Back on the road to home

Bruce Perry with his truck

Bruce Perry with his truck

Truck driver Bruce Perry is a veteran and a resident at Santos Place on Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing campus. He has lived in many different places – from the deep south, to California, to the Pacific Northwest – and he has worn many different career hats. From a young age, he has known exactly what he wanted to do with his life – several different things, to be exact – and one by one, he has achieved those goals.

Bruce says, “I’ve done pretty much all I wanted to do in life, career-wise. I knew when I was 10 years old that I wanted to go into the military. I’d see the convoys of military trucks and “I’d say, ‘Mom, that’s going to be me one day!’ ” And sure enough, he served in the US Army from 1975 to 1979, a Vietnam-era vet who was fortunate to enlist three months before the end of the active conflict, so he never saw combat. Also, he says, “I wanted to be a mailman – which I did for 19½ years – and at the age of 42, I retired, in the Bay Area.”

Finally, he says, “I wanted to be a truck driver.” He first got his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in 2005 and worked as a cross-country freight driver for several years. “I’ve been to 48 states, Mexico and Canada.” This last goal, though, had a serious hiccup: In 2009 in Louisiana, he received a ticket, which he paid with a check that didn’t go through. Unfortunately, the check was returned to an old address and he never received it, causing his license to be suspended for a year. “And each time you get a ticket,” he explains, “it’s another violation that counts for one year. Another violation, another year. So that’s how I had to do three years on suspension. That’s three years without driving at all.”

Starting over

In 2011, with his final dream job on hiatus, his funds dwindling, and very few veterans resources available to him in the south, he decided to relocate to Washington state where he could get housing through the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH). “That’s one reason I moved here; and another reason was I’d be close to my girlfriend,” he says with a shy smile. (She lives in Vancouver, BC, and thanks to Amtrak he gets to meet her in Bellingham a few times a month.)

After a stint in VASH temporary housing, Bruce was placed in transitional housing at Santos Place. A self-described loner and very independent man, he says, “This place is for people able to take care of themselves, ‘cause nobody gonna come knock on their door and say, ‘Hey, are you ok?’ You have to be able to take care of yourself here.”

During his stay, he says, “I kept myself busy.” So while living at Santos and waiting out his suspension, he worked at Whole Foods Market and received job training through AARP – and just as soon as his suspension was up, he went straight back and got recertified as a truck driver. In June 2014, he was back on the road, and he couldn’t be happier. He drives up and down the coast, from Kent, WA to southern California and back, with weekends at home. And come December 1st, five days before his birthday, Bruce will finally move out of Santos Place and into permanent housing.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Bruce outside of Santos Place

Bruce outside of Santos Place

To others struggling to get back on their feet, he urges people to “ask for help. Solid Ground has people to help you with that! Depression, shame stops people from doing what they need to do. It’s scary. You get in this environment, it’s all you know. You stay here and you feel comfortable, and it’s hard to get up and walk out that door and go out there and get a job again, because a lot of people are scared of failure. But you got to start somewhere.”

He recommends that people “Go to training school while you’re on low income. Go to WorkSource. Go to the library. We got two brand new computers here and a whole computer room. Take advantage of that! Go to junior college. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do.”

Home for the holidays

This year, Bruce will be in his own home for Christmas for the first time in a long time. A devout Christian, he believes God played an important role in his success: “If you open your heart up to God, read your bible, pray – put your trust in God, not man – then it will start working. If you have the right attitude, things will work out for you. It may take a while, but it will happen.”

And while Bruce is technically of retirement age, he’s not at all retiring. “The only thing I want to do now is just continue working and, God willing, work to the age of 66 and collect my social security. I got a chance to retire; I know what it’s like to retire. I got a chance to be blessed to start back over again. So it’s like a big burden lifted off of your shoulders.” But, he says, when he finally does “retire” from truck driving, he still intends to drive a truck two or three days a week. “I’ve talked to older people,” he says, “and lots of people have told me, the worst thing you can do is just sit around all day and do nothing. Once you sit down and start doing nothing, your muscles and your mind, everything’s all fading away. You lose everything.”

And he has absolutely no regrets. “It’s hard to explain to people; very few people can look back and say they’ve done everything they wanted to do in life. I’m one of those few people. And how do you know that you’ve done everything in life? If the doctor said, ‘You only have two months to live?’ I’ve done everything I wanted to do!”

Poverty Action’s 2014 election positions

VOTE FOR A CHANGE imageOn Tuesday, November 4, you have the opportunity to cast your vote and weigh in on issues important to you and your community. The Statewide Poverty Action Network has taken a position on some of this year’s main ballot initiatives to help you consider their impacts. To avoid confusion on this year’s LOOOOOOONG ballot, we’ve listed our positions in the order in which they appear on the ballot.

Initiatives 591 & 594: Background checks for gun sales
Everyone in Washington state should be able to live in safe communities. Background checks provide an important tool in curbing gun violence. We need stronger, not weaker, background checks on gun sales.

Vote NO on Initiative 591
Vote NO buttonI-591 would weaken background checks and make gun sales less safe. Right now, federal background check laws are weaker than our laws here in Washington state. This initiative would roll back our state’s existing – and already inadequate – background check laws to conform to the weaker federal standards. For example, I-591 would repeal state law that prevents individuals with restraining orders against them from possessing a gun. Also, instead of closing unsafe gun show and internet loopholes, this initiative expands them. This is a dangerous step in the wrong direction. Vote NO on I-591.

Vote YES on Initiative 594
Vote YES buttonI-594 would strengthen background checks and make gun sales safer. Currently in Washington state, not all gun sales require a background check. Licensed gun dealers use a background check, while gun shows and the internet take advantage of a loophole that allows them to avoid this safety measure. I-594 would eliminate this loophole and require every gun buyer in Washington state to pass the same background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from. Vote YES on I-594.

Seattle’s Proposition 1: Funding for transportation
If you live in Seattle, you have the opportunity to vote for Proposition 1. Affordable public transportation is the lifeblood of a growing city and region. Our friends, neighbors, and family members rely on the bus to get to work, school, and medical appointments. There are a number of Seattle Propositions and Measures with “1” in their titles – you’ll know this one because it is the very last measure on the Seattle ballot.

Vote YES on City of Seattle Proposition 1
Vote YES buttonCommunities of color, students, seniors, and working families will be affected by bus cuts if Seattle Proposition 1 doesn’t pass. This measure funds access to transit for riders living on low incomes and offers a low-income tax rebate on car tabs for working families. Vote YES on Proposition 1 in Seattle.

Still have questions about this year’s election?
Visit Poverty Action’s online Voter Guide to learn where the candidates stand on the issues you care most about.

Join us in national action against police brutality

Ferguson actionSolid Ground stands firmly behind the people of Ferguson, MO and those organizing around our country to end police brutality and bring equity to our justice system. We have a legacy of working in the community and with the Seattle Police Department to deescalate tensions in communities of color. And while we lost funding to continue this work through the JustServe AmeriCorps program a few years ago, we remain focused on the importance of continuing to counter institutional racism playing out in our current policing environment.

Therefore, Solid Ground is endorsing and will have a presence at the National Day of Action Against Police Brutality this Wednesday, October 22. I encourage members of our Solid Ground community to attend the Seattle action, which is being held at 5pm at Seattle Central College (1701 Broadway Ave).

Visit the Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression & the Criminalization of a Generation Facebook page for more information on the protest in Seattle.

Vote YES on Prop 1

votes yesSolid Ground endorses Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1 to stabilize and grow bus service in Seattle.

Affordable public transportation is the lifeblood of a growing city and region. Our friends, neighbors, family members and clients rely on the bus to get to work, school and medical appointments.

This November, voters will have the opportunity to support our regional bus service. Transportation District Proposition 1 is a ballot measure that mirrors the increases in Metro revenue sources that Seattle voters overwhelmingly supported in April: a $60 vehicle licensing fee and 0.1% sales tax. Low-income households are eligible for a $20 rebate on the vehicle licensing fee.

In addition, Proposition 1 provides up to $2 million for low-income riders and will support outreach to help people living on low incomes access the reduced fares.

Despite questions about the changing nature of Metro’s revenue forecasts and doubts about the need for funding to stave off serious bus service cuts, it’s clear that we must continue to invest in our regional transit system. Bus ridership is up and the demand for regional bus service is higher than ever. We must develop a sustainable long-term vision for expanding transportation services region-wide.

This proposition alone will not make our transit system affordable and equitable. Rather, it is an important first step in ensuring that people can continue to rely on the bus to go to the grocery store, pick their kids up at day care, and visit family members.

We urge Seattle voters to vote YES on Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1.

Poverty Action Voter Guide now online

VotePoverty Action focuses on changing laws in Olympia, correcting injustices, and ensuring that every single person in our state can have their basic needs met and access to equal opportunity.

One of the best ways to make progress on our issues is by exercising the power to vote and electing political representatives who listen to the voices of people living on low incomes. This is why it is crucial that we understand each candidate’s stance on the issues that disproportionately impact low-income families and people of color, as well as our community at large.

Poverty Action asked candidates eight questions on topics ranging from health care to predatory lending, the safety net to institutional racism. Each election, we publish the candidate responses so that you can understand candidates’ positions on these vital issues.

The Poverty Action Voter Guide is now available online.

We hope you will use the guide to help you make informed decisions. You can expect your general election ballot in the mail this week. Ballots are due on Tuesday, November 4.

This election is critical to the well-being of our communities. These candidates will have substantial impacts on our everyday lives. Don’t let this election pass you by!

Mail in your ballot or put it in a local drop box by 8pm on Tuesday, November 4, 2014Lists of drop boxes can be found here:

For more information on Poverty Action and how to become a member, visit our website!

National nonprofit conference coming to Seattle

This November 16-18, more than 1,000 leaders and practitioners from nonprofits, foundations and corporate philanthropies across the country and around the world will converge in Seattle for IMAGINE, the 2014 Independent Sector National Conference.

IS_imagineThe conference is a rare opportunity for face-to-face collaboration, idea sharing, and knowledge building about emerging sector trends. It’s where the sector’s leading minds work together to find new ways to improve our communities, country and world. You can view the complete conference schedule here.

More than 150 top-notch speakers will be leading 30+ sessions, including: Change Agents – Community & Cultural Organizations; The Evolving Dynamics of Corporate Philanthropy; Inclusion, Diversity and Equity: Taking Our Vision from Imagined to Realized; and Capturing Hearts, Minds and Credit Cards. There is also a full track being curated by Philanthropy Northwest.

Local philanthropic leader Sonya Campion of the Campion Foundation, sums up the conference with a story: “I remember an Independent Sector Conference session where people were frantically texting and literally sprinting out to find their colleagues so that they could participate in the conversation,” she says. “What was happening in that room wasn’t just important. It was electric. Experiences like that don’t happen anywhere else in our sector.”

IMAGINE features dozens of thought-provoking sessions and more than 150 top-notch speakers, ranging from Sue Desmond-Hellmann of the Gates Foundation to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hedrick Smith to artist-philanthropist Alec Baldwin. It also turns the concept of a traditional conference upside down with creative networking opportunities, exciting social events, and dynamic performances from artists like tribal funk group Pamyua and Grammy Award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari.

Plus, with an array of offerings like exclusive tracks for CEOs and C-Suiters, preconference sessions for policy advocates and emerging leaders, and post-conference workshops on critical topics like diversity, inclusion and best ethical practices, this is an experience everyone will be talking about.

To register, go to the Independent Sector website.

Aftermath of Ferguson sheds light on racist bias

Clay Smith

Clay Smith

Editor’s Note: The shooting of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson, MO – and the reactions that racist act generated across the county – have been the subject of important conversations among Solid Ground staff and others committed to calling out and undoing institutional racism. Here Clay Smith, Case Manager at our Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place, weighs in on how racist perceptions of black youth are barriers to justice. Please post your thoughts in the comments section that follows.

I was awake early this morning and came across this article on the Huffington Post: Grand Jury In Ferguson Shooting Investigated For Misconduct. It started me thinking about the discussions I’ve been having with white friends of mine, and about perceptions of minorities generally. Here’s the tweet that’s causing some real concern that “justice” is once more going to be denied:

Screen shoot of tweets

Screen shoot of tweets

Some people I’ve had some rather heated discussions about this case with seem oblivious to the idea that shooting an unarmed teen should be scrutinized to the highest degree. It’s as if they can’t see every person should be given the benefit of the doubt before deadly force is used. I’d almost term this as a racial “blind spot,” where perfectly reasonable people suspend all logic to excuse terrible policing. This idea that because the police act, that somehow they must have been justified regardless of how ludicrous the situation may be. It started me thinking about how our young men and boys are perceived by some non-blacks: Black Boys Viewed as Older, Less Innocent Than Whites, Research Finds. From the article:

Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection. Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.” ~Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles

I think it’s more than probable that some of the white jurors in this grand jury stand very firmly with Officer Wilson. Also from the article:

Researchers tested 176 police officers, mostly white males, average age 37, in large urban areas, to determine their levels of two distinct types of bias – prejudice and unconscious dehumanization of black people by comparing them to apes. To test for prejudice, researchers had officers complete a widely used psychological questionnaire with statements such as ‘It is likely that blacks will bring violence to neighborhoods when they move in.’ To determine officers’ dehumanization of blacks, the researchers gave them a psychological task in which they paired blacks and whites with large cats, such as lions, or with apes. Researchers reviewed police officers’ personnel records to determine use of force while on duty and found that those who dehumanized blacks were more likely to have used force against a black child in custody than officers who did not dehumanize blacks. The study described use of force as takedown or wrist lock; kicking or punching; striking with a blunt object; using a police dog, restraints or hobbling; or using tear gas, electric shock or killing. Only dehumanization and not police officers’ prejudice against blacks – conscious or not – was linked to violent encounters with black children in custody, according to the study.”

I shudder to think that there are armed officers out there that see blacks as something less than human, therefore react accordingly. But I think we are coming to a point where people can no longer excuse these types of behaviors because they are patently lacking empathy and understanding of the community. The exception: The Story Behind A Shocking Dash Cam Video That Landed An Officer In Jail.

When the decision is made to send a white cop into a neighborhood he or she is not part of with little to no training on the population, incidents like the one in Ferguson will continue to happen. It’s just very bad policing to send people into situations that will put them and the population they serve at risk. But in the end, I don’t think the grand jury will be able to see Michael Brown as a human being; that isn’t a leap some are prepared to make.

Just sayin’….

Clay

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