nanyonjo Mukungu shared her personal story of surviving rape, and the poor treatment she received when she reported the crime to police, in order "to break the silence around domestic and sexual violence and to combat the invisibility of the experiences of survivors of color." Photo credit: YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish
"As a black woman aware of the way communities of color are treated by the police, I was afraid of reporting my rape," writes guest blogger Nanyonjo Mukungu. When she did go to the authorities, they refused to report her case.
This second post in our Stand Against Racism blog series shares Nanyonjo's personal experience of being re-traumatized by police when she tried to seek justice for sexual assault. Her story is not unique; she writes about how violence survivors who already face oppression -- such as racial, class-based and gender expression discrimination -- are at particular risk of being denied victim status. When victims are not treated as such, they face barriers to accessing the resources they need to heal and remain stably housed.
Two Walla Walla citizens demonstrate for the passage of a fully inclusive Violence Against Women Act during a rally held in February 2013. Photo Credit: Madelyn Peterson.
This year's reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) will continue to bring the United States closer to decreasing the incidence of and improving the services for domestic violence and sexual assault. The expansion and renewal of VAWA was essential—and it’s great that we can move forward with it. But there are many needs that the law has yet to meet. This post by YWCA Walla Walla Communications Coordinator Sara Rasmussen considers the improvements made in the current version of VAWA, as well as its limitations. Sara also introduces you to our Stand Against Racism blog series, which will examine how discrimination and institutional racism create barriers for violence survivors trying to access housing services and resources.
Cherisse Webb talks about volunteering with the Point-in-Time Count in a new video produced by Seattle University's Project on Family Homelessness.
On a cold and rainy day this past January, Snohomish County volunteers were among the many thousands nationwide who helped conduct a Point-in-Time Count of homelessness in their communities. The Seattle University's Project on Family Homelessness team visited two of the sites and asked volunteers about their experiences. Watch this new video to hear fromvolunteers who gather important data that creates a snapshot of homelessness in our communities.
YWCA Opportunity Place resident Shelby Powell was on track to attend medical school when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She couldn't hold down a job, and became temporarily homeless. Shelby has faced many challenges since her diagnosis, but she's thankful for the financial support she receives through the Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) program, which has helped her afford her rent and basics like bus fare and cleaning supplies. She testified at the state capitol, asking legislators to protect the social safety net that has kept her stably housed. Watch Shelby's testimony and learn how you can advocate for lifeline programs like ABD.
We didn’t look very far when we decided who to interview for this third installment of our "I'm An Advocate" series! Denise Miller is the new Firesteel Advocacy Coordinator and the co-founder of ChangeStream Media, a nonprofit organization that uses digital storytelling to advocate for social justice. She shared her motivation for speaking up for housing issues, along with her thoughts on how digital storytelling can spark change.
YWCA Family Village at Issaquah resident Linda says the community, built with Housing Trust Fund dollars, offers "more than just a place to live." Photo credit: William Wright.
In the "Policy Matters" blog series, we're sharing stories from people who are directly affected by state housing policies. Today's post introduces you to Linda, a grandmother with limited resources who lives at YWCA Family Village at Issaquah. Linda's community, along with many other safe, affordable homes, was built with Housing Trust Fund dollars. Unfortunately, this vital fund is under threat. Housing advocates call for a $175 million investment, but the recently released Senate budget allocates only $35 million for the Housing Trust Fund. Read on to find out how you can ensure we invest in our communities.
Nikkisha was denied housing after she got a protection order against her abusive ex-boyfriend. Image credit: Vine Maple Place.
When Nikkisha bravely stood up to her abusive boyfriend and got a protection order against him, she faced a repercussion she never expected: She was denied housing because of her history as a domestic violence survivor. With two children and a third on the way, Nikkisha became homeless, bouncing from shelter to shelter and washing up at a restaurant.
When tenant screening reports include domestic violence records, stories like Nikkisha's are all too common. This family's experience is a powerful example of the need to break down housing barriers and keep domestic violence records off of tenant reports. Fortunately, state lawmakers are close to enacting legislation that will help protect domestic violence survivors like Nikkisha from discrimination when they apply for housing. The Fair Tenant Screening Act has received bipartisan support, and is on its way to becoming law.
Read more about Nikkisha, and learn how you can help ensure other domestic violence survivors don't face the same housing barriers that she did.
Over the past decade, data has emerged showing that our childhoods affect us more than previously thought. Not only do they affect our adult mental health, but they can also lay the groundwork for our long-term physical health. It’s all part of a fascinating framework called Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs. Perry Firth, a student at Seattle University, guest blogs for us again and uses her counseling background to look at childhood homelessness through the lens of ACEs.
Over the next few weeks, legislators are making important decisions about the state budget, including the Housing Trust Fund. Their decision to invest in the Fund can help end homelessness. How? Our new infographic breaks it down and shares advocacy steps you can take today.
In this second installment of our "I'm An Advocate" series, we introduce you to a longtime legal advocate. Kay Field created the free family law clinic at YWCA Pathways for Women in 2002, and has operated it ever since. She helps low-income women in Snohomish County navigate the legal system and fight for their rights. Kay shares her story about how she came to be an advocate, and how she does her important work.
YWCA Family Village at Issaquah residents Sharon and her granddaughter Charon love their new home, which was built with the help of Housing Trust Fund dollars. Before they found this permanent, stable housing community, they were crowded in a studio apartment in a neighborhood that felt unsafe.
With about four weeks left in this legislative session, the Firesteel team continues to advocate for the Fair Tenant Screening Act, as well as investment in the Housing Trust Fund and Housing and Essential Needs program. We’ve laid out the reasons we believe in these policies, and many of you have added your voices using video comments. Now, with our new “Policy Matters” blog series, we want to share some personal stories from community members who are affected by these policies. The first story is about a family whose lives were changed when they moved into YWCA Family Village at Issaquah, a community built with Housing Trust Fund dollars.
Middle-school teacher Barbie Solbakken reads aloud her students’ reviews of the play “Danny, King of the Basement” to the man who wrote it, David S. Craig. Left to right: Laurie Dempsey; Jackie MacLean; Judy Lightfoot; Barbie. Photo by Lisa Gustaveson.
When Seattle Children’s Theatre staged “Danny” last fall, it was a golden opportunity to stimulate public discussion about family homelessness in Washington state. We highlighted the play on our blog last fall and now we are excited to share an in depth discussion with the playwright of "Danny," David S. Craig, in which he offers his perspective on poverty and homelessness among children and families. Listen to the short clip below and read on to hear more.
We're excited to launch our newest series, "I'm An Advocate!" Have you ever wondered what it means to be an advocate? Where do you begin? At Firesteel, we think that advocacy in its simplest form is speaking up and people do that in lots of different ways. There is no one "type" of advocate; we're a diverse community! In this series, we'll introduce you to many different housing advocates and hope you'll find inspiration to speak up in your own way. Our very first highlighted advocate is Kim Herman, the Executive Director of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.
The Firesteel team is thrilled to present a new way for our community members to make your voices heard. Introducing video comments!
You can now upload video comments up to one minute in length to share your stories and advocate for policies that matter to you. This is your chance to add your voice to the conversation from wherever you are.
(L-R) Project coordinator Graham Pruss and project assistants/Seattle U students Ashwin Warrior, Judy Pansullo and Perry Firth from the Project on Family Homelessness stand on the steps of the Capitol Building. Photo credit: Catherine Hinrichsen
Perry Firth is a graduate student and a project assistant for the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness. She attended the Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day in Olympia for the first time this year. Two more Seattle U grad students and project assistants attended for the first time too. In this post, Perry shares their reflections as first time participants. In Perry's words, "I would say that sometimes you may feel that advocacy doesn’t work. It can be hard to connect your own actions and awareness-raising to meaningful policy change. But it is only through advocacy and collaboration that systemic change ever occurs." Learn more about the advocacy that happened on February 11th!
Housing advocates convene on the steps of the state capitol to rally for affordable homes for all.
On January 11th, over 650 housing advocates came together in Olympia, our Washington state capitol, and spoke up for affordable housing. Hosted by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, it was the largest Advocacy Day yet. We represented 43 out of our 49 state voting districts! Why did so many people make the trek to Olympia? Hear from participants directly in the following post and learn how Firesteel and the YWCA contributed.
The homeless counts at the end of January revealed how many people are without shelter in Washington state. Count volunteers come away motivated to advocate for affordable housing and there are lots of advocacy events in the near future! In this "Everyone Counts" blog post, Erin from the YWCA heard from volunteers both at the downtown One Night Count headquarters and also in Renton. Following volunteer quotes and video, you'll also find a list of great advocacy resources and events so we can create change together.
Watch this #YWHangout tolearn how to use tools like Twitter and Facebook for housing advocacy. You’ll master the basics of engaging your contacts in housing and homelessness issues that matter to you. You’ll also find out how to directly connect with decision makers. Your online voice will help give everyone the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home.
Volunteer Breanne Andrews was one of the organizers of the Point in Time Count in Everett, Washington
Everyone counts, even community members that are experiencing homelessness. In this series, we explore the importance of the homeless counts that take place in every county and hear from many of the volunteers that help count. Not all counts are the same. Some occur in the darkest, earliest hours of the morning, and others take place in daylight. Catherine from the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness takes us through some of these differences and shares her experience at the Point in Time Count in Snohomish County.
Homeless counts will have taken place in every county across the country by the end of January. In this series, "Everyone Counts," we'll explore the importance of these counts and hear what impact they had on some of the thousands of volunteers in Western Washington. Perry, a student at Seattle University, shares insights from her One Night Count experience and the importance of doing social justice work in community. Volunteering is very important but so is self-care!
We continue our "Everyone Counts" series with insight into the homeless Point in Time counts occuring across the country. In this post, we hear again from Ashwin, a student at Seattle University. He volunteered with a One Night Homeless Count team that explored the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, where many people live in vehicles. In fact, vehicle residents make up the largest percent of the homeless population on "the streets" in King County. How do we so often miss the presence of this population? Ashwin shares how his eyes were opened.
Homeless counts will have taken place in every county across the country by the end of January. In this series, "Everyone Counts," we'll explore the importance of these counts and learn about the impact they had on some of the thousands of volunteers in Western Washington. Today, Ashwin from Seattle University shares insights from the Count Us In homeless youth and young adult count--a population which has only recently been counted. A big thank you to the volunteers who contributed video clips!
Count Us In volunteers from Auburn Youth Resources. Photo from Teen Feed.
Homeless counts will take place in every county across the country beginning later this month. In this series, "Everyone Counts," we'll explore the importance of these events. Here we introduce you to four different homeless counts and how you can get involved as a volunteer. The counts depend on volunteers like you so check it out!
The 2013 Washington State legislative session begins today. Which means we are mobilizing to advocate! The quote above reminds us that we can all be advocates. It's time to introduce you to our 2013 Firesteel policy priorities and then we'll take you through some new ways we plan to speak up.
"So what's with the name?" I hear this question a lot and at first glance, it doesn't really seem to have anything to do with family homelessness or the YWCA. Yet it was quite the collaborative process selecting the name and we are very excited about our name Firesteel and what it represents.
On the day after election, I find myself tired but encouraged at the same time. Mostly tired because I was up late watching the results come in! But encouraged because of a number of things I observed and experienced this 2012 election.
This series posed the question, "Why does child care matter?" with five posts evaluating the important of child care and early learning. Guest blogger, Sarah Swihart, demonstrates how child care can present a huge barrier for parents working to provide for their families, especially families vulnerable to homelessness. The series begins with establishing the importance of affordable child care and early learning opportunities, particularly for low-income families, and ends with a look at supportive policies.
It's the final installment of our Why Child Care Matters series with our guest blogger, Sarah, highlighting policies that promote child care and early learning opportunities, along with legislators that champion these policies. Child care can present a huge barrier for parents working to provide for their families and an obstacle that does not often receive much attention. In this series, we hope to shed more light on this issue and make connections between child care and homelessness.
Danny (Quinn Armstrong) escapes a harsh reality by imagining he’s a secret agent, code name “Delco,” in Seattle Children’s Theatre’s production of “Danny, King of the Basement.” Photo by Chris Bannion.
Nine-year-old Jacques saw a play with his mom the other night. He thought it was funny and had some good action. He liked the snacks in the lobby before the show. Then he got home and started thinking about it. And it changed the way he looks at his world. “He just never thought that a kid could be without a home,” his mom, Jennifer, said.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month and Firesteel is exploring the connections between domestic violence and family homelessness through the end of this month. We are running a Facebook campaign including an interactive quiz. Read on to learn how we are inviting people to learn more about these connected issues!
The Firesteel Director, Erin, shows off a Hangout live on her phone!
Firesteel and the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish hosted two Washington governor candidate Hangouts to discuss issues that women prioritize. Democratic candidate Jay Inslee joined us on 10/3 and Republican candidate Rob McKenna joined us on 10/5. If you're curious to learn about Hangouts, here's a behind the scenes look at our #YWHangouts with the candidates. Scroll down to view the final videos and inform your vote!
It's the fourth part of our Why Child Care Matters series with our guest blogger, Sarah, emphasizing the need for quality child care and early learning.Sarah poses the question: "how do we improve child care facilities while also making it affordable for all families?" Read on to learn what she discovers!
Both governor candidates have agreed to participate in YWCA and Firesteel hosted round table discussions! We'll be engaging them in conversation about women's socio-economic issues, domestic violence and homelessness.
Families are the fastest-growing homeless population and more and more children are experiencing homelessness. 26,048 school-age children are homeless in the state of Washington. The McKinney Vento Act makes sure these children don't fall through the cracks and ensures basic educational rights for children and youth who are experiencing homelessness. As kids go back to school, Catherine Hinrichsen from the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness shares what she has learned about the impact of homelessness on school-age children and what we can do to advocate for the educational rights of homeless children.
By age five children should understand opposites, count 5-10 objects, speak in sentences, name colors, get along with others, and sit at their desk. Unfortunately, students living in poverty are more likely to start school without these basic skills. If children start behind they are more likely to stay behind. They are more likely to need special education, repeat a grade, and drop out of high school. Research demonstrates that high-quality pre-k increases a child’s chances of succeeding in school and in life. Early learning programs are essential if we want to end the cycle of poverty in our nation. We continue our Why Child Care Matters series with this third installment written by guest blogger, Sarah Swihart
Sarah Swihart (2nd to right) with her parents and fiance at her Seattle University graduation Spring of 2012. She'll be returning to Seattle U this fall to begin a Masters in Public Administration with a powerful perspective that will make her a great policy advocate!
We continue our Why Childcare Matters 5 part series with our guest blogger, Sarah, sharing her personal story of domestic violence and homelessness.Not belittling her own difficulties, Sarah reflects on how much more difficult it is for mothers. Child care can present a huge barrier for parents working to provide for their families and an obstacle that does not often receive much attention. In this series, we hope to shed more light on this issue and make connections between child care and homelessness.
The "back to school" buzz is in full force! In the midst of new school supplies and other preparations, some kids going back to school also means returning to a regular routine. For students whose families are struggling with homelessness, school often means more stability and welcome child care for the parents. Child care can present a huge barrier for parents working to provide for their families and an obstacle that does not often receive much attention. For this reason, we are looking at Why Child Care Matters in a 5 part series running the next two weeks. We are excited to welcome another guest blogger Sarah Swihart who will be sharing her thoughts and research with us!
"Our goal here was to convene and create a conversation" - SKID ROAD coordinators
The Olson Kundig Architects storefront in Pioneer Square, Seattle is currently hosting a collaborative exhibit, SKID ROAD. The installation invites visitors to learn more about homelessness and interact with the issue in new ways. I sat down with the project coordinators to learn more about the exhibit and gladly share their insights with you here.
Last month I co-presented a blogging workshop at the 2012 Social Media Summit hosted by the Center for Non-profit Success. Since then, I have had a number of people tell me they are considering starting a blog and so I thought it might be helpful to share some takeaways from my recent presentation. So here is a super summarized version of our 4 hour workshop.
I am an artist & a nurse who works with the homeless. The subjects of my portraits are the patients I help take care of at the clinic where I work. Many of the sitters in my portraits are homeless; some are not. All have been touched by homelessness. There are items that are luxuries for people who are homeless; socks (often worn 2 months at a time), gloves, hats, underwear, & a cup of coffee. Instead of putting a dollar value on my portraits, I sell them in exchange for items that are given to our patients at the clinic & to other organizations that provide for those in need in Seattle.
It's summer movie blockbuster time! With movies on the brain, I've compiled a handful of more recent movies that explore stories of homelessness. Some are now out on video while others are yet to be released. Some are local to the Seattle area and others take place in different parts of the world. Get ready to be challenged and inspired at the same time!
Jhana is the Events Intern at the YWCA and an alumni of the YWCA GirlsFirst program. Here she shares her story about her experience in Ghana, Africa and how it has motivated her to continue helping others, especially here at home. At the age of 15, Jhana wants to make a difference in her own community and homelessness is one area of which she has become more aware. Her passion will inspire you to raise your own voice and create change!
"July 2012 has been designated as National HIV Awareness Month. The goal of National HIV Awareness Month is to re-ignite our national discourse on the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic in order to create broad-scale public awareness of HIV/AIDS, end HIV stigma and discrimination and engage new stakeholders in the fight against the disease, with the ultimate goal of ending the epidemic." Learn more HERE.
"I was homeless, abusing substances and making very poor choices when I was diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in May of 2007. I thought being homeless was hard enough, but receiving an HIV+ diagnosis while homeless was completely unbearable......." Brenda is a Peer Advocate with the BABES Network of the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish. In honor of National HIV Awareness month, she shares her personal story in which stable housing was the first big step to securing treatment.
I attended my very first Seattle/King County Coalition On Homelessness meeting last Thursday. The Coalition invited state legislators to attend the meeting so that we could thank them for their hard work in 2012. Having legislators present also provided us with the opportunity to ask questions and have a frank policy discussion with decision makers. I posed a question asking how we can better use social media to communicate with and influence policymakers. I received a 5 step answer in response.
"Pookie,"artwork by Lee Jeffries: "I made an effort to learn, to get to know each of my subjects before asking their permission to do their portrait."
I'm on a campaign kick these days. The WHAT CAN I DO? CAMPAIGN is located in LA. A grass roots movement raising awareness and compassion about homelessness through art and social action, every month a unique and beautiful piece of art inspired by homelessness is featured in the campaign. Here are a few of their pieces and featured artists.
Campaign for Potential - Promoting understanding and empathy
Raising the Roof is a Canadian organization providing strong and effective national leadership on long-term solutions to homelessness. The national public education campaign has been part of Raising the Roof's commitment to help build understanding and empathy around the issue of youth homelessness and create momentum for change.The campaign focused not on how homeless youth got to where they are, but where they can and want to go in life – their potential. View their print ads here!
Every time I hear of people’s prison experiences, I shudder. I cannot imagine “living” in a small, cold room with other people, constantly being watched over but being surrounded by solitude, loneliness and my own private thoughts........
We continue our series, "Not a Prisoner of the Past," exploring the challenges facing women and families that are attempting to build their life again after being incarcerated and other life changing circumstances. This is our fifth post in this series and Andrea VanHorn continues to invite us into the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish Passage Point, a supportive residential community for parents discharged from the corrections system who would otherwise be homeless and who seek to reunite with their minor children and families. We introduced you to Nora in this earlier Photo Friday post, and now share her story along with others below.
"Being a client here at the YWCA in Bellevue, I find this place to be safe, warm, and reliable. A resourceful place to network for jobs, housing, healthcare, and community services. A place where the staff is always exceptionally caring and supportive. I am grateful for the YWCA and all it's contributions. They make it possible for women like me to have a place to grow and to go."
When YWCA staff approached me asking if Firesteel could help raise awareness of their participation in the 38th Annual Pride Parade in Seattle, I said, "Sure! How can we connect this to housing and homelessness?" One Family Advocate, Nora, stepped forward and offered to write not one, but 5 blog posts related to housing challenges facing the LGBTQ community and the importance of YWCA participation in the Pride Parade. Thank you Nora! Because of her thoughtful writing and time, we have the following blog posts, compiled here for easy reference.
There was sun on Sunday for the Pride Parade in Seattle! We wrap up our series, "Participating & Proud," with Nora Johnson, a Family Advocate at the YWCA I Seattle I King I Snohomish Family Village in Mountlake Terrace, sharing her experience at the parade. With so many members of the LGBTQ community experiencing housing discrimination, Firesteel and the YWCA stand with our LGBTQ clients, staff, volunteers, board members and supporters and affirm the dignity and worth of every human being.
In the week leading up to the Pride Parade in Seattle, we continue our series, "Participating & Proud." YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish staff and volunteers are participating in the parade this upcoming Sunday and we will take you through many of the reaons why it is important to do so. Nora Johnson, a Family Advocate at the YWCA I Seattle I King I Snohomish Family Village in Mountlake Terrace, takes us through the meaning of the "T" in the acronym "LGBTQ" and how programs can provide needed services for this community.
In the week leading up to the Pride Parade in Seattle, we continue our series, "Participating & Proud." YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish staff and volunteers are participating in the parade this upcoming Sunday and we will take you through many of the reaons why it is important to do so. Nora Johnson, a Family Advocate at the YWCA I Seattle I King I Snohomish Family Village in Mountlake Terrace, highlights some of the federal housing policy changes to address the needs of LGBTQ communities.
In the week leading up to the Pride Parade in Seattle, we continue our series, "Participating & Proud." YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish staff and volunteers are participating in the parade this upcoming Sunday and we will take you through many of the reaons why it is important to do so. In this post, Nora Johnson, a Family Advocate at the YWCA I Seattle I King I Snohomish Family Village in Mountlake Terrace, explores some alarming numbers concerning LGBTQ homeless youth. You'll also find some amazing resources and available services specifically for LGBTQ youth, who are some of the most vulnerable in our community.
On June 4th, 2012, the Gates Foundation invited all their family homelessness advocacy grantees into one room. This convening allowed each of us to learn about each other's efforts and to discuss opportunities for even greater collaboration. The discussion that took place is likely the first of many! Firesteel, as a Gates grantee, was at the table, including theYWCA Wenatchee Valley as a Firesteel partner. Sharlene England is our Firesteel contact at theYWCA Wenatchee Valley and here she shares her meeting take-aways. And thanks to Sharlene for making the trek to Seattle to attend!
It’s Gay Pride Week in Seattle, and YWCA I Seattle I King I Snohomish staff and volunteers are proud to be participating in the parade this upcoming Sunday. It is also a perfect time to introduce the Firesteel community to the work of Sexual Orientation/ Gender Identity (SO/GI) Committee here at our YWCA. Nora Johnson, a Family Advocate at the Family Village in Mountlake Terrace, is a member of the SO/GI committee and will take us through our next series named, "Participating & Proud." Why is there a need for a Sexual Orientation/ Gender Identity Committee at the YWCA? Why are staff and volunteers participating in the Pride Parade? How does any of this connect to housing and homelessnes? We're covering all that and more!
It's another Photo Friday in the "Not a Prisoner of the Past," series, exploring challenges facing women and families that are attempting to build their life again after being incarcerated and other life changing circumstances. We introduced you to Tiffany in our earlier post, "Struggle and Survival: Learning about Domestic Violence." Tiffany and her son are residents of the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish Passage Point, a supportive residential community for parents discharged from the corrections system who would otherwise be homeless and who seek to reunite with their minor children and families. Passage Point also offers support for women, like Tiffany, who are survivors of domestic violence.
Tiffany shares a special moment with her son who has reunited with her at Passage Point.
We continue our series, "Not a Prisoner of the Past," exploring the challenges facing women and families that are attempting to build their life again after being incarcerated and other life changing circumstances. This is our third post in this series, examining domestic violence. Andrea VanHorn shares more about her work at the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish Passage Point, a supportive residential community for parents discharged from the corrections system who would otherwise be homeless and who seek to reunite with their minor children and families. Passage Point also offers support for women, like Tiffany, who are survivors of domestic violence.
We continue our series, "Not a Prisoner of the Past," with a Photo Friday post highlighting the gardening work party that took place at theYWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish Passage Point last weekend. This series explores the challenges that women face who attempt to rebuild their lives after incarceration and other life-changing circumstances. Passage Point is a supportive residential community for parents discharged from the corrections system who would otherwise be homeless and who seek to reunite with their minor children and families.YWCA Gen-Risers came out to support the program by pulling on gloves and getting dirty!
We now start a series exploring the challenges facing women and families that are attempting to build their life again after being incarcerated. Stable housing is the most critical element for successful re-entry. Many of us would first think of employment as the foundation for rebuilding a life, but actually, stable housing and a safe home is an even bigger factor.
This is the first post in this series named "Not a Prisoner of the Past," and Andrea VanHorn shares about her work at the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish Passage Point, a supportive residential community for parents discharged from the corrections system who would otherwise be homeless and who seek to reunite with their minor children and families.
Did you make it out to see the Spiral Project at Lake Union Park? We would love to hear your thoughts! The sculpture will be up through June 17th and if you are interested in keeping the conversation going and wanting to make more connections into the homelessness advocacy community, we welcome you to Firesteel. The Spiral Project uses art created by the community as an opportunity to engage in conversation about family homelessness. Firesteel is all about continuing that conversation, making connections, and advocating for change that will end family homelessness in WA state. An easy first step is by sharing your thoughts on the Spiral Project by commenting on this blog post.
YWCA Opportunity Place--Site of the Worksource Program.
Memorial Day may have passed but outreach to our veterans continues. Over the weekend, the YWCA USA blog highlighted the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish services for veterans. Matt King, a Senior Program Director at the YWCA Seattle I King Snohomish wrote this piece that was posted on the National blog and we are excited to share it here as well.
How cool is this for innovative advocacy with lots of incredible exercise thrown in? Bike and Build organizes cross-country bike trips which benefit affordable housing groups. They have donated more than $3.3million over the last 9 years, biked over 5 million miles, taken riding breaks to contribute over 100,000 building hours towards affordable homes, and engaged over 1500 young adults. All the while raising awareness about the affordable housing crisis in America.
Today’s post was written by Samantha Tripoli, Health Access & Volunteer Services Coordinator for YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, who attended the 22nd Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness in Washington State held in Yakima last week. Read on to find out more on ways nonprofits can benefit from using social media and games in their advocacy.
At any one time, almost half of the homeless people in Washington State are families with children. The Spiral Project is a unique public art piece that aims to raise awareness of this group, the “invisible” homeless. Watch an interview with Bryan Ohno from Urban Art Concept as he talks about his inspiration for this project and the power art has to impact the way people think.
Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize winner and co-author of New York Times best-selling book, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide", was the guest speaker at the YWCA Inspire Luncheon in Seattle this year! At the Luncheon, Sheryl and Firesteel Director Erin Murphy had the opportunity to discuss marketing and advocacy through social media and other innovative strategies. Today we will get to see this interview and also hear from Firesteel marketing Intern Kelsie Reidy about Innovative Advocacy!
Dan Lamont is an award winning photojournalist who is involved in an ongoing multimedia series documenting homeless families in America. Last month Firesteel highlighted the photo exhibit, Looking Into Light, in our events section that contained Dan Lamont photography from the "Homeless in America" series. Here are some of the photos from the exhibit...
Today we get to hear from another YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish staff member, Joanna den Haan! Joanna is a Housing Case Manager at the YWCA and works with many undocumented immigrants. In light of the May Day Immigrant Rights March in Seattle last week, Joanna shares some of the challenges that these immigrants face. Find out what Joanna thinks some solutions to these challeges are..
YWCA represent! At the May Day rally for immigrant and human rights that is. Meet Devin, a Health Care Access Advocate at the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish. She was joined by other YWCA staff in support of the many families at the YWCA's East Fir and East Cherry locations who are immigrants and refugees, facing unique barriers in accessing safe housing, as well as educational and employment opportunities, and health services. Here Devin shares her reflections on the peaceful protest in honor of International Worker's Day.
A photo tease for you today. May 1st saw a lot of protests and rallies in Seattle. We will be highlighting the immigrant rights rally next week and through the eyes of YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish staff who directly serve immigrants in the Seattle community. What are some of the unique housing needs and challenges for immigrants? Stay tuned.....
Stand Against Racism is a movement of the YWCA that aims to eliminate racism by raising awareness through an annual event. Today, stands were held all across the country, including many in the Seattle region. Here are a few photos from throughout the day.
Poor health is often associated with homelessness. Health problems present a barrier and financial burden that often affect the ability to work and pay rent. (Check out this fact sheet) Crystal Ybarra was a recent Americorps VISTA with the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish and is currently experiencing significant health issues. She is a woman of color and a single mother. She has faced significant challenges at other points in her life including housing difficulty. Here are her thoughts on her present illness.
Rick Derksen and his wife recently moved to Seattle. His house hunt brought him to a home just off of Martin Luther King, Jr. Way where the Central District, Madrona, and Leschi meet, not far from downtown Seattle. They wanted to live in an area with racial and cultural diversity. Rick shares his discovery of how he unwittingly participated in gentrification, an example of systemic racism that, in some ways, has replaced the restrictive covenants of the past. How does he deal with this knowledge and the accompanying feelings? Read on.
I recently was searching for a new rental and spending lots of time on Craigslist. Every time I move, I always consider what neighborhood I would prefer to live in and the characteristics that come with the neighborhood. Diversity is important to me but it seems odd that diversity is a characteristic that can be applied really to only a few neighborhoods, and those neighborhoods have changed over time. Why is this? I've come across a few resources that give great insight into the history of Seattle housing. We live with a legacy of structural racism that has shaped our neighborhoods. That racism may not be as overt today, but there is even more power in its current subtleties as it continues to influence our housing choices.
We're introducing our first weekly feature! Think of it as a theme for a specific day that you can come to expect. Today we begin "Photo Friday." From people to places, we'll be sharing images that tell stories. With this week being National Volunteer Appreciation Week, how better to start it off than by highlighting a community volunteer!
Dan Lamont is a photojournalist. In 2010 he created multimedia stories on family homelessness as a Seattle University Journalism Fellow funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mechanisms and avenues for telling these stories have changed. The old publishing venues and supporting business structures have crumbled. What has come to take their place is exciting and rife with potential but still unformed and unpredictable. Those who want to report on important social issues must find new ways in this noisy new media environment. Here Dan shares some creative new media opportunities for supporting social change.
Our Stand Against Racism series kicks off with the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish Employment and Regional Services Director, Matt King, exploring the impact of racism in the criminal justice system. Discrimination may no longer be legal against groups defined by race, gender or other protected characteristics. But there is at least one group against whom discrimination in employment and housing remains legal – those with criminal records. What does this have to do with race? Read on!
Carey Fuller manages multiple social media accounts with vibrant online communities. She is also experiencing homelessness. Living in Kent, WA, with her two daughters, Carey shares her perspective on online community and social media advocacy that can positively impact the homeless community.
Great news this morning. After working through the night, legislators agreed upon a budget and session has come to a close! What's in the budget? $67.1 million for the Housing Trust Fund, Housing Essential Needs fully funded, no cuts to TANF and Disabililty Lifeline Medical saved!
Advocacy works and we are so grateful for everyone who added their voice during this last session. Our two Firesteel priority bills, the Housing Trust Fund and EHB2048 document recording fees, both received the support they needed. It's time to celebrate all the hard work that was put into these passing!
In just over a week, we will begin another series called Stand Against Racism. Every year the YWCA aims to eliminate racism by raising awareness in an event called Stand Against Racism. YWCAs across the nation and other organizations are invited to participate in the event by coordinating their own "stand" on April 27, 2012. Community members are welcome to join any "stand", culminating in hundreds of thousands of people taking a Stand Against Racism across the US.
Want to learn more about how Firesteel plans to participate? earn More.
We are continuing our affordable housing series and now take a look at Whatcom County. Greg Winter of the Whatcom County Coalition for the Homeless took time to share a snapshot of affordable housing in Bellingham and its surrounding area.
Clark County Independent Living Skills Program, supporting foster youth and alumni as they age out of care
This is the first in our series examining affordable housing in YWCA communities across our state. Each of our partnering Firesteel YWCAs will be sharing what they are seeing in their community. We'll be hearing from YWCA Program Directors, coalition leaders and more. The YWCA Clark County is kicking it off for us!
We are seeing technology used more and more to do something about homelessness. The Department of Veterans Affairs announced within the last few days a new Innovation Initiative competition for an app that will "provide easy access to resources that the homeless need, when they need it, and where they can get it."Project Reach (Real-time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless) challenges contestants to create a free and accessible app that shares real-time information on where someone can meet basic needs such as a bed or place to eat. This tech competition comes on the heels of the South by Southwest Homeless Hotspots, the controversial digital take on a street newspaper model. Here I'll share a bit more on these two tech projects that address homelessness, along with a few more that have been around longer.
I am really excited to see technology making advocacy more accessible and government more accountable and transparent. The Sunlight Foundation is a leader in this way and Firesteel is using state legislative data through their Open States Project to match registered users to their legislators in their profile banner. But it gets better! Open States just released an iPhone app! The free mobile app provides up to the minute information on your state legislators' profiles, legislation being considered, voting records, and more. Allow me to share my excitement by walking through some of the features of Open State and the new mobile app.
"Do we know that hearing the story is sometimes not only enough but more than enough? Our coming to anyone as problem-solver can diminish their dignity and in fact diminishes ours as well. Being willing to listen enables something to develop that our strategies simply cannot accomplish. It is trust." The Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett shares his insight as a faith community member and inter-faith taskforce leader in the following post.
Sometimes influential people talk about homelessness. We want to see more and more of that happening, so when a big public figure shines the spotlight on homelessness, we want to highlight it. Let's reinforce good conversations and growing awareness of homelessness. I've coined this theme "Big Wigs Talk Homelessness" and our first shout out goes to Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. Earlier this week he interviewed Shaun Donovan, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Here's the Firesteel Director, Erin's take on it!
Firesteel is a statewide partnership with participating YWCAs from all over Washington. We are small organizations and we are really large organizations. We are in rural communities and urban ones. Some of us have lots of social media accounts and some of us have very few. Yet we all share the same mission and seek to empower women in our communities. The YWCA of Walla Walla is a relatively small organization serving a small community in Eastern Washington. While they have tremendous support locally and are efficient with existing resources, they hope to effect real change on a greater level through the Firesteel partnership. Kate Morrison, the Walla Walla YWCA contact shares why her YWCA is excited about Firesteel.
The Snohomish County Point in Time Homeless Count helps to ensure that vital federal and state funding continues to come into the community to fight and end homelessness. On January 26, 2012, many Point in Time volunteers are experiencing homelessness themselves. Hear one man's motivation for volunteering in addition to some reflections on how homeless counts differ across counties.
Every county is federally mandated to coordinate a homeless count in order to better understand the need in our community. "The One Night Count" in King County is coordinated by the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness and the 2012 early morning count on 1/27/12 found 2,594 people without shelter. This unique advocacy event requires the help of over 800 volunteers. Read on to hear the perspective of one volunteer, Michael Blumson of Common Ground.
Firesteel is all about structural change and a large part of that happens through legislative advocacy. We want help translate what goes on in our state Capitol and make advocacy more accessible for you. That's our Pierce County YWCA on the steps of the Capitol building! Want to know how to help pass policies that will directly support homeless programs, including YWCA housing programs? Visit our bill page and advocate by simply clicking the endorse button. Firesteel has endorsed two bills, translates them for you, and gives you ideas on how to help them pass. Your voice (or mouse click!) makes a difference! And a "Thank You" goes a long way in reinforcing good policies.
Welcome to Firesteel! We are sharing the site with you, YWCA staff, in order to hear from you and shape our advocacy efforts with your feedback. So your input is important and we really want to hear it! Please tell us what you think by commenting on this blog post.