Building Community Luncheon was ‘bleeping awesome!’

On Friday April 10, Solid Ground had our most profitable Building Community Luncheon ever: We grossed $290,000 – as much revenue as last year, but with 500 fewer people in the room – and our net income was MUCH higher! We think it’s because people really resonated with our theme, If you want to end poverty, work for JUSTICE!, highlighted here in the Luncheon video:

Justice is, of course, both political and personal. As our President & CEO, Gordon McHenry, Jr. told the assembled:

Today, we are here because we are concerned about justice. I remember being concerned about justice as a young boy. It was in the mid-’60s when I was 6 or 7 years old, walking with my family in the small, segregated town of Terrell, Texas, where my mother was born and raised. It was an uneventful stroll until my parents stepped into the street, because there were some white people coming toward us. Even then blacks in the south yielded the sidewalk to whites.

“A few months ago, I was reminded that some troubling aspects of our society haven’t changed in 50 years. It was after Ferguson, and this time I was walking in the streets of Capitol Hill as part of a small but loud protest march. When we approached the East Precinct, our Seattle police surrounded us with a show of force far vastly outnumbering the protesters.

“Mistrust, Anger, Fear, Misunderstanding, and Conflict. We can all recall such powerful feelings. They are the feelings and experiences that come when you realize you are trapped by injustice. Sadly, it’s a near universal experience for people of color in our country.

“And YET there is the transformational experience of being part of powerful actions and mass movements for justice. The thrill of chanting and believing that our very presence will make a difference.

“What do we want? JUSTICE! When do we want it? NOW!

“Whether you marched for an end to the Iraq wars, rallied to demand
$15 Now, joined hands around an old growth tree, OR packed council chambers with angry residents in wheelchairs (something Solid Ground did in the early 80s to help secure the future of ACCESS transportation), most of us have had that experience. You know that feeling of coming together as MORE than a group of people, but as a FORCE for right, a FORCE for justice.”

Kathya Alexander, the Seattle Storyteller, who worked with us on 40th Anniversary activities last year, contributed and performed a riveting story about the civil rights movement. You can read some of her stories on her Seattle Storyteller website.

Grammy Award winning "Thrift Shop" vocalist Wanz singing "I Will"

Wanz wows attendees at Solid Ground’s Building Community Luncheon

And when keynote speaker Jessica Williams of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart had to cancel due to ill health, local Grammy Award-winning singer and Solid Ground supporter Wanz stepped in at the last minute as our surprise guest star. As Gordon mentioned in introducing him, “Talk about making lemonade out of lemons: ‘This is bleeping awesome!’ ” (a reference to Wanz’ signature riff on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ hit track, Thrift Shop).

Wanz’ inspirational song I Will was a great addition to the program, focusing on the importance of community, especially in troubling times. We encourage you to follow Wanz on social media:

If you were at the event: Thank you for making it such a special occasion! If you missed out but would like to make a gift to make the event even more successful, please go to our online donation page. Thanks!!

PREMIER SPONSORS:

The Boeing Company | DCG ONE | HomeStreet Bank | Microsoft | Safeco Insurance

COMMUNITY BUILDER SPONSORS:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation | Marguerite Casey Foundation | Real Change | REI | Seattle Children’s | Sprague Israel Giles, Inc. | Washington Dental Service Foundation | Whole Foods Market

Skool Haze: Part 1

Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

White teachers scare the hell out of me – or did anyway. Several made life difficult for me, and some did thinking they were doing genuinely good work. Mr. Hagen was my 6th grade teacher, and he was one of those people. He was a tall man with a booming loud voice and a disarming laugh. When he was in the room you knew it. He was always joking with students and having fun creatively teaching them how to learn lessons. He was all energy. I really liked him. But the day he put his hands on me, all that changed.

I can’t remember what triggered the incident. Was I talking too loud, or was I talking during a movie, or was I just horsing around with a classmate? I don’t know, because all I can remember are two emotions: his rage and my naked terror of it. He was screaming at the top of his lungs about what I was doing wrong like I couldn’t change it. He pulled me into the hall like a bag of trash bound for a dumpster, and I could feel the anger in his hands as he slammed me against the wall. I was pinned, berated and made to feel worthless. These are feelings that linger and take years to figure out.

What does it mean to have an adult that’s “trusted” render life-altering judgments and lay hands on you? But in that moment he didn’t see that he was white and I was a scared black kid; it missed his notice that a terrible event was being burned into a young brain. I was being taught not to trust people that looked like him. And to fear not just whites but institutions as well, even ones like public education, which supposedly work for the greater good of everyone.

I don’t know what was in Mr. Hagen’s heart, but the net effect of terrorizing a child was debilitation. I stopped wanting to learn. The trip to school from that day forward was long, and I didn’t live far from my school. My time in class was uncomfortable and boring as I tuned out my teachers’ voices. I drifted farther from my potential and closer to statistics that lead too many young black men to early graves. I became destructive and was frequently in trouble with the law. Eventually I saw no pathway for me in school – and definitely none to college – so I dropped out and tuned out.

Why would we expect black children to learn under conditions like that? Why would it be acceptable to us to condemn even one to the feeling of not belonging? Is our desire for social justice so all-consuming it fails to see the obvious or create any semblance of the world it imagines? Children are supposed to be protected, and I wasn’t protected. As a society, we should be going to extraordinary lengths to protect our black children if we suspect they are being harmed, even if the harm is inadvertent.

Community Needs Assessment a foundation for strategic planning

Gordon McHenry, Jr.

President & CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr.

Last year, Solid Ground reflected upon and celebrated our 40 years of service in King County and Washington state. We took time to understand the work and impressive legacy of our forebears. We recognized that the culture of Solid Ground is one of Innovation, Partnership and Action, and those intrinsic characteristics have enabled us to be highly impactful in our direct services, social justice and advocacy work.

As a Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) recipient and Community Action Agency, we are required to prepare a Community Needs Assessment (CNA) of the communities we serve. In addition to understanding the current needs of the communities we choose to serve, the CNA is also an analysis of our assets, capabilities and organizational challenges to successfully address the unmet needs of our communities.

In the 2014 Community Needs Assessment, we noted six areas of significant community need:

  • racial and economic inequities
  • lack of affordable housing
  • lack of educational attainment and opportunities
  • lack of living wage jobs
  • food insecurity and lack of nutritional education
  • inadequate access to health care and health services

Appropriately, Solid Ground has service and advocacy responses in each of these areas. The CNA also identifies some trends which we will need to better understand as we evaluate how we serve an evolving community, including:

  • growth in elderly residents
  • immigrants and refugees
  • an increasing gap in income and wealth
  • significant transportation challenges which exacerbate existing inequities

We look forward to using the 2014 Community Needs Assessment as a foundational analysis as we begin the 2015 process of creating our next agency strategic plan over the next three-to-five years.

State’s leading anti-poverty advocate retires

If you’ve spent much time in the corridors of power around Olympia, you’ve no doubt heard The Laugh. It is disarmingly loud, boisterous and endearing. When Tony Lee unleashes, his laughter cascades over and through everything in its way. Perhaps it’s a secret to his success.

Tony!

Tony!

For nearly three decades, the last 19 years as Advocacy Director at Solid Ground, Tony has been the state’s leading lobbyist on issues impacting poor people. With his retirement this week, he steps out of the limelight to spend more time with his family.

Well known for his affable manner, keen analytical mind, and passionate commitment, Tony has had his hand in the creation and protection of many state policies that promote equity and equal opportunity for people living on low incomes in Washington State.

For instance, he was a driving force behind the creation of the state’s Food Assistance Program, which extended food benefits to tens of thousands of legal immigrants who were excluded from food stamp eligibility.

“Tony Lee is a really special human being, with a huge laugh, and huge heart and brains to go along with it, all of which are put to the service of improving and saving the lives of the most vulnerable people in our state,” says Diane Narasaki, Executive Director, Asian Counseling and Referral Service.

An immigrant who earned a law degree, Tony abandoned the practice of  law to spend the bulk of his career as an advocate, working to make laws more just.

“Everyday people of color face discrimination in the housing market, in lending practices, in our school system,” Tony says. “Not intentional perhaps, but the impacts are there. That is really one of the big reasons I’ve done what I’ve done.”

“Tony Lee is the conscience of Washington State when it comes to helping poor people,” says Frank Chopp, Speaker of the Washington State House of Representatives.

Tony defers, crediting the people he represents: “I speak with more credibility when I can say ‘our agency sees people in need and here are the needs we see.’ ”

Through his work with Evergreen Legal Services, the Washington Association of Churches and Solid Ground, Tony has been a leader in multi-racial organizing and advocacy that resulted in progress on issues spanning welfare reform, food security, housing and the achievement gap in education. He worked as Solid Ground’s Advocacy Director from August 1995 through September 2014. Tony was a founding member of the Statewide Poverty Action Network in 1996 and played an essential role in its development and direction.

Tony will continue to serve as Solid Ground’s Advocacy Senior Fellow, supporting Solid Ground’s Board, CEO, Advocacy Department and the Statewide Poverty Action Network on public policy issues pertaining to education, basic needs programs, and funding for health and human services, including programs serving refugees and immigrants.

Tony, thanks for your commitment, your passion and your laugh. The world is a better place because of you.

For more on what Tony Is

 

 

May Day march brings community & action to the streets

SolidGroundBannerEditedThe first day of May is one when we feel relief knowing that our harsh winter weather is over and we eagerly await beautiful blooms in spring and (hopefully) bountiful harvests in summer. Traditionally in the past, a “May Day Basket” filled with Easter-like treats and flowers may have been left at a neighbor’s doorstep; a gesture meant to deepen community ties by sharing the celebration of spring and its promise of new beginnings. However, this ritual is slowly fading.

The promise of spring also informs the century-old International Workers’ Day, May 1st is also a day in which activists demand social change, especially as they pertain to immigrants’ rights. The origins of this day trace back to the late 19th century when thousands of workers in Chicago organized, demanding an eight-hour work day, fair wages and safe working conditions. A bomb was thrown into the crowd of picketers (the culprit is still unknown) which spurred a shooting frenzy with police, killing over a dozen people and wounding dozens more. This tragedy became known as the Haymarket Massacre, one that propelled the first day of May forward to unite those in solidarity, never forgetting those that lost their lives in Chicago over 100 years ago.

While violence has marred recent Seattle May Days, this year’s events started peacefully with a rally at Judkins Park, where thousands congregated, assembling signs and conversing with familiar faces. Shortly after 3pm, we were off on our 2.5-mile trek to downtown Seattle, during which temperatures reached up to the mid-80s. Thousands more joined the march as the crowd proceeded down Jackson to Boren Street.

People held signs that read “Health Care is a Human Right” supporting a single payer national health program and “¡Sí se puede!” (“Yes, we can!”), observing the United Farm Workers’ rallying cry so many years ago. Chants like, “Obama! Escucha! Estamos en la lucha!” (Obama! Listen! We are in the fight!) – calling upon the President to curb the over 2 million record deportations that have occurred under his administration – and “What do we want? 15! When do we want it? Now!”— demanding a livable wage of $15 per hour in Seattle proper (and eventually across America) – were heard throughout the march.

But the message seemed disjointed and all over the place, like too many options on the social justice menu. An all-encompassing rally demanding justice for all facets of inequality? Could the statements be confused for a chaotic and unfocused purpose?

“It was an important day of coming together around issues that affect everyone,” says Leah Grupp-Williams, Food Resources Program Assistant at Solid Ground. In the past, Leah has helped organize the May Day March with the May 1 Action Coalition. This year she planned a group from Solid Ground to attend the march. When asked why this march is so important to her, she replied, “Our current immigration policy is an example of how racism thrives in this country. And it’s important for Solid Ground to continue to have a presence in grass roots struggles.”

Another member of the Solid Ground team who attended the march offered his personal connection to the rally. Gordon Pun, Facilities Manager at Solid Ground, states, “I am an immigrant who wanted to be in the U.S. I wanted a better future and freedom in the U.S. …an opportunity to grow.” As he recounts his own experiences, he also relates his story to current immigration issues. “I see the struggle that immigrants have to [endure]. I see why immigrants have to cross the border. I feel bad that the families have to break up. That’s really sad.”

Even though he has a direct affinity with those cries for comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform, Gordon still agrees with the notion that there may be a community sentiment after all. “Everyone has their own reasons for being at the march,” he says.

And isn’t it true? That we all have our own reasons for all-encompassing advocacy? Whether your family is threatened with deportation every day of your life, a friend is living at poverty level because they make minimum wage, or your coworker just filed for bankruptcy because they couldn’t pay their medical bills, we all know someone. We might even be living it. But whether the former or the latter are the case, one has to feel a sense of unity and collective emotion to witness so much participation in a movement that is focused on helping out fellow Americans who are, in essence, strangers. To see them in good health. To prosper and live without fear of separation from their families.

Knowing these issues still plague our people, how can such things that anger and outrage us at times also make us happy in some ways? Happy that thousands came together for the same altruistic purpose. Happy that destructive behavior and obscenities were largely absent among thousands of people within the cramped streets of Seattle. Happy that that feeling of community, which is few and far between for some, showed its face on that warm, sunny, first day of May.

 

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The Human Dignity Support Project: Building bridges between services & recipients

Juanita Maestas, HDSP founder, and Lee, HDSP tech expert and volunteer

Juanita Maestas, HDSP founder, and Lee, HDSP tech expert and volunteer

After nearly abandoning her own battle for government assistance, Juanita Maestas – founder of the Human Dignity Support Project (HDSP) and a Statewide Poverty Action Network board member – took up the fight for others desperately striving to overcome the cycle of denial that runs unchecked through the government assistance application and receipt process.

Unsure of how to continue after being denied once again – this time for failing to fill out forms properly – Juanita just sat in the DSHS (Department of Social & Health Services) lobby and watched people plod out after their own appointments with caseworkers. Applicant after applicant shuffled by muttering similar accounts: “They’re going to deny me again,” or “I didn’t turn this in in time.”

Juanita saw a pattern that was invisible when looking only at her own experience. “I listened to everyone’s story and I thought, ‘They need help.’ That’s why I started the Human Dignity Support Project.”

A system of hurdles & barriers

Many assistance program acceptance practices are bound by strict rules and policies designed to prevent abuse and fraud. More than anything, however, this system makes it incredibly difficult for those needing help to receive the benefits they are entitled to. A cycle of denial is the usual outcome – a constant refusal of services based on mundane mistakes and misunderstandings that leave applicants and recipients feeling defeated and hopeless. In addition, they experience disrespectful interactions with staff, misinformation, long wait times, and inability to contact caseworkers in understaffed offices.

“When you’ve been denied, it’s frustrating and heartbreaking,” Juanita disclosed, “because these people are trying their best, but employees don’t take the time to help them. They don’t take them aside and say, ‘Hey, you forgot to get this,’ or ‘You didn’t sign that.’ They don’t explain anything to them. They just automatically deny them and force them to start the whole process over again.”

Witnessing as an antidote to gatekeeping

HDSP is a volunteer-operated project that works to overcome the barriers of the application and receipt process by providing motivation and moral encouragement, reducing isolation, and accompanying the applicants and recipients to appointments to act as witnesses.

At an initial meeting, HDSP volunteers explain the process and go over all the necessary documentation, making sure everything needed is accounted for and signed properly so they have no reason to be denied.

“Runners” act as witnesses at the appointments by recording information and interactions that can be used later in cases of disrespectful behavior or to refute baseless denials. If applicants or recipients are denied or lose benefits, HDSP volunteers provide guidance on overcoming such barriers even if that means looking into other options.

Advocates for self-advocacy

Support extends beyond cultivating an atmosphere of respect at appointments and ensuring the participants receive assistance. “We’re here for the participants to be sure they have someone to fall back on,” Juanita emphasized. “It’s important to act as a bridge between services. My participants know there are other sources of help out there. We show them how to take the initiative and to call around even though they’ve been told by DSHS that there’s no help for them.”

HDSP encourages confidence by nurturing potential and guiding participants towards self-reliance, independence and capability. Participants learn to take an active role in their well-being, and through this process, develop a sense of dignity and self-respect.

Volunteers urge participants to use their experience and knowledge about the system by acting as witnesses for future applicants. According to Juanita, participants are eager to “keep it going.” Moreover, participants are encouraged to share their stories with legislators to make changes to the system and give back to the community.

The Human Dignity Support Project is operated by volunteers who donate their time and resources to the project. Your donations are greatly appreciated and help the project pay for office supplies, travel and other expenses.

If you are interested in getting involved or would like more information, please visit our website at www.hdsp.org, leave a voice mail with a return number at 206.388.5000, or email humandignitysp2013@gmail.com.

CANCELLED: Tenant Rights Workshop in Wallingford, 1/30/14

We apologize for the late notice, but we’ve had to cancel this workshop due to staff schedules. We hope to reschedule within the next couple of weeks and will post here when we have a new date.

RENT SMART WORKSHOP:
For current & future renters & tenant advocates

Solid Ground Tenant Services is offering another opportunity for renters, housing advocates and service providers in King County to attend a free training about tenants’ rights and responsibilities as laid out in the Washington State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.

Rent Smart Tenant Rights WorkshopsWHEN / WHERE:
Rescheduled date/location TBD

We’ll cover topics such as:

  • Understanding your rights and responsibilities as a renter
  • Finding affordable housing
  • Navigating landlord screening criteria
  • Protecting yourself from eviction & housing loss
  • Learning how to get your deposit back
  • Requesting repairs

Since we are in the middle of the legislative session from January 13 to March 13, we will also provide an update on any potential legislation that our lawmakers are considering. You can advocate by signing a letter to send to your lawmakers to support the Fair Tenant Screening Act or other legislation that benefits renters!

Whether you are a long-time renter who would like a refresher on landlord-tenant laws or a new renter who wants to know about your rights and responsibilities, we hope you will join us for the workshop! Email questions regarding the workshop or RSVP to tenantwa@solid-ground.org.

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30am and 4:30pm.

50th anniversary of War on Poverty a time to celebrate, reflect & rededicate

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson gave the State of the Union address and launched what he called the War on Poverty, stating:

Many Americans live on the outskirts of hope – some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.

“This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort. It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”

President Lyndon Baines Johnson

President Lyndon Baines Johnson

This historic call to action led to the Economic Opportunity Act, the Food Stamp Act and the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, it led to the creation of an array of federally funded programs targeting various aspects of poverty, including Community Action Programs, Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid, Community Health Centers, Pell Grants, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Job Corps, Legal Services and the Federal Work-Study Program.

Solid Ground and our forebears – the Fremont Public Association and the North Seattle Community Service Center – were formed out of the Community Action movement. We are one of 30 Community Action Agencies (CAA) in Washington State and more than 1,100 across our country, serving people living on low incomes in every state as well as Puerto Rico and the Trust Territories.

Fifty years later, we know that poverty and social and economic inequities remain an unresolved and unacceptable reality in our country – a chronic and severe problem that disproportionately impacts people of color. I recognize this reality and I also reject the claim that the war to end poverty was a failure. In the ensuing five decades, our societal problems have become much more complex and our country’s economic growth continues to benefit an increasingly smaller portion of our nation’s population.

Through the past 40 years, Solid Ground and our Washington State Community Action Partnership have helped hundreds of thousands of people living on low-incomes change their lives for the better. Once, we focused on passing out food and clothes and finding people day jobs. As the causes and attributes of poverty have become more complex, so have our services. Now we address the multiple intersections of homelessness, domestic violence, mental health, mobility, education achievement, financial literacy and asset building, access to affordable health care, food and nutrition, and institutional racism.

Through 40+ years of innovation, partnership and action, we have accomplished much, and there is obviously much more to do. Among Solid Ground’s priorities in the coming year are:

  • Representing the nonprofit community on Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee, which is charged with delivering an actionable set of recommendations for increasing the minimum wage within the City of Seattle.
  • Continuing our leadership on the Equity in Education Coalition to address the achievement gap and deliver on the promise of a quality education for all Washingtonians.
  • Work with the national learning cluster to further Financial Empowerment and Asset Building efforts for our constituents.
  • Implement Rapid Re-Housing, Trauma-Informed Care and other pilot programs as we continually seek out best practices and more successful interventions.
  • Through direct services, and in collaboration with our education and community partners, ensure that all youth served by Solid Ground are on a stable path toward post-secondary education and career success.
  • Leverage the Affordable Care Act and expanded Medicaid, in partnership with King County, to ensure that all of our residents have equitable access to quality affordable medical and dental coverage.
  • Increase and improve the ways we engage with our community, especially by involving the voices and real-life experiences of people living on low incomes in the political process and in shaping our work.

2014 is both the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty and the 40th Anniversary of Solid Ground! In 1964, President Johnson ended his State of the Union Address by saying, “I ask you now in the Congress and in the country to join with me in expressing and fulfilling that faith in working for a nation, a nation that is free from want and a world that is free from hate – a world of peace and justice, and freedom and abundance, for our time and for all time to come.” In 2014, that statement is my commitment and my ask of each of you.

Editors noteOne of the ways we will be recognizing this milestone is by providing platforms to lift up voices and stories from the struggle to overcome poverty and thrive. Soon, we will recast the Solid Ground Blog as the Story Ground, to host our stories and yours. Sign up here to have posts emailed to you, or contact Communications Director Mike Buchman to learn more about sharing your story.

Tenant Tip: Public meetings on the use of criminal records in employment

In our 6/24/13 blog post, “Seattle Jobs Assistance Ordinance bans the box,” we wrote about the Jobs Assistance Ordinance that Seattle City Council passed to regulate how conviction and arrest records are used during the hiring process.

The ordinance removes the arrest/conviction history checkbox on employment applications and requires that employers conduct an initial screening before asking about a person’s criminal record. It also requires that an employer has a legitimate business reason for denying a person based on their conviction record. (There are exemptions to the ordinance; this FAQ provides more information.)

SeaOCRlogoSince the new requirements will take effect on November 1, 2013, the Seattle Office for Civil Rights will hold several public meetings to provide information, answer questions, and gather input from the community.

To request an accommodation, please contact Brenda Anibarro at 206.684.4514 or Brenda.Anibarro@Seattle.gov.

Help spread the word to your community by sharing this flyer or blog post. Hope to see you there!

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30am and 4:30pm.

Changing lives & systems through advocacy

Advocacy has always been a central watchword for Solid Ground. Throughout our 39 years of providing for people’s basic needs, we have also addressed the political realities that create barriers for people to thrive.

Advocates in Olympia on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2013

Advocates in Olympia on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2013

The more than 50,000 people who come to us each year are the true experts on poverty in our community. Their lives revolve around the challenges of living on less in an increasingly class-divided world. Twenty five years ago, low-income communities organized across Washington State through our Fair Budget Action Campaign and the Welfare Reform Coalition. Both were instrumental in passing the Seattle Housing Levy, creating the Molar Majority to fund adult dental care, and other groundbreaking efforts that get more people to solid ground in our community.Fair Budget eventually became the Statewide Poverty Action Network, bringing together leadership from low-income communities around the state to articulate a community-based agenda and run impactful organizing campaigns. Poverty Action and allied coalitions and agencies have been instrumental in protecting lifeline benefits, passing the Foreclosure Fairness Act, grading legislators on the racial justice impact of their work, and giving previously incarcerated people, teens and other marginalized populations training and support to reclaim their political power.

This approach creates tremendous synergy. The personal becomes political as our advocacy in Olympia is strengthened by decades of direct service and the individual voices of people most impacted by policies. Case managers help identify trends and stories among program participants that seed efforts to make laws more responsive to the needs of people living on low incomes.

At Solid Ground, we believe education is foundational to a better future. In addition to our partnerships to support literacy, skill building and leadership development in Seattle/King County schools, we actively work to close the opportunity gap between wealthier white students and those with lower incomes and students of color.

Disenfranchised people – those experiencing homelessness, immigrants with limited English proficiency, and those who lack education or job experience – can all achieve their dreams if they have access to equal opportunity and resources. By bringing their testimony into the political process, Poverty Action and allies influence laws, policies and practices and set the stage for transformative, generational success.

At Solid Ground, we believe our community can move beyond poverty and oppression to a place where all people have access to quality housing, nutritious food, equal justice and opportunities to thrive. We believe strong advocacy is a vital component of interrupting generational cycles of poverty. We believe effective advocacy starts in the personal narratives of our community.

And we believe that successful advocacy secures long-term, positive changes in our society.

Undoing Racism®: Seeking our ‘growing edge’

People's Institute for Survival and Beyond logoStarting in 2001, Solid Ground began sending staff members through a transformational training created by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond called Undoing Racism® (UR). Today, all of our permanent, full-time staff are required to attend. The workshop takes place over two intensive, eight-hour days. Participants learn the history of racism in the US and reflect on how that legacy continues to play out in our society and institutions. 

The UR training also hits deeply personal chords, and each individual takes away different learnings based on our racial/ethnic and socioeconomic background, gender, age and life experiences. As human service providers, the training helps us examine the connection between racism and poverty, and identify ways we can work to remove some of the barriers people face in accessing our services and other community opportunities.

Undoing Racism & the Solid Ground community

A wide spectrum of the Solid Ground community participated in the UR workshop in December 2012, including: line staff and managers from all of Solid Ground’s various locations; a Board member who once served as an AmeriCorps Member through Solid Ground; current AmeriCorps Members who also have accessed Solid Ground services; and our agency’s two top leaders – Gordon McHenry, Jr., President & CEO, and Sandi Cutler, COSO (Chief Operating & Strategy Officer). The People’s Institute welcomes past workshop attendees to retake UR for free – so some of us were experiencing it for a second or third time, while for others, it was a first.

Roshni Sampath, Grant Writer

Roshni Sampath, Grant Writer

Grant Writer Roshni Sampath joined Solid Ground in July 2012 and was drawn to the agency, in part, because of our stated anti-racism values. This was her first UR training.

She says, “One of the nicest things about going through the training was that it felt like I was getting on the same page as other people in the organization – despite our roles and our location – and it made me really value and appreciate the need for all new staff to go through this. But what made it stronger was that returning staff were going through it – that there was a real mixed group.”

The UR training helped bring clarity, which Roshni says is “one of the hardest things to feel when trying to talk about race and analyze it. My head gets cloudy. It’s almost like I’m seeing the blueprint of a city from up top, and it’s clear, and then the clouds roll in, and I can’t remember what I just saw, even if I just saw it.”

Liz Reed Hawk, Web Administrator & Publications Specialist

Liz Reed Hawk, Web Administrator & Publications Specialist

I joined Solid Ground in 2001, and my current role is Web Administrator & Publications Specialist. As a college-educated white woman from a middle class background, the UR training gives me a basis to understand that I have access to opportunities and unearned privileges – and that these benefits affect how I walk in the world and impact those around me. UR gives me tools to begin to examine my privilege so I can attempt to use it to undo instead of reinforce oppressions.

As a part of Solid Ground’s Communications team, I need an awareness that my learned dominant culture perspective is not the end-all, be-all. I want to be held accountable for the way I communicate about our work and how I share people’s stories. I recognize the delicate balance between helping to give voice to someone who may feel disenfranchised versus “exploiting” or invading someone’s privacy in the name of telling a powerful story to benefit Solid Ground. UR has taught me to question both my own motives and how I approach my work.

Senait Brown, Community Organizer, Statewide Poverty Action Network

Senait Brown, Community Organizer, Statewide Poverty Action Network

For the past three years, Senait Brown has been a Community Organizer with the Statewide Poverty Action Network. She says, “One goal in going through these trainings is trying to reach what they call ‘your growing edge,’ the place where you feel uncomfortable,” so you can move beyond it to make change. Since this was Senait’s second time attending UR, she wasn’t sure where her growing edge would be. She hit it, she says, “…when we started talking about the organizing component of doing anti-racism work. We’re not doing organizing work if folks aren’t able to stand on their own when we’re gone.”

Senait feels we need to “stop saying that we’re going to empower somebody else; we don’t have the ability to do that. They have to empower themselves. I have to create opportunities for people to learn, to be prepared for when they’re going to organize themselves. They’re going to come to the table on their own, on their own terms.”

This lesson really hit home during the Dec. 2012 UR thanks to the active participation of two Washington Reading Corps (WRC) AmeriCorps Members who also live in Solid Ground’s permanent housing at Brettler Family Place. These confident women gave candid feedback about their experiences as Solid Ground “clients” who are now giving a year of service to the agency, and how they have struggled to assert their voices and self-determination along the way.

"Penni," a Washington Reading Corps (WRC) AmeriCorps Member

“Penni,” a Washington Reading Corps (WRC) AmeriCorps Member

“Penni” (who originally shared her story in On an upward continuum, Nov. 2011) is now in her second year as a WRC AmeriCorps Member, and has taken the UR training several times. She says, “Given the opportunity, I would retake this training every year. It offers a space to have conversations about racism in a way that challenges everyday thinking, stretches our perspectives, and builds community from a place of revolutionary love – something that I truly believe we can never have enough of.”

Penni describes what the training means from her vantage point:  “Being a white woman working in a nonprofit serving primarily students of color, and also being a white mother to two biracial children, I have to not only be aware of my whiteness [i.e. privilege], but also understand it and where it comes from, how it manifests, and what I need to do and understand about myself in order to undo those manifestations that perpetuate the cycle of racism.”

Applying Undoing Racism Principles in our day-to-day work

Mona Bayyuk, Seattle Housing Stabilization Services Case Manager

Mona Bayyuk, Seattle Housing Stabilization Services Case Manager

Originally from Jordan, Mona Bayyuk moved to the US with her family as a teenager. She was just a few days into her Case Manager position with Seattle Housing Stabilization Services when she attended UR. She says, “It was definitely a huge eye opener, because although I had attended diversity courses in both my undergrad as well as graduate studies – and discussed as well as addressed the implications of being from a minority group and the effects of racial profiling – we never addressed ‘race’ and its impact on individuals.

“As a social worker with a passion to serve those who struggle with inequality and unjust systems, it never occurred to me that I too was contributing to these systems, because as one of the trainers mentioned, in my position I play the role of a ‘Gate Keeper.’ This training is very relevant to my work at Solid Ground, because I will always serve and work with individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds who are struggling to overcome various barriers that are beyond their control and prevent them from accessing their basic human rights.”

Samantha Dyess, Apple Corps Program Supervisor

Samantha Dyess, Apple Corps Program Supervisor

For Samantha Dyess, Program Supervisor of the Apple Corps program since June 2012, “My biggest ah-ha moment was in our discussion on dissecting program implementation. I realized how we – meaning social service agencies – implement programs is racist when we don’t include the community in the decision-making process. Attending UR had a significant effect on me, both personally and professionally. All at the same time I felt angry, sad, paralyzed and motivated. But mostly I felt awakened – as if my memory had suddenly returned after years of forgetting.”

Samantha adds, “I feel that the workshop is of utmost importance to my daily work here at Solid Ground. From my personal interactions with staff and clients, to programmatic decisions, this workshop has helped me align my values and establish priorities for my program. I can now really begin to view everything my program does through an anti-racist lens.”

Roshni sums up the importance of UR Principles in simple terms. “These ideas,” she says, “we live our lives in them.” And I have to agree with her: Undoing racism is never done; it’s a lifelong process that embraces and affirms our humanity if we choose to embrace and commit to the work.

Thanks for shining light into the darkness!

Art by Rainer Waldman Adkins

Art by Rainer Waldman Adkins

The winter solstice is one of the most powerful days of the year. In this darkest moment, the cold and gray cast a heavy shadow on the realities our clients face every day. And yet, the solstice promises the return of light to our world. It rekindles hope based on the reality that life-giving energy outshines the darkest days.

It is a time that many of the world’s traditions call out for pause, reflection and re-commitment. And so, all of us at Solid Ground would like to pause to thank members of our community for your dedication to our work to overcome poverty and racism.

Together we face many dark times. But we know they are overcome by the radiant smiles of children learning to read, or digging in the soil while learning how food is grown; by the joyous gasps of parents opening doors to their new homes, and the satisfied sighs of riders reaching their destination.

Through our work and your support, we kindle light, hope and thousands of better futures. Thank you. Have a warm and safe holiday season!

Advocacy works! 2012 Legislative wrap up

Poverty Action members lobby in Olympia for foreclosure fairness

Poverty Action members lobby in Olympia for foreclosure fairness

This legislative session, Statewide Poverty Action Network members worked hard to achieve substantial wins amidst one of the most difficult political climates in recent memory. From holding the line on funding Washington State’s safety net to passing significant consumer protections, we have a full slate of accomplishments we are proud to share. This work is possible because our members took a stand against further attacks on low-income families.

This session, Poverty Action successfully passed the following consumer protection bills:

HB 1552 – Garnishment
This bill allows consumers to keep more money to live on after a wage garnishment. These new protections may allow an individual worker to keep approximately $120 more per month, providing much-needed financial relief. This new law also clarifies that pension funds will continue to be exempt from garnishment, ensuring that seniors and people living with disabilities will be able to use their pensions to meet their basic needs, even during a garnishment. HB 1552 provides much-needed updates to Washington’s garnishment laws, better reflecting the realities of struggling families.

HB 2614 – Foreclosure Prevention
Last year, Washington led the way in ensuring that families facing foreclosure would have the right to a mediation process with their lenders. The Foreclosure Fairness Act, which passed in 2011, brought homeowners, lenders and a third-party mediator together to discuss alternatives to foreclosure. HB 2614 builds on the strength of last year’s law by streamlining the mediation process and providing added protections for mediators, as well as for homeowners while they work toward saving their homes and most valuable assets.

SB 6155 – Debt Adjusters
This bill puts reasonable and fair regulations on for-profit debt adjusters (sometimes called debt settlement), helping to prevent deceptive practices that hurt families who are attempting to regain their financial stability. For-profit debt adjustment is a fringe financial service that has seen rapid growth and change over the last several years. Debt adjusters reach out to people living with debt and offer bold “miracle cures” to help eliminate their debt, but often leave families in financial ruin. Because this industry is growing fast and the impacts in our state are still widely unknown, SB 6155 includes reporting requirements to gain information on the impacts to Washington consumers.

We also stood strong and protected vital public programs:

SB 6411 – Take Back the (TANF) Box
This bill increases transparency and accountability in our state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program by allowing legislators to make decisions on how TANF is administered. Previously, the Governor’s office made all of the decisions about TANF (also called the TANF “box”), allowing the public few opportunities to provide input on the program or its funding. By moving control of the TANF box to the 149 members of the legislature, SB 6411 provides Poverty Action members 149 opportunities to influence how TANF is managed.

Defending Our Safety Net & Restoring Cuts
Last fall, we launched an aggressive campaign to maintain the integrity of our state’s safety net. Together, our advocacy, paired with real stories from our members, prevented new cuts to TANF, Disability Lifeline Medical, State Food Assistance, State Family Assistance, and the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program.

And finally, we were able to restore a 2011 cut to Working Connections Child Care. By restoring eligibility to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) from 175% FPL, we were able to bring back 1,000 subsidized childcare slots for working parents. Furthermore, the TANF large family cap was restored to the 2011 level, returning full benefits to nearly 2,000 families, including many refugee families.

These wins are a direct result of Olympia hearing from our network and could not have happened without their hard work. Thank you to all Poverty Action members for helping thousands of families across Washington State.

In Solidarity,
Your Poverty Action Network Staff
Marcy, Tony, Danielle, Senait, Kate, Julia and E.J.

For more information about the Statewide Poverty Action Network, contact us at info@povertyaction.org. Or click here to join our network!

Poverty Action members march & rally on MLK Day 2 (Presidents' Day 2012, as the MLK Day events were snowed out)

Poverty Action members march & rally on MLK Day 2 (Presidents' Day 2012, as the MLK Day events were snowed out)

Poverty Action members inspire at Lobby Day 2012

Although I have been a Statewide Poverty Action Network member for many years, I had yet to experience one of the most fun and important events they hold every year: the annual Lobby Day at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia. Traditionally held on MLK Day as a day of service, this year’s originally scheduled event was cancelled due to the Puget Sound area’s Snowpocalypse 2012 – so Poverty Action rescheduled for Presidents’ Day.

Justin & Timothy at rally, Lobby Day 2012

New and longtime Poverty Action members come together to help "Save Our Safety Net"

Lobby Day is an inspiring combination of community mobilization, education/awareness about the most pressing legislative issues currently affecting people living on low incomes in WashingtonState, and group action. As event photographer (see slideshow below), I got to experience the day in solidarity with people who had some truly moving stories to share – and I participated alongside them as we made our voices heard with our legislators.

Building momentum, setting the stage
The day started with a gathering at the Women’s Club of Olympia. The room was packed with both longtime and new Poverty Action members. Poverty Action is guided by a Board comprised mostly of people living on low incomes from around Washington State. Board member Ligia Velázquez of Lynnwood and Board Chair David Northover of the Yakama Nation co-MCed the morning’s events, which gave us all a wealth of information from Poverty Action staff and members. Ligia seamlessly interpreted in Spanish as needed to keep the large number of Spanish-speaking attendees in the loop.

Executive Director Marcy Bowers fired us up first thing with her State of the Movement Address, giving us a sense of the power of our collective voice. Then Legislative Coordinator Kate Baber gave a “Save Our Safety Net” Briefing, providing background info to help us understand the importance of saving TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and DL (Disability Lifeline) benefits.

To put a human face to how people who rely on TANF and DL will be impacted if funding for these vital programs is not restored, member Adrienne Karls graciously shared her personal story. A former medical worker who made a decent living, she lost everything to hospital bills following a bad car accident. Disability Lifeline was truly the lifeline that pulled her out of homelessness and helped her regain her dignity. She brought home the reality that any of us might someday need that safety net intact.

Throughout the morning, other individual members’ stories grounded our purpose. One young single mom described how she had to give up her job when she had a child, because after paying for childcare, she couldn’t afford rent. Thanks to TANF, she has been able to support herself and her daughter and is two months away from completing her AA degree, which will help her qualify for a living wage job.

Community Organizer Senait Brown also gave us a Racial Equity Briefing, describing how the proposed TANF/DL cuts disproportionately affect people of color. One Latina member, who had organized a large group of family and friends to attend Lobby Day, stood up and shared how people in her community are suffering from the TANF/DL cuts as well.

Finally, a performance by member James King gave everyone a chance to sit back and absorb the meaning of this information. James read an essay in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (which he had originally prepared to read on MLK Day) and then led us all in an a cappella rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”

Members Peter Zimmerman & Adrienne Karls in front of the Capitol building

Lobbying 101
Next came the beginning of the real action: We broke into groups by our legislative districts, and Campaign Manager Danielle Friedman gave us a quick and dirty training on lobbying. The Spanish-speaking members caucused as well. We shared our personal stories (or those of people we care about) around the importance of saving our safety net, and we crafted talking points to bring up when we met with lawmakers’ legislative aides. We also wrote heartfelt letters and postcards to lawmakers, to be hand delivered later.

Fueled by members’ inspiring stories (and lunch), we marched en masse toward the Capitol in our purple “Save Our Safety Net” T-shirts, stopping for a rally at Trivoli Fountain. Our numbers grew as coalition partner groups joined us from all directions, carrying banners and signs reflecting our shared priorities. Undaunted by the misty rain and soggy grass, Poverty Action members and partners danced and chanted and connected in solidarity, pumping each other up for meeting with our lawmakers.

Taking action!
The day’s events culminated in an additional short march to the sundial across from the Capitol building, and then legislative district teams set off to drop off letters and postcards at our lawmakers’ offices. Many of us had the chance to deliver our messages directly, using the power of speech and conviction, via face-to-face meetings with legislative aides.

Even though I’m very familiar with Poverty Action’s work, the impact of what they do really hit home when I met some of their newest members. One guy who had been brought to the events by a friend confessed to me in the morning that previously, he had no interest in politics. He honestly believed it wouldn’t make a difference if he voted, and despite salt and pepper hair giving away his years, he had never even registered to vote. By the end of this Lobby Day 2012, he had led chants while marching, written letters to his lawmakers, talked with a legislative aide, signed up to be a Poverty Action member – and was scrambling to find out how to register to vote as soon as possible.

 Now THAT’S showing people their voices matter. That’s Poverty Action IN ACTION. 

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The Statewide Poverty Action Network is part of Solid Ground’s Advocacy Department. Poverty Action builds grassroots power to end causes of poverty and create opportunities for everyone to prosper. They envision a state where people of all income levels fully promote and participate in building the fabric of socially, politically, and economically just communities. For more info and to get involved, visit www.povertyaction.org.

Advocacy Alert: Tell WA legislators we want a balanced approach to the budget

Editor’s Note: This report is from Solid Ground’s advocacy experts at the Statewide Poverty Action Network.

Yesterday, Governor Gregoire released an outline of how she would close the state’s $2 billion budget deficit. Her proposal deeply cuts essential services for low-income families, children, immigrants, seniors and people living with disabilities. If implemented, these cuts would eliminate public safety net programs that thousands of Washingtonians rely on to survive, cost our state thousands of jobs, and set back our economic recovery.

Contact your lawmakers and demand that they take a more balanced approach to the budget by raising revenue instead of eliminating crucial public services!

Our communities have already endured $10 billion in cuts over the past three years. At a time when safety net programs are needed more than ever, the Governor has proposed to drastically cut and eliminate healthcare coverage, dental care, housing and food assistance, subsidized childcare, and income supports for thousands of people living on low incomes. These proposed cuts come at a time when communities across the state are just beginning to feel the deep impacts of the over $4 billion in cuts still rolling out from the 2011 Legislative Session. It is unfathomable to think that our families, friends and communities can handle more cuts to vital services during the worst recession since the Great Depression.

It is irresponsible to continue to cut programs our communities depend on while Wall Street Banks profit from unfair tax breaks. In Washington State, nearly 890,000 people now live below the federal poverty line. We need to get our priorities straight: End unfair tax breaks to fund essential services and create jobs.

Legislators can do right by our state by closing unfair tax loopholes and raising needed revenue during November’s special legislative session. And if they can’t reach a two-thirds majority in the legislature, they should let the people decide with a referendum.

Tell your lawmakers to end unfair tax breaks and raise needed revenue. New budget cuts to programs people depend on are too much for families living on low incomes to bear.

Building community & creating multi-vocal spaces

Melissa Poe, anthropologist and Solid Ground supporter, shares her thoughts about why she gives to Solid Ground – and why she’s excited to attend our 10th annual Building Community Luncheon on Friday, May 6!
 
Melissa Poe
Melissa Poe, anthropologist & Solid Ground supporter

Like charitable organizations elsewhere, Solid Ground helps alleviate poverty and suffering by providing direct services to individuals and families who are struggling with economic and other types of hardship. Providing meals, housing, transportation, counseling and other emergency services to people in need is as critical now as ever.

What sets Solid Ground apart, however, is not simply its effective and ongoing delivery of food, shelter and services, but the organization’s commitment to fight root causes of social and economic injustices. You know the saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Solid Ground takes this direct service and empowerment model of charity and goes one step further by asking: Why is there hunger and poverty? Who experiences disproportionate poverty in our communities? And how can we affect change at institutional levels to end poverty?

When I give financial support to Solid Ground, I know that my small contribution is multiplied threefold by this dedicated and visionary organization.

I had the privilege of attending my first Solid Ground Building Community Luncheon in 2010. The luncheon gave me an opportunity to learn about the breadth of programming and hear moving personal stories from individuals who have received services over the years.

This year, I look forward to hearing from a local voice, Dan Savage. Mr. Savage has been a fierce, outspoken advocate for LGBTQ people and frequently raises questions about institutional injustices. As anyone who has read his relationship and sex column in The Stranger weekly newspaper knows, he can also be controversial. When thinking about the potential learning lessons that Savage’s recent “It Gets Better” project – where he takes off his columnist hat and dons a social service hat to offer hope to young people who may be facing crippling despair because of bullying and bigotry – might offer to a community of people dedicated to alleviating suffering and ending poverty, there are a couple of things I hope to reflect on.

First, community building. Over 10,000 videos have been submitted to the “It Gets Better” project. Multiply the number of videos by the number of people who produced and viewed them, and we are witnessing an enormous outreach effort to save lives and elevate happiness, potential and positivity for people, especially young queer people.

My second reflection is space. The project has created space for diverse voices to communicate their personal stories. It’s a space for creating, sharing, healing from trauma, and celebrating cross-generational and cross-cultural connections. 

Building community and creating multi-vocal spaces where people can heal, thrive, be nourished, and find home in the biggest sense of these words, is the common thread here. And it’s why I’m grateful to be able to attend Solid Ground’s annual fundraising luncheon once again.”

You can visit our Building Community Luncheon webpage to register to attend the event, or contact Megan Locatelli at meganl@solid-ground.org or 206.694.6862 for more information!

Students submit bill for civil rights education

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Editor’s Note: One of Solid Ground’s staff members forwarded this note about the efforts of her 5th grade daughter, Kate, and her classmates to further education about civil rights and social justice. Makes you proud! She writes:

“My daughter is in a group at her school which studies the Civil Rights Movement and related topics during recess and lunch, and puts on an annual assembly. Their group is sponsoring a bill to encourage instruction in the history of civil rights in the state. The bill, SB 5174, is having a hearing today (before the Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee) and they are participating by teleconference.”

Here is the letter the students sent to committee Chair Rosemary McAuliffe:

Dear Senator McAuliffe,

We are the MLK group at Madrona K-8 school in Edmonds. Our group formed in December 2009 to create an assembly for our school. Since then, our group has expanded. In learning about the Civil Rights movement, we researched Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, and we watched the movie of the Children’s march in Birmingham, AL. Then we listened to his “I Have a Dream” speech, and we wrote our own speeches and decided which ones would go into our play. Next we made a play with a news broadcast, and we shared this with the whole school at an assembly in Dr. King’s honor.

We took time outside of class to make this all happen, and we are sponsoring SB 5174 [Encouraging instruction in the history of Civil Rights].

Senator Chase introduced SB 5174 for us because we want to make sure kids know how to treat other people. We believe that people should know who changed the segregation laws in our country. We think we are lucky that we live in this time, and we have freedoms here. We think it is important to learn about places and times that don’t have the freedoms we share. If people don’t learn about the Civil Rights movement, people could take it for granted. This might lead to the same things happening again. We also learned that kids can make a difference, and we want other kids to know they can, too.

We would like a hearing for this bill and the opportunity to testify. If for some reason the hearing is at a time we can’t attend, we would like to watch it on TVW or perhaps a remote connection to the committee hearing from our school or Edmonds City Hall.

~Signed, Madrona School MLK Group, Judi MacRae, advisor,
and 32 4th through 6th graders

The bill would encourage school districts to “prepare and conduct a program at least once a year to commemorate the history of civil rights in our nation … and the importance of the fundamental principle and promise of equality in our nation’s Constitution.”

I’m in!

Seahawks tap the "I'm In" sign on their way to the field

I'm in! Seattle Seahawks players tap this sign on the way from locker room to practice field as a reminder of the commitment it takes to succeed.

At Solid Ground we talk a lot about the importance of advocacy. We work to get you involved in the political process. We lobby for funding and initiatives that strengthen our community by providing equal opportunities to people living on low incomes.

We’ve cajoled you online and in our newsletters. We phone bank you and blast emails to get you to sign petitions, send cards to the legislature and phone the Governor. And our Statewide Poverty Action Network has supported folks with low incomes around the state in claiming their political voice and building their power in Olympia.

As Solid Ground’s Communications Manager, I’ve personally reached out to thousands of you to engage you in the political system. And while I’ve made my share of phone calls to elected officials and written and signed many petitions, I need to own up to something here. I’ve never made the trip to Olympia to meet one-on-one with the people who represent me in the Washington State Legislature.

But this year, I’m in! And you need to be in, too.

We’ve all heard about the crisis in the state budget. You can bet that corporate interests will be well represented in the state capitol, protecting their slice of the pie.

Like the much maligned Seattle Seahawks, folks who care about the fate of working class people in our communities are huge underdogs. We really need to fully commit to the cause this year. We need to commit our hearts and souls, our phone calls, letters and visits, if we are to to protect the very fabric of our community— the ability to protect and provide for the most vulnerable among us. To keep our Hawks metaphor alive: We need to Always Compete and put it all out on the field, if we are to have any chance to succeed.

Poverty Action members rally on the steps of the Capitol

People power!

So, Monday, January 17, I am celebrating Martin Luther King Day by tapping the “I’m In” touchstone and joining hundreds of other people in Olympia to lobby the Washington State Legislature to strengthen our communities by:

  • Protecting people from foreclosure by implementing a foreclosure mediation process in the state. Foreclosure mediation would give homeowners an opportunity to sit down with their lender to discuss alternatives before losing their home and most valuable asset. Twenty-three other jurisdictions — state and municipalities — have some sort of mediation process to seek foreclosure alternatives. These programs have found that 60% of people participating in mediation avoid losing their homes.
  • Supporting programs that will help people with low incomes build up their assets and create opportunities to prosper.
  • Ensuring access to TANF, Disability Lifeline and other programs that help people maintain their dignity.

Join Poverty Action on the Capitol for MLK Day to advocate for the issues important to you and your community.

For more information or to reserve your spot, please contact Kate.

Transportation, breakfast & lunch, & interpretation are available. Children are welcome to join.

I’m in! Are you?

Metro passes for seniors and disabled folks cost more

(Editor’s note: The following dispatch is from the pen of Patricia Ann, who works part-time with Solid Ground’s Volunteer Resources Department and lives on a limited income.)

Today, Robin Knudsen of Solid Ground’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) asked if I knew anything about the changes in King County Metro’s reduced fare passes for seniors and disabled folks. Evidently the Regional Reduced Fare Permit was being discontinued. One of the RSVP volunteers had asked her for information, and she asked me because she knew that I have a Regional Reduced Fare Permit. I had not heard, so I went online and found out that the Monthly/Annual Reduced pass is being replaced with the PugetPass, which will cost seniors and disabled folks $27 a month.

I am fortunate because I paid $3 for the permit and $99 for a full year of monthly passes instead of paying $18 a month, which would have totaled $216 a year. I was able to get the savings because I have a job and do not depend solely on my monthly SSDI check and because I have a credit card. My Reduced Fare Permit is yearly, ending in May. So, I will not have to pay the $27 per month until April. Many of my neighbors at Jefferson Terrace, a Seattle Housing Authority high-rise, are living on very low fixed incomes of $600 to $800 in Social Security payments with no cost of living increase for the third year in a row. This change will be a real hardship for them.

While it is true that the PugetPass will cost less than many other passes, what is missing from this is an understanding of exactly how much money many seniors and disabled folks are living on. An individual living on $700 a month ($8,400 a year) will pay $27 a month ($324 a year) or 3.8% of their income for bus transportation. The increase from $5.50 a month in 2007, to $9 a month in 2008, to $18 a month in 2010, to $27 a month in 2011 is a 409% increase in three years! Fixed incomes have not been rising accordingly!

RSVP’s low-income volunteers who cannot volunteer without transportation assistance will be most affected. RSVP provides partial mileage and bus pass reimbursement to these volunteers who need it the most. This change will stretch limited program resources further, affecting the volunteers’ ability to serve agencies such as Asian Counseling Referral Services (ACRS), Port of Seattle, congregate meal programs, adult day care programs and homeless shelters.

King County Metro Public Disclosure: 206.684.1005

Online client feedback survey

“As an agency that works for social and racial equity within the community, we consistently ask ourselves, ‘Are we walking our talk?’ And if so, what do our clients say this equity looks like to them?” asks Ariana Cantu, Solid Ground’s Administrative Information Coordinator.

Client feedback survey

“Where are we succeeding and where can we improve? And how will we know we are fulfilling our mission, embodying those values of ending poverty, prejudice and neglect unless we ask those who are using our services – ‘How are we doing?’ However, to date, we have not collected client feedback in a consistent manner across our diverse programs, nor have we attempted to analyze the information received on an agency-wide basis.

“Thanks in large part to the contributions of our Anti-Racism Committee, Client Advisory Committee, and direct service staff, we have developed a new Client Feedback Survey which will be available on the Solid Ground website and will be distributed by our direct service programs. We encourage all clients to use the survey to give us their feedback on our work. This is one way Solid Ground can have a consistent feedback mechanism for all Solid Ground clients and learn directly from our clients where we are succeeding and where we can grow,” says Ariana

Here is a direct link to the survey.

OR: Go to our home page.

Look in the right navigation sidebar under the “Tell Us What You Think” header.

Click on the “Client Feedback Questionnaire” link!

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