Cooking Matters classes cater to all ages

On a basic level, we eat to survive – but food is usually so much more than that. It can be a comfort, a social activity and even a pastime.

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Cooking Matters students each got a chance to work over the stove, scrambling eggs and making fried rice.

At a recent cooking and nutrition class held by Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program, this was the topic of the nutrition lesson: to be mindful of what we eat and why we eat it. Cooking Matters hosts 6-week classes for people of all ages throughout the year, but this particular class was for families with children in middle school.

Cooking Matters, part of the national Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, teaches families and children how to buy and cook healthy food on a budget. The goal is not only to teach, but also to provide a space for participants to share experiences and information. Cooking Matters Program Coordinator Nicole Dufva says, “We try to foster a dialogue about what it means to eat healthy for each person.”

In the area, Cooking Matters partners with up to 60 community organizations to host and teach classes. The recent class for families with middle schoolers was a satellite program at Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, run by the nutritionist at the clinic, Rebecca Finkel.

Though it’s the satellite program’s 8th year, this was Rebecca’s first time teaching a class specifically for families with middle schoolers. Before, the clinic hosted classes for families with children ages 8-13. This change was made in response to parent comments, suggesting that working with peer groups is more productive and fun for their children.

Rebecca explains that middle schoolers are old enough to do more actual cooking than younger children, so “it’s a good time for them to gain basic skills and nutrition awareness so that if their parents are at work or away, they can make something easy and healthy to eat.”

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The near-finished product: fried rice with tofu

After the nutrition lesson, the kids practiced cracking, scrambling and frying eggs to use in the main dish, fried rice with tofu. Meanwhile, the parents sat down to talk with Rebecca.

Rebecca explains that parents’ participation is equally important for this age group, because the parents are responsible for “setting the food environment.” In other words, parents are responsible for the food that is available if their children want to make food for themselves.

“The food environment also determines the rules around eating together,” says Rebecca. “Is the TV on during the meal? Are screens allowed during the meal? What do they discuss at the table?” The parent group discusses changes that could be made in the household to create a healthier lifestyle, including cooking together, getting more exercise or eating meals together.

On the 5th week of each class, the group travels to a local grocery store to practice shopping for nutritious food on a budget. Many families may consider fresh produce to be too expensive, so Cooking Matters emphasizes the health benefits of frozen and canned fruits and vegetables; in general, all classes focus on a plant-based diet.

Besides fried rice with tofu, this group made a delicious mango salsa to snack on during the class. At the end of the night, everyone received a copy of the recipes and a bag of fresh ingredients so that they could enjoy the dishes again at home.

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Cold weather heightens state of emergency for Seattle’s homeless

As temperatures descend into the 30s and 40s, spending the night outside is increasingly dangerous – but according to last January’s Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness’ 2015 One Night Count, over 3,500 people in King County have no other option. While more than 3,000 are able to stay in the winter shelters that open around the county every year, shelters are only temporary solutions for the growing number of people experiencing homelessness.iStock_000015579554_Large_homeless adult and child on street

Beginning in October or November and ending in March, April or May, several winter shelters are available either every night or a few nights per week. Most are designated as men’s, women’s or family shelters. King County Crisis Clinic’s Resource Talk website keeps an updated and detailed list of the shelters that are available throughout the season.

At least five shelters in the area also open during nights of severe (below freezing) weather, including the Rainier Room at Seattle Center (305 Harrison St), which has been open in recent weeks. Most of these shelters do not require referrals of any kind, and the Resource Talk website also keeps an updated list of their availability.

The King County Homeless Winter Shelter, located at the King County Administration Building, has operated regularly for two decades. Last year, after the One Night Count, combined funds from the City of Seattle and King County allowed the shelter to open an hour and a half earlier, and to increase the number of beds available from 50 to 100 for the rest of the season.

This winter, further steps have been taken. As of Monday, November 2, Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine declared that Seattle is in a state of emergency due to homelessness, calling for more funds and services. In response, the City of Seattle allocated one-time funds of $5 million on November 3 and an additional $2.3 million on November 17. These will allow the King County Administration Building to provide 100 extra beds this year (for a total of 150) as well as prevention and outreach measures. Some of the specific plans are outlined in the City Council’s “Green Sheet.”

Though 100 extra beds and an extra $7.3 million will certainly be beneficial, these measures won’t provide a complete solution, let alone a permanent one. This coming January 28, the Coalition on Homelessness will conduct their annual One Night Count, assessing how many people are currently in transitional housing, in shelters, and surviving outside. The count will hopefully show improvement from last year, and it will definitely clarify how much still needs to be done.

For updated information about shelters in the area, visit the King County Crisis Clinic’s  Resource Talk http://resourcetalk.crisisclinic.org/winter-shelters-201415/ website, or call 2-1-1.

Nov. 17th Rent Smart workshop cancelled

We regret to let folks know that the Nov. 17 Rent Smart workshop scheduled for the Seattle Public Library Southwest branch is cancelled. We will reschedule soon!

RentSmartCancelled

Fall 2015: Partnerships, Program News & Thank Yous

Solid Ground’s print newsletter highlights lots of great partnership and program activities. Sign up here to receive the entire newsletter by snail mail! 


PARTNER SPOTLIGHT: The CoHo Team of Windermere Agents

Not your average real estate agents, The CoHo Team of Windermere Agents has a unique vision: They believe that home – a place of shelter, a vibrant neighborhood and community, a sense of safety and belonging – should be obtainable by all. To help make this a reality in our community, they contribute both significant funds and hands-on service hours to nonprofits like Solid Ground that are involved in housing and community development.

CoHo Team members (l to r) Tonya Hennen, Cara Mohammadian & Peter Wolf

CoHo Team members (l to r) Tonya Hennen, Cara Mohammadian & Peter Wolf

“We have been proud to support Solid Ground for over 12 years as donors and volunteers,” says Team member Tonya Hennen. “We love their local, grassroots approach and broad spectrum of services, particularly their work in developing housing. We appreciate how they leverage many partnerships to the support of their clients. Few organizations are ambitious enough to claim the mission of the eradication of poverty through dismantling institutions of racism and oppressions. They really walk their talk. You go, Solid Ground!”

Thank you, CoHo Team, for your committed partnership!

For more info on partnering with Solid Ground, please contact us at 206.694.6803 or development@solid-ground.org.


PROGRAM NEWS: From the Ground Up

From transitional to permanent supportive family housing

For families living on low incomes that include an adult living with disabilities, affordable housing can be nearly impossible to find, let alone keep. Many families on fixed incomes essentially live from crisis to crisis. King County’s homeless services system identified the need to create more capacity to provide long-term housing for families with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness.

Solid Ground’s Sand Point Family Housing is among the initial group of five area transitional housing providers to convert to permanent supportive family housing. Changes coming to the program include round-the-clock staffing to help residents overcome a more complex set of challenges, and support for families in long-term stable housing. Increasing partnerships will bring more support services onto campus.

Case workers and housing advocates are working with current tenants – all of whose leases will expire before the program conversion – to secure long-term housing. But because of the changing program model, few if any will be eligible to remain at Sand Point Family Housing.

Cooking on all burners

Our Cooking Matters nutrition educators completed 13 class series in the third quarter! The classes, which focus on preparing healthy, culturally appropriate meals on a budget, were hosted by a variety of community organizations – including five at Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) locations and two in Toppenish, WA through our satellite partner, the Quinault Indian Nation.

Our own Seattle Community Farm recently cohosted a six-week series for teens affiliated with the Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA). Other new satellite partners include Verdant Wellness Center in Lynnwood, which hosted their first Spanish Cooking Matters class in October, and Hopelink, a fellow King County Community Action Agency, which will host classes at their five Eastside locations starting in early 2016.

Financially fit

Our Financial Fitness Boot Camp was selected by The Financial Clinic of New York City to partner on the launch of a new financial skills coaching platform, recognizing Solid Ground’s leadership in financial empowerment education and services.


SPECIAL RECOGNITION: Brilliance… Kindness… & Persistence…

Who needs a visor when you have Swiss chard? Dani Ladyka, one of our new crop of Apple Corps members, finds a bit of shade at the Marra Farm Giving Garden. (Photo by Madeline Corbin)

Who needs a visor when you have Swiss chard? Dani Ladyka, one of our new crop of Apple Corps members, finds a bit of shade at the Marra Farm Giving Garden. (Photo by Madeline Corbin)


TAKE ACTION: Get Involved!

Putting veterans on Solid Ground

vets-dayMany of Solid Ground’s services support U.S. veterans in overcoming barriers to stability and living healthy lives.

While we are unable to collect demographic information on all program participants, the data we have shows that over the past year, more than 139 vets have accessed our Tenant Services program for help understanding their responsibilities and rights as tenants. Among the topics most discussed were info on rights and responsibilities, housing search and barriers, repairs, evictions, deposits and Fair Housing issues.

Two dozen vets have worked with our Mortgage Counselors to better understand and make informed choices about foreclosures; 23 more accessed reverse mortgage counseling. Seven vets have worked one-on-one with our Financial Fitness Boot Camp Coach.

Seattle/King County is part of a national movement to house all homeless veterans by Dec 31, 2015. According to All Home, our community has housed 717 veterans, with only 37 chronically homeless vets remaining to be housed.

Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing Campus is currently home to 14 veterans in transitional and permanent housing. The Veterans Program at St. Vincent DePaul, American Legion Auxiliary #227 and other area groups provide support, mentorship and community for our veteran residents.

In addition, we provided financial support to stabilize housing to 105 veteran-led families living on low or very low incomes.

Solid Ground also connects vets to volunteer service opportunities through RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) of King County. This year, RSVP is recognizing 15 local members who are veterans. The Corporation for National & Community Service designed a beautiful pin, which we will send to each of them along with a letter of gratitude for their service. It states:

The 15 veterans currently serving as RSVP volunteers have provided 3,802 hours of service over the last year, supporting food banks, adult day programs, tutoring and early childhood education programs and other nonprofits.

“This Veteran’s Day, November 11th, the Corporation for National & Community Service is honored to recognize you for serving our country through Senior Corps’ RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) of King County. As a veteran you have played a vital role in protecting our freedom and way of life and for that we are grateful.”

Big Picture News: Language should not be a barrier

All who come to Solid Ground for housing, food and other services face challenges to meeting these basic needs – but there’s an added layer of complexity for our program participants who speak little or no English. To ensure that our services are available to all who need them – regardless of their primary language – we prioritize access to interpretation and translation services.

Language access for racial & social justice

Solid Ground program participants come from myriad cultural backgrounds and language traditions (including American Sign Language). To meet their unique needs, our staff access interpretation and translation services approximately 800 times a year for about 25 different languages.

Our Language Access policies are grounded in our racial and social justice work, as they are absolutely essential to our ability to meet people’s needs in an equitable manner.

Support for our staff

Connecting staff to language services gives them the tools they need to more competently work with limited-English speakers. We strive to leverage both internal and external resources to help staff do their jobs well.

Sandra Williams, Cooking Matters Coordinator & certified Spanish interpreter/translator, leads a cooking demo at the Seattle Mexican Consulate. (Photo by John Bolivar)

Sandra Williams, Cooking Matters Coordinator & certified Spanish interpreter/ translator, leads a cooking demo at the Seattle Mexican Consulate. (Photo by John Bolivar)

For nearly a decade, a staff Language Access Team – comprised of multilingual staff as well as those who frequently use language services on the job – has worked together to create policies, procedures and a resource guide to inform our work and continuously improve how we deliver services.

The team developed staff training in best practices when working with limited-English speakers, and tips for effectively working with interpreters.

Our Language Access policies support staff in making sure program participants have equitable opportunity to understand the services available to them. They also value the internal capacity of our bilingual employees to interpret and/or translate English into other languages.

Solid Ground also maintains multiple bilingual staff positions to meet significant language needs in different program areas. Bilingual staff are given extra compensation for their skills.

Language access in action

A few common and key ways we utilize language services include:

  • Face-to-face and phone meetings between families seeking housing and their case managers and advocates
  • Group interpretation for cooking and nutrition classes, advocacy listening sessions, and various workshops (e.g., financial fitness, tenant, homeowner)
  • To help domestic violence survivors navigate legal processes and create safety and stability plans
  • Phone interpretation for legal representation to help people access public benefits
  • Translation of key documents that include technical legal, housing or contractual language or where the consequences of misunderstanding could cause harm

In short, language access is key to Solid Ground’s mission, and we are committed to continually improving our services for limited-English speakers.


Big Picture News is a segment of Solid Ground’s Fall 2015 print newsletter. Sign up here to receive the entire newsletter by snail mail! 

Fall 2015 Groundviews: Changing systems, changing lives

Imagine you’re a single mom with a permanent physical disability – waiting for federal disability benefits to be approved – and are told you’ve reached your cash assistance lifetime limit. Or maybe you’re struggling to make ends meet, using food assistance, only to be told you were “overpaid” and have to pay back benefits from the last six months. Where can you turn?

Solid Ground's team of Benefits Attorneys

Solid Ground’s team of Benefits Attorneys (l to r: Stephanie Earhart, Katie Scott and Sara Robbins) just might be able to help. Serving both individuals and families, our attorneys primarily represent people having difficulties accessing or maintaining state benefits from the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

But it doesn’t stop there: Beyond helping people access benefits, our attorneys work with DSHS to make the system more equitable for thousands of people across our region.

From individual to systemic advocacy

Lead Benefits Attorney Stephanie Earhart explains, “We’re in DSHS Region 2, covering five counties from King all the way to the Canadian border. We meet quarterly with the Regional DSHS Administrator to tell them what we’re seeing on the ground. And if we make complaints or say we need systems change, they listen.”

One type of case our attorneys deal with is families applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance. In Washington state, there’s a 60-month lifetime TANF limit and very few ways to qualify for an extension. These include families experiencing domestic violence, adults living with severe and chronic disabilities, and people taking care of a child or adult living with a disability.

Yet Stephanie and her team noticed that these extensions were often denied for people who were clearly eligible. “We were seeing two problems: people eligible for the family violence extension weren’t getting it, and people eligible for the disability extension weren’t getting it.”

Through outreach events, trainings and lectures, Stephanie publicized the time limit extension availability and our willingness to appeal denials: “If your family has zero income, somebody disabled in the household, or somebody dealing with family violence, they should still be on TANF. Period.” After several favorable decisions overturning TANF extension denials, Stephanie and her team set their sights on change at the policy level.

Collaborating for success

Teaming up with other advocates from the Northwest Justice Project, they facilitated a meeting in Olympia with DSHS administrators and the Attorney General’s office. “We have really good working relationships with them, and they know that we don’t come to them lightly,” says Stephanie. “So this year, when we advocated for DSHS to rewrite its policy manual around the family violence time limit extension, they took our concerns seriously and improved the way they screen clients for this exception and staff training on the issue.”

Lead Benefits Attorney Stephanie Earhart consults with a client

Lead Benefits Attorney Stephanie Earhart consults with a client

Also, our attorneys convinced DSHS to clarify how disabilities cases should be handled. As a result of their recommendations, DSHS changed the law to include a new disability time limit extension. “They actually agreed to do it, which was huge! I nearly fell out of my seat when I found out,” Stephanie recalls. So now, if a family member meets the eligibility criteria for ABD (Aged, Blind or Disabled), they can get a TANF extension.

“The work we’re doing is very real,” says Stephanie. “I’ve learned so much from the people we serve. Any of us could end up in a hard situation at some point, and it means everything to me that I can do this work now.”

The same end goals

Currently, our attorneys are working to ensure that state food assistance recipients aren’t saddled with unpayable debt when DSHS miscalculates their benefits. According to federal law, recipients are liable for any overpayment of food assistance even if the overpayment was caused exclusively by DSHS’s mistakes. For families living on the edge of poverty, repaying this debt is usually impossible.

Our attorneys represent people facing this situation in hearings and negotiations with the Office of Financial Recovery to show financial hardship and get the entire overpayment waived or put on a payment plan. While helpful on a case-by-case basis, this strategy doesn’t solve the systemic problem: Many people who qualify for a hardship waiver don’t even know about our services or that such a waiver exists.

So now, Stephanie and a Northwest Justice Project attorney are collaborating with the Attorney General’s office, the Office of Financial Recovery and DSHS to rewrite the policy manual regarding overpayments and hardship waivers. “The hope is that DSHS will analyze hardship when they assess overpayments, rather than waiting for clients to raise the issue, which is not something the current regulations require them to do,” she says.

“That’s why our working relationship with DSHS is really important; we can go a lot farther by collaborating. When you sit down at a table, especially with the policy makers, you realize they often want the same things that we do for our clients.”

For more info on Family Assistance, contact 206.694.6742 or familyassistance@solid-ground.org.


‘Changing systems, changing lives’ is the lead article from Solid Ground’s Fall 2015 print newsletter. Sign up here to receive the entire newsletter by snail mail! 


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