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

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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.”

A journey to permanent housing

JourneyHome Case Manager Katie Showalter shared this story of a family’s successful journey in Solid Ground’s staff newsletter. We’re reprinting here with her permission.

I have a young lady on my caseload who has weathered a tremendous amount of trauma, DV (domestic violence) and barriers to housing. She has a degenerative bone disease that will not get better and is greatly impacted by that; she is unable to work due to her physical challenges. She has worked hard to try to access TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and Social Security benefits and has come up against denials again and again.

Anthony, Katie and the motel by Anthony

Anthony, Katie and the motel
by Anthony

JourneyHome (Solid Ground’s rapid rehousing and case management program) was recently able to afford her a hotel stay for herself and her young son. Prior to this stay, they were living in their car, which was then stolen; this left them on the street. When I visited them at the hotel, I brought a Project Cool backpack and school supplies for her son, Anthony. The 6-year-old first grader was eager to organize his supplies and talked about how excited he was to be attending the same school as his cousin.

I gave him a thank you card to write on or draw a picture for the folks that organized Project Cool school supplies. He drew a picture that I thought was of him and his cousin outside of his new school. But no; it turns out that he drew a picture of him and me outside of his new home, the motel. These moments remind me of why we do this work.

Affording his family the hotel stay stabilized them. Anthony’s mom was able to enroll him in school. For now, the hotel is his home until we can assist them in finding a landlord and new apartment.


Good news: Since this was written, Solid Ground Benefits Attorney Sara Robbins recently let me know the family’s TANF appeal went through and our client now has a cash grant! Thanks to Sara for her good work! And even more good news: Anthony and his family have moved into permanent housing!

How to talk to other white people about race (& why it’s necessary)

Kayla Blau, author.

Kayla Blau, author

This post was authored by Kayla Blau, Children’s Advocate with Solid Ground’s Broadview Shelter & Transitional Housing. It originally appeared in The Seattle Globalist and is reprinted with their permission.

We’ve all been there. Enjoying a family dinner and great-aunt Sally makes a snide remark about “Mexicans taking our jobs.”

Not wanting to make waves at a family gathering, my typical pattern would be to let it slide and stay silent. I’d roll my eyes and text my “conscious” friend about the experience, leaving the comments hanging triumphantly in the air.

And what had my silence done? Absolutely nothing but perpetuate the racist culture I claimed to want to dismantle.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Great-aunt Sally is just old and ignorant! But every racist joke, comment, dynamic, or law that goes unchecked, especially by white people, reinforces and perpetuates a racist society. It normalizes racism. It becomes accepted and expected. It gives the illusion that racism ended with the signing of the Civil Rights Act, when people of color are still being targeted and murdered by the police.

While overt racism appears to have lessened in the past 50 years, it is still extremely active and deep-rooted in our society’s psyche.

It usually freaks other white people out when I use the term “white supremacy” to explain how our society accepts racism, but it simply puts a name to the oppressive structure that means, for example, that we don’t have to fear being shot while walking in the dark wearing a hoody, while others do.

After learning the brutal reality of racism and privilege, white folk (myself included) often lament, “what can I do? I can’t accept these injustices…what can I do about them?”

This is literally it: Talking to other white folks about race, and, more specifically about whiteness, is one concrete way to undo racism as a white person. Unlike at a black-led march — this is where our white voices are needed.

Conversations with loved ones are tough. It is something I continue to struggle with in my own family and friends.

But we must push through discomfort to talk about race, even with great-aunt Sally, even when it feels completely unproductive and frustrating.

I mean honestly, people of color have enough to worry about to talk to a defensive white person about race. It can be extremely re-traumatizing for a person of color to have to justify their oppression to a white person, and it really is not their responsibility to do so.

Whether we like it or not, white people created racial oppression, therefore white people need to be part of the movement to undo it.

After much trial and error, here are a few tips about how to talk about race with other white people, drawn from my experiences of talking to my white family and friends, learning from other anti-racist white people, and advice from mentors of diverse backgrounds:

Educate Yourself First

Because white people are so uncomfortable with naming and discussing race, conversations can easily become argumentative or defensive.

The hope is to avoid calling the person you’re talking to racist and storming out (been there). I’ve found it helpful to educate myself about the real racial history of our country (spoiler alert: there was a genocide here, not a corn-filled dinner party), reflect on my own connection to whiteness and racism, and remove judgment of other’s understanding of race and privilege.

If we were raised and socialized in the U.S., we have all been receiving unconscious (and sometimes blatant) messages about white superiority and negative stereotypes about people of color since birth.

While it’s easy to dismiss other white folk as racist or bigoted, it is unfair to negate our responsibility to view every conversation about race as an opportunity to educate and learn, while processing the extremely complex emotions that come with it.

When I first started talking to my 62-year-old Jewish father about race, I would often leave the conversation feeling deflated and frustrated. When I told him Native Americans were mass murdered, he would respond with doubt and denial.

It wasn’t until we visited an indigenous peoples museum with facts of ethnic cleansing (over 90,000 indigenous people were murdered by white settlers) and displacement (hundreds more died on the Trail of Tears after false treaties were signed) that he began to open his eyes to the deception of the white narrative of U.S history.

Only then could we begin to have honest conversations about our country’s patterns of genocide, displacement, and racial oppression. Because he responds more to fact and logic than emotion and storytelling, the wall of white fragility was broken.

That being said, the more educated you are, the better equipped you’ll be in having discussions based in fact and analysis, rather than defensiveness and judgment. Plus, exposing yourself to the racial history that was not taught to us in school will only deepen your own understanding, allowing linkages to be made between your own family history and racism (which is difficult but necessary work in itself).

If you are personally connected to the person you’re talking to, try to tailor your approach to engage them in difficult conversations based on their personality and what would resonate with them (i.e., documentaries, intersectionality to other forms of oppression, mixed-media, art, scientific reasoning, etc.).

With all the accessibility of resources, we must educate ourselves and our community if we truly want to work for change.

Use Non-Violent Communication Skills

During an incredibly insightful event, “Dear White Allies: A Training,” put on by Black Lives Matter DMV, participants were urged to use non-violent communication skills to do effective racial justice work in white communities. Too often white people shut down due to discomfort during conversations about white supremacy, and claim to be victims when called out on our privilege.

One way to use non-violent communication skills to remediate this is “connect before you correct,” meaning, make a human connection with someone before calling them in on their ignorance.

For example, instead of leading with, “you ignorant asshole, ‘black man’ is not synonymous with thug,” try leading with, “I hear you saying that black men are all criminals. Why do you think that is?” And continue the conversation to tease out their perceptions and stereotypes based on media portrayal, for instance.

Meet ignorance with compassion. I’m not advocating coddling white people, nor lessening the message to make white people less uncomfortable. The message should still be loud and clear, but altering the way it is messaged can be extremely useful in impact. I’ve found people respond to and learn from compassion and self-reflection, and shut down when met with judgment.

In a very frustrating conversation with a co-worker about Israel and Palestine, he continuously justified Israeli occupation with “how violent Islam is.”

My knee-jerk reaction was to call him ignorant and walk away (which I did). My other co-workers shared our frustrations with him among one another for a few weeks, but never really addressed it with him.

It wasn’t until I heard him share his sentiments with a Muslim student that I realized my comfort level was less important than any damage he could do with our students. I asked him to elaborate on where his perception of Islam came from. He thought for a moment, and uncovered the truth that his only interaction with Islam was what he’d heard after 9/11.

Taking advantage of a teaching moment, my other co-workers and I researched the 5 Pillars of Islam with him and the impact of occupation on Palestinians. While this wasn’t a magic wand for years of prejudice, at the very least he began to question his assumptions.

Calling someone ignorant and walking away doesn’t necessarily have the same effect.

Make it Personal

During a particularly challenging conversation with my dad about the Confederate flag and the nine lives lost in Charleston, it seemed like nothing was getting through to him about the weight of such a racist attack.

“Just to play devil’s advocate,” he ventured, as he often plays during our conversations about race, “isn’t the flag part of the South’s history? What’s the big deal?”

After a few failed attempts at reasoning with him, I asked him how he would feel if he saw the Swastika on bumper stickers and street corners, let alone at his state’s capitol, knowing that his father was a victim in the Holocaust.

He immediately understood, as if the window to empathy was locked somewhere in his own connotation of oppression.

While no two oppressions are the same, by linking his own history to symbols of oppression his awareness was heightened. Others have used their experiences with homophobia, sexism, or other intersectional identities to relate to oppression as a system, thus allowing space to recognize our role as beneficiaries of racism through our whiteness.

Take the Time, Do the Work

Whatever you do, keep the conversation going. Invite your friends and family members to conversation groups, movie screenings, black-led events, and community forums about racial justice to keep them looped in and accountable. Share articles and novels written by people of color. Attend undoing racism trainings. Interrupt negative stereotypes of people of color in the media by offering holistic narratives. Urge friends and family to listen to people of color when they recount their experiences. Continue processing, talking, and organizing your community.

It is all too easy to slip into the apathetic and numb existence of whiteness, to not feel connected to racism because we benefit from it.

We are at a critical tipping point in history, thanks to the media and accessibility of information. White people are beginning to “wake up.” We can’t afford to let this movement pass by without engaging our white community and supporting POC-led movements against racism and oppression.

To be sure, having one conversation about race will not solve racism. We’re looking at 400+ years of racial oppression, genocide, and violence, and unpacking the painful and visceral implications of white supremacy will take time and work and commitment.

It will be messy and frustrating and liberating but, above all, necessary to undo racism.

Student business generates impressive donation

The Seattle Waldorf School Community Giving Store.

The Seattle Waldorf School Community Giving Store.

In Waldorf education, 6th grade is a time when classes get deeply involved in community service. For many, that means volunteering at food banks, or doing environmental cleanup. But Wim Gottenbos’ 6th grade class at the Seattle Waldorf School spent the past spring developing a lively business that raised $2,000 in profits to support Solid Ground.

“Kids this age are starting to really see themselves,” said class parent Kimberly Hiner. In order to balance that, it is important for the students “to see greater need and the greater world out there.”

For four consecutive Fridays, the class opened shop at the end of the school day, selling their artwork, homemade lip balm, hand-knit mittens, pencil boxes, candles, baked goods and other items to schoolmates and their families. Stunning geometric-colored pencil drawings were printed as note cards and a poster, then marketed through the school newsletter.

Every one of the class’ 29 students created products to sell and took on business functions like marketing, accounting and direct sales. “I told them: ‘Every family has a strength. Find out what your strength is and bring that into this effort.'”

The project drew on many elements of the Waldorf curriculum, including geometry, handwork and business math.

Dean McColgan, Development Director at Solid Ground, spent about an hour with the students talking to them about the role of nonprofit organizations, the importance of community support, and Solid Ground’s mission and services. Dean said, “The project taught basic business principles, like accounting and inventory, but emphasized the importance of giving back to the community. When I presented to the class, I was very impressed with the students’ knowledge and eagerness to learn about the importance of nonprofit work.”

Each student in the 6th grade contributed a pencil drawing to this poster. Note cards were also created from the drawings.

Each student in the 6th grade contributed a pencil drawing to this poster. Note cards were also made from the drawings.

Perhaps a more long-term result of the project was how it created opportunity for conversations about privilege and equity.

“We developed an awareness of people that do not have the wealth and comfort that we have,” said Wim. “These students have breakfast every morning in their homes; they attend a private school. Most have their own rooms and own beds. So we imagine what it is like for kids of the same age who do not have the same things, who do not have breakfast, and must wait at school for their breakfast. Our task is to open the world for them, to help them connect to the outside world.”

“The students were proud of what they accomplished,” noted parent Liz Yaroschuk. “There was a sense of ownership in the business, deciding what products to sell, how much to charge. They were stunned by the amount of money they raised.”

“And,” added Kimberly, “they were incredibly impressed at what Solid Ground does.” Dean hopes to return to the school later this fall and report back to the students on the impact of their investment.

(Disclosure: I’ve drank the Waldorf Kool-Aid. My daughter is a 2014 graduate of the Seattle Waldorf School and my wife is on its Early Childhood staff.)

Financial Fitness Boot Camp helps people weigh options

Financial Fitness Boot Camp's Coach Judy

Financial Fitness Boot Camp Coach Judy Poston

A few weeks ago, a gentleman called Financial Fitness Boot Camp (FFBC) asking questions about budgeting, as well as how to pay off a huge credit card debt and a student loan. He is living in a transitional men’s shelter until April 2016, paying $465 a month for rent. He stated that he wants to move out of the shelter and live in his truck, and use the rent money to pay down his credit card debt. We asked him to come in so we could do a budget and look at the expenses he might encounter living in his truck.

After doing some research we found it would cost more to live in his truck. In addition, living in his truck could lead to the development of chronic health issues; imagine trying to sleep in a small truck with a height of 6’5”? He would use more gas as he moved from street to street. He might receive parking tickets which could lead to being towed. He would have to eat most meals out as he would have no food storage or way to cook food, and in addition, have no access to a bathroom, laundry or electricity. In order to stay warm in a truck that has no insulation, he would have to buy blankets and warm clothes. And lastly, he would have to make the costly move to put most of his possessions in storage.

When he came in for our meeting, he was very pessimistic. He was feeling hopeless and stated he was having a hard time holding on emotionally. Our Financial Fitness Coach Judy Poston showed him how his monthly expenses could easily more than double by moving into his truck. After we covered this information, he felt better able to weigh the pros and cons of living in his truck and make an informed decision. He said because we put the information in writing, his options were more was clear. Before he left, he decided that he would stay in the shelter, save money and explore new employment opportunities.

For more information about how FFBC can help you and members of your community, please contact Judy (financialfitness@solid-ground.org | 206.694.6776).

(Editor’s note: Thanks to Judy and DukeEngage summer intern Motin Yueng for contributing this article, which originally appeared in Solid Ground’s FYI.)

Sonya Campion celebrated

Sonya Campion (Campion Foundation photo)

Sonya Campion (photo courtesy of the Campion Foundation)

Sonya Campion and the Campion Foundation have long been among the most powerful champions of the role nonprofits play in moving public policy through advocacy. This summer they were recognized for their visionary leadership by being named to the Top 50 Power & Influence list published by the The NonProfit Times.

“Campion is a rare hybrid of talented fundraiser and shrewd funder,” writes the Times, a nationally recognized leader covering nonprofit management. “The social entrepreneurs in the Northwest also love her passion for new ideas and methods of ‘catalytic philanthropy’ and service. Now she’s collaborating to push board members to speak up for and advocate for organizational mission.”

Campion has long supported Solid Ground and our Statewide Poverty Action Network advocacy branch.

“Sonya Campion understands that the support of advocacy and systems change work is key to ending homelessness. Her understanding of the importance of strong nonprofit operations has benefited so many in our community,” states Gordon McHenry, Jr., President & CEO of Solid Ground. “Campion’s work has encouraged nonprofits to work together and believe in the strength of collaboration when addressing issues that affect us all. Her leadership has allowed nonprofits, funders and the community to have substantive conversations on how to create significant change.”

“Solid Ground and our community are blessed to collaborate with Campion,” McHenry says. “Her personal and foundation support of our advocacy and our operations has been extremely important in helping us fulfill our mission to end poverty.”

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