Making our voices heard in Olympia

ImOlympiaagine Housing made an impressive showing at Housing and Homeless Advocacy Day in Olympia on Tuesday, February 17! With 17 members of our staff, board, donors, residents and volunteers, we were able to represent five districts and meet with 12 of our Legislators.

The day started bright and early as we gathered with the other 600 advocates to plan for the day and hear some motivating speeches about the importance and impact of advocating. After that, we broke up into groups for trainings including Advocacy 101, Social Media, Youth Homelessness and other topics of interest.

To make a statement and make our voices heard, all 600 of us gathered on the stairs of the Capital Building for a rally where we heard from the Eastside’s own Sen. Cyrus Habib and other legislators, all of whom thanked us and let us know how much our presence meant to the process.

Finally, we broke into Legislative Districts and went to meet with our representatives. We had a few important requests:

  • Fund the Housing Trust Fund at $100 Million Dollars
  • Maintain funding of Housing & Essential Needs (HEN)/ Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) and SSI Facilitation.
  • Support the Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit which would allow some housing providers to bill Medicaid for supportive services provided to eligible residents.
  • Pass the Fair Tenant Screening Act to address the high costs of unnecessary duplicate tenant screening reports, and give people more opportunities to afford a place to call home.
  • Pass the Truth in Evictions Reporting Act, ensuring that evictions are reported only when a tenant was proven guilty.
  • Pass legislation to prevent landlords from denying housing to all tenants relying on a lawful housing subsidy or lawful supports to help pay rent.

Those are a lot of talking points, however, with at least 5 and as many as 15 people speaking with each legislator, each person was able to take on one or two points and share why it is important to them. We heard some great stories from residents who were able to make positive changes because of access to affordable housing.

It’s not too late to make your voice heard. You can email your legislators and let them know why these issues are important to you. One of the messages we heard from our representatives when we asked them how we could help was – tell people to contact us!

“We need to hear from the business community, from those in the faith based community, from those who support non-profits and those who have benefited from your work! The more we hear from our constituents, the better job we can do convincing our colleagues how important these issues are!”

Make sure you tell your representatives the many ways you are involved and support affordable housing. Details on the talking points can be found online at Washington Low Income Housing Alliance website.

Interested in joining us? Think about joining us for the 2016 Homeless and Housing Advocacy Day! This is one time when a huge crowd makes a big difference!

~Jeni Craswell, Director of Philanthropy

 

Olympia 2

A love letter to you

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, love is in the air.

I think this is the perfect time to share the love Imagine Housing has for our wonderful donors, volunteers, residents, and business and community partners who help us do what we love – provide affordable housing to our neighbors.

Why do we love our donors, volunteers and partners?  Let us count the ways….

  1. We love our 19 dedicated Board of Directors who volunteer their time and guide the direction of our organization.
  2. We love all the volunteers who serve on our committees, help with Supportive Services programs and with events. You are invaluable!
  3. We love our residents and those that share their stories to help the public understand the need for low-income housing and supportive services in our community.
  4. We love our community partners who provide our residents with much needed services and supplies.
  5. We love our low-income housing advocates who speak up at city council meetings and tell their city leaders the importance of budgeting for services and housing to help our neighbors in need.
  6. We love the property managers from FPI that help take care of our buildings and the residents that live there.
  7. We love our corporate and foundation partners dedicated to improving their communities and the people that live in them.
  8. We love our donors who allow our work to continue through their generous contributions.

This list could go on and on, but the fact is that we love all that you do to support us at Imagine Housing as we all work towards building much needed affordable housing on the Eastside!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

~Cindy McKee, Accounting Associate

3,772 rings of a gong

On January 23rd, a large group of volunteers gathered at 2 a.m. to begin a thorough search of the King County area. They scoured benches, parking garages, doorways, alleys, city parks, under roadways, etc.  These volunteers were searching for individuals who were sleeping outside as a part of the annual One Night Count of the homeless.

Organized by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, this annual effort produced jarring results this year:

  • 3,265 people counted in transitional housing
  • 2,906 people counted in shelters
  • 3,772 people counted on the street (up from 3,123 in 2014)

Perhaps what is most shocking is that the amount of individuals found without shelter was a staggering 21% increase from last year.  While our region has seen a great growth in jobs, development, and opportunity, it is clear that a huge need has also grown – the need for affordable housing.

As a testimony to the massive count of individuals sleeping without shelter during the One Night Count, a group from area housing agencies continued their advocacy efforts and gathered on the Capitol Steps to “Ring Out for Revenue” by sounding a gong 3,772 times on Wednesday, January 28th.

We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy and affordable home.  Let’s make a world where we never have to hold a One Night count. Where we can stand on the Capitol Steps to sound a gong in celebration of the end of homelessness.

For more information on the One Night Count, visit http://www.homelessinfo.org/what_we_do/one_night_count/.

~Rachel Voelkle, Operations Coordinator

2014 Supportive Service Numbers

Imagine Housing’s Supportive Services team was busy in 2014, but it wasn’t until I compiled the final outcome numbers that I was able to see the true impact of the services delivered this past year.

I’m pleased to share with all of you the highlights of 2014:

RESOURCE REFERRALS and COMMUNITY EVENTS were offered to residents living at Imagine Housing properties:

  • Residents received 2,458 resource referrals. These included assistance with transportation, utility bills, childcare, and healthcare.
  • Over 250 hours of community events were held including community meals, trainings and activities. Over 461 residents attended these.
  • 74% of residents said that supportive services increased the sense of community at their property.

YOUTH PROGRAMS, including afterschool programs and summer enrichment programs, were provided to youth living at nine Imagine Housing properties:

  • 788 hours of youth programming were offered at our properties serving 153 youth.
  • 91% of youth reported an increase in their communication skills.
  • 81% of youth reported an increase in their leadership skills.
  • 88% of youth reported an increase in their conflict management skills.
  • 96% of youth say that Imagine Housing’s afterschool programs promote a safe and welcoming
  • 98% of youth believe that Imagine Housing provides the support they need to complete their homework.
  • 100% of parents said that Imagine Housing’s afterschool programs increased their child’s ability to make informed and responsible choices.

CASE MANAGEMENT was offered to families and individuals that are formerly homeless living at Imagine Housing properties and choosing to participate in services:

  • Imagine Housing staff delivered over 3,116 hours of case management.
  • 97% of residents actively worked on their personal goal plan.
  • 88% of residents who are diagnosed with or are experiencing a mental health or chemical dependency issue participated in recovery or treatment programs.
  • 65% of residents participated in financial management classes, job skills training, a higher education program, or another employment training program.
  • 90% of residents with chronic mental health issues or significant disabilities participated in enriching and skill increasing activities, such as volunteering, community building activities, or exercise.
  • 60% of residents who were able to work achieved employment or increased their employment income within the year.

While the 2014 outcomes show the impact providing supportive services has on the lives of our residents, it doesn’t paint the whole picture…

We connected with residents every day.
We listened when residents were sad, stressed and scared.
We cheered when residents were excited, hopeful and uplifted.
We grieved with residents over the loss of stability, jobs and loved ones.
We celebrated with residents over the gain of friends, support and renewed hope.
We opened ourselves up to the impactful stories of our residents – the strengths, challenges, hopes and dreams that make each of them unique.
We joined our residents on their journey through life.
And we are forever changed because of this.

“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.”
Anthony Robbins

~Rachel Mathison, Director of Supportive Services

Connecting with our leaders

Many times what appears to be a small action can have a significant impact, but it always surprises me when it happens.  And then I’m reminded that it really is much more about communicating an authentic message than it is about reciting a list of facts.

Case in point.  Last Fall I attended the November city council meeting for one of our smaller Eastside communities that participates in A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH), a source of funds Imagine Housing uses to build properties.  This group of council members was considering NOT funding ARCH in their 2015 budget.   Unbeknownst to me, I could have spoken at the beginning of the meeting but wound up as the last speaker.  I sat for nearly two hours listening as the council fielded the usual mundane complaints about traffic signs, speed limits and who’s doing what with their property etcetera.  Important business for sure, but in all honestly, not the most inspiring topics.

I had come to the meeting armed with facts and figures and had rehearsed my speech so that I had it down.  There were two things that were abundantly clear when it finally came time for me to speak;   I was the only one who had come that evening to speak on behalf of affordable housing, and more importantly, the council members had had their fill of facts and figures.  Although a few facts from my rehearsed script were used, I put my paper aside and spoke from the heart.  I asked them to think about how the issue of affordable housing has possibly intersected with their own lives.  They asked a few questions that I answered to the best of my ability.  For me, it was liberating to essentially have a conversation rather than giving a speech.

Imagine Housing was informed several days later that the city council had decided to increase their budgeted contribution for ARCH.  I’d like to think that my brief conversation, rather than a canned speech, might have influenced the decision.

 ~Bob Knox, Housing Development Project Manager