40th Anniversary Timeline, 1984: Building coalitions & advocacy campaigns

SHSC 1984

1984

In the early eighties, Fremont Public Association helped organize coalitions of providers, starting with the food banks, which joined together as the Seattle Food Committee (SFC). Solid Ground continues to staff and provide leadership to the coalition.

The FPA also played a key role organizing the Survival Services Coalition, which led to the Seattle Human Services Coalition (SHSC) in 1987. SHSC is currently comprised of more than 250 agencies and fights for local, state and federal funding to support programs for people in need. From the early days of leveraging $500,000 in city support for human services, grassroots organizing has led to over $40 million in annual investment.

Molar Majority 1984

Molar Majority Campaign: Our Fair Budget Action Campaign led the successful effort to reinstate dental services for adults living on low incomes after the state cut adult dental benefits in 1982. The work to get quality dental services to all Washingtonians continues in our current efforts to promote Affordable Care Act health care coverage.

 

 

 

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Integrating financial empowerment

Dollar bills with whistleWe are thrilled to announce that the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) – with funding from Bank of America Charitable Foundation – has invited Solid Ground to participate in a new financial empowerment Intensive Learning Cluster! The 18-month program launched in January 2014 in Washington D.C. Judy Poston, the current project coordinator and Solid Ground’s Financial Fitness Boot Camp Coordinator, and Joy Scott, Supportive Services Manager, attended.

Last March, Solid Ground completed a six-month Intensive Learning Cluster with CFED. The original goal of the first Learning Cluster was the implementation of a financial empowerment plan.

However, the project leadership team – including Kira Zylstra, Stabilization Services Director and project point person at the time, and Judy Poston – soon realized that one standard model would not apply across the entire range of programs and services offered by Solid Ground.

The Learning Cluster became an opportunity to develop a model of financial empowerment that can be integrated into all aspects of our work. “We held focus groups,” Kira explains, “assessed where we were at, what staff was interested in, what they were doing, and what they wanted to do more of; we needed to know how we wanted to move forward. It’s always challenging to bring a service to scale at that level – to bring it across the organization – when that can mean so many things for the different programs with different services and needs.”

Kira and Judy were able to create a framework that included four key opportunity areas and action steps. These areas will be the focus of the new Learning Cluster this year.

The first area focuses on enhancing staff skills to build knowledge of and confidence in personal finances so all staff – from administrative to frontline – can better serve the community. A toolkit of resources and a refined referral system of financial services will act as guidelines for the integration of the financial empowerment plan. The final area will focus on program metrics to track progress and assess the needs of the community.

Kira explains that it is important for Solid Ground to incorporate financial empowerment because “it does carry throughout the work that we do to truly overcome poverty. Within the communities that we serve through our programs at Solid Ground, and even the different programs offering different services, there’s always the component of stability, independence, and financial security.

“We want to help folks work with the resources they have and build upon family strengths. We want to meet basic needs, but beyond that we want to talk about income and asset development – so they’re not only making ends meet, but feel confident and are able to thrive financially and move forward in other areas.”

And all of this, Judy sums up, “can help to end the cycle of generational poverty.”

40th Anniversary Timeline: 1979

 Home Care 1979

1979

While the UN dubbed 1979 the “International Year of the Child,” for Solid Ground’s predecessor the Fremont Public Association (FPA), it was the “Year of the Senior.” That’s because in 1979 we launched Home Care services to help low-income seniors and adults living with disabilities to remain safely in their homes. During the late 1980s and 1990s, Home Care expanded to serve the earliest victims of the AIDS epidemic. While our Home Care program transitioned to another agency in 2008, advocacy through the Senior Care Coalition – which the FPA started – has resulted in the State providing more than $150 million a year in Home Care services.  

Housing Counseling 19791979 was also the year we began Housing Counseling to provide technical assistance and support to help tenants and homeowners avoid eviction or foreclosure and maintain stable housing. Housing Counselor Bess Ervin (left) later initiated one of the region’s first holiday “Adopt-a-Family” programs to give people in transition happier holidays.

 

Hunger Action Center 1979

 

And while McDonald’s was busy launching the “Happy Meal,” we were lauching the Food Resources program to work with food distributors and other service providers to coordinate and maximize the efficiency of Seattle’s emergency food system.

40th Anniversary Timeline: 2001 a year of tragedy & hope


2001

Looking back at the year 2001, it is hard to remember anything other than the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. A few other historical bullet points:

  • George W. Bush was sworn in as President.
  • The Congressional Budget Office projected a $5.6 trillion dollar federal budget surplus over the next 10 years!
  • The Taliban began destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas.
  • In the Netherlands, the Act on the Opening up of Marriage went into effect, which allowed same-sex couples to marry legally for the first time in the world since the reign of Nero.
  • Locally, the Seattle Mariners set a record for winning baseball games, but flamed out in the playoffs.
  • The Nisqually earthquake shook the Seattle region, causing significant damage in Pioneer Square.

Financial Fitness 2001

For Solid Ground it was a time of piloting new ways of responding to the changing needs of our community.

We developed the Financial Skills Education program, later renamed Financial Fitness Boot Camp. The program offers money management classes, skill-building workshops and personal support for families working to attain financial and housing stability. Over the past few years, the program has been part of a national Learning Cluster to develop best practices for the field.

Working Wheels 2001Recognizing that lack of affordable transportation was a barrier to accessing well-paying jobs, in 2001 we partnered with Port Jobs to launch Working Wheels. This program received used fleet cars from the Port and the City of Seattle, as well as donations from private donors. The cars were brought up to safety and service standards by our Transportation Department mechanics and sold at affordable prices to people who needed a car to get or keep a job. We partnered with a local credit union to get favorable loan rates, and even provided ongoing maintenance through the short-lived Community Garage. Working Wheels was closed in 2009, a victim of changing economic conditions that made municipalities hold on to their fleet vehicles longer, and made fundraising for the program more challenging.

Undoing Racism 2001

2001 is also the year Solid Ground committed to undoing institutional racism:

  • Trained staff in Undoing Institutional Racism and cultural competency.
  • Formed a multi-racial staff-driven Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) to organize internally and begin to identify and prioritize anti-racism actions to better serve our clients.
  • Engaged staff and community members to recognize and take action against racism in our own lives and communities.

Responsible Lending 2001Additionally, our advocacy work ramped up its efforts to address predatory lending in 2001. The Statewide Poverty Action Network was a founding member of the Seattle/King County Coalition for Responsible Lending (SKCCRL), which increased awareness of and helped consumers avoid predatory loans, and worked with local lenders to increase affordable loan options without limiting credit access. Our staff  served on the founding SKCCRL steering committee and were active on its committees.

40th Anniversary Timeline: 1986

Broadview 1986

1986

Redeveloped an apartment building and relocated the Broadview Emergency Shelter there, adding transitional housing with comprehensive case management and support services for residents.

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Seattle Housing Levy

Led the effort to pass the Seattle Housing Levy, preserving and creating low-income housing and providing services to move people beyond shelter. To date, the Levy has funded construction of more than 10,000 affordable homes, provided down-payment loans to more than 600 first-time homebuyers, and rental assistance to more than 4,000 households.

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Seattle Workers Center

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Started the independent Seattle Workers Center, creating union jobs and organizing displaced or laid-off workers to protest unfair labor practices (e.g., lockout from unemployment benefits).

40th Anniversary Timeline: 1974

1974-fpa-door-circle

1974

In the wake of President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 declaration of the War on Poverty, the North Seattle Community Service Center (NSCSC) opened in Fremont, then one of Seattle’s most economically devastated neighborhoods. A decade later, the Nixon administration slashed funding for many Great Society programs and the NSCSC was at risk.

Pat Proulx headshot

Pat Proulx, FPA founder, still actively working for a better world in Belfair, WA.

In response, local Fremont activists, including Pat Proulx and Fremont Baptist Church’s Rev. Bob Walker, re-formed the NSCSC as the nonprofit Fremont Public Association (FPA, renamed Solid Ground in 2007). In a community known for rabble-rousing artists, Vietnam war casualties and rampant poverty, the agency grew out of a strong community spirit: “to hell with the feds, in Fremont we can take care of our own.” That pioneering spirit of innovation, working together and taking action to build a better community, led to such innovations as curbside recycling, Community Voice Mail, Broadview Shelter and many others. And it still informs the work of Solid Ground today.

On Friday, April 4, 2014 from noon–1:30pm we’ll celebrate Solid Ground’s 40th Anniversary Building Community Luncheon.

We’ll highlight Solid Ground’s 40-year culture of innovation, partnership and action – which has created and supported some of our community’s most effective anti-poverty programs. We will lift up individual stories of leadership and courage, and discuss our plans for the future.

We’re honored to have Spike Lee as keynote speaker. With a body of work that spans four decades, he has written, produced, directed and acted in countless films that illuminate the impacts of racism in our country. Spike talks candidly, and with authority, about issues of race in mainstream media and Hollywood, using as a backdrop a rare behind-the-scenes look at his celebrated body of work. Solid Ground is pleased to bring such an influential person in the conversations about race and social justice to our event.

Leveraging 40 years of innovation, partnership & action to end poverty & income inequality

Mayor Mike Murray holds a press conference with co-chairs of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee, David Rolf of SEIU 775NW, and Howard Wright of Seattle Hospitality Group

Mayor Mike Murray holds a press conference with co-chairs of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee (photo from the Seattle.gov website)

2014 is Solid Ground’s 40th year of Innovation, Partnership and Action! It appears that this will also be the year our society recognizes that income inequality is a fundamental and worsening issue for the United States and the world. Income inequality is not a new issue to us. Solid Ground and other Community Action Agencies recognized long ago that poverty is a result of societal barriers and structures which favor people with privilege and oppress those without. Since the origins of community action, the poverty rate has not increased, but income inequality – including lack of income mobility – has grown greatly, especially in the last 25 years.

The severity of income inequality and its impact on all of us is why I readily accepted Seattle Mayor Murray’s request that I join his Income Inequality Advisory Committee. The 25 members of the Committee are charged with delivering an actionable set of recommendations for increasing the minimum wage within the City of Seattle. Income is, of course, important – and as we know well, just one of many factors that affect a person’s ability to thrive. I view these minimum wage negotiations as an opportunity to raise awareness and, hopefully, action on the larger issue of addressing opportunity gaps that prevent income and social mobility for all residents of King County and our state.

I appreciate that our new mayor has wisely identified that multiple strategies are needed to make Seattle an affordable and equitable city, including:

  • Increasing minimum compensation levels for low-income Seattle workers.
  • Ensuring universal health insurance regardless of employment.
  • Making affordable housing more available and closer to where people work.
  • Preserving and strengthening our public transit systems to connect people to jobs.
  • Creating a fertile environment for the creation and growth of new jobs and industries.
  • Offering education and training options structured to help working adults succeed and linked to better paying jobs in demand by industry.

Appropriately, these strategies specifically address the root causes of poverty and would positively impact many of the people who access our services. Innovation, partnership and action are what have enabled Solid Ground to be an agency with impact for 40 years. I’m confident that by working together with our public and private partners, advocating with the people living on low incomes across Washington State and in collaboration with our nonprofit peers, Solid Ground’s fourth decade will bring success in making an impact as an agency working to end poverty and income inequality.

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