What is driving homelessness in our communities?

What is driving homelessness in our communities?
Compiled from reports by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance

Homelessness is a Local Problem
In 2005, homelessness in Washington State began a steady decline.  This was a result of investments in homeless and housing services funded by the Homelessness Housing and Assistance Act surcharge and affordable housing built with state Housing Trust fund investments[1]. However, 2013 marked a turning point towards a new rise in homelessness. During the 2016 Point in Time count, 20,844 people were counted as experiencing homelessness across Washington State. While Washington has seen significant population growth in recent years, population growth resulting from people moving to Washington is not a significant driver of homelessness. From 2012 to 2014, there was only 2% rise in people served in our homeless system from out of state.[2] The largest population served in the state’s homeless system, over 90%[3], is Washington residents. According to data from the Department of Commerce, the vast majority of households, 84%, received homelessness services in the county where they resided before experiencing homelessness.

The Real Drivers of Homelessness

Population growth has not has a significant effect on the growing number of people experiencing homelessness in Washington. Rather, the rise in homelessness is driven by a number of factors created by an out-of-reach rental market, stagnant wages, and barriers to accessing the for-profit rental market.

  1. Affordability and Availability. Washington’s apartment vacancy rate hit a record low of 3.0% in 2016[4]. This record low vacancy rate coupled with a 6.6% increase in rent for a one-bedroom apartment between 2015 and 2016 has caused housing to become increasingly out or reach[5]. A recent study published in the Journal of Urban Affairs found that every $100 increase in rent is associated with a 6% increase in homelessness in metropolitan areas and a 32% increase in homelessness in non-metro areas, such as suburban communities[6]. Washington’s rental market places a heavy burden on households at or below 30% of Area Median Income (AMI). For every 100 households at or below 30%, there are only 29 affordable and available rental units statewide. Overall, our state has a deficit of 165,764 affordable and available units at or below 30% AMI.[7]
  1. Stagnant Wages. Although the cost of rent has dramatically increased, wages in Washington remain stagnant or, in some cases, have decreased. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, workers need to earn $18.39 an hour in order to afford a one-bedroom apartment in our state, Washington’s current minimum wage is $11.00.[8] Despite the need for wages to be increased, low income households have seen a 7% decrease in their income while median rent across Washington rapidly rises.[9] The passage of Initiative-1433 in November 2016 will help mitigate this gap by increasing Washington’s minimum wage to $13.50 per hour over the next three years.
  1. Barriers to the Rental Market. Households living on low incomes often face significant barriers that prevent them from obtaining a home, beyond the high cost of rent. In the majority of Washington, it has been legal for landlords to discriminate against tenants who pay for rent with subsidies, such as section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. Discrimination becomes more prevalent when vacancy rates are low. This form of discrimination is frequently exacerbated by other barriers to private rental housing, including the high cost of repeat tenants screening fees, rental application fees, and blanket rental bans against people with criminal records.

Steps to Reduce Homelessness and Expand Access to Affordable Housing

In this time of rising homelessness and sky-high housing costs across Washington, the state legislature has demonstrated extraordinary leadership and bipartisan support for solutions to the housing affordability and homelessness crisis across our state. On March 8 our state legislature ended its 2018 legislative session having made unprecedented and significant progress on solutions to the housing affordability and homelessness crisis in our state. 

Here are highlights of some of the key successes:

Increased funding for affordable homes and homelessness assistance

$107 million in the Biennial Capital Budget for the Housing Trust Fund. 
The Housing Trust Fund builds and preserves affordable homes. It primarily serves people with the lowest incomes and those with special needs, including people with disabilities, families with children who are homeless, seniors, youth and young adults, and veterans. This investment will create approximately 3,500 affordable homes.

House Bill 1570 helps an additional 11,500 people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness access housing assistance and services. This is funded by a $22 increase to a fee that is paid when real estate documents are filed, such as those signed to close on a new home purchase. This is the state’s primary source for funding homelessness services and is split between the state and counties so local communities can quickly address their most pressing needs. The increase will generate approximately $26 million each year to fight homelessness. Additionally, this bill removes the expiration date on the fee so that communities have a permanent and reliable source of funding to reduce homelessness.

Removing barriers to housing and preventing more people from falling into homelessness

Banning source of income discrimination (House Bill 2578) 
After more than a decade of advocacy, when this bill goes into effect, landlords will no longer be allowed to refuse to rent to someone just because they use rental or income assistance to help pay the rent. The bill also creates a mitigation fund to reimburse landlords for improvements necessary to rent to households with certain housing assistance, and provides landlords access to funds if there are damages beyond normal wear and tear.

Associated Ministries will continue to share ways that we can join with organizations like the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance to be part of the movement for safe, healthy, affordable homes… which is the ultimate solution to homelessness! Please attend our next Community Quarterly Meeting on March 22 to learn more.

[1] These investments have reduced homelessness by 17.6% since 2006 per data provided by the WA State Department of Commerce.
[2] Data provided by the Washington State Department of Commerce
[3] Ibid
[4] Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, Apartment Market Survey 2016
[5] National Low Income Housing Coalition, Out of reach Report 2016
[6] Byrne, T., E.A., and Culhane, D.P. (2013), New Perspectives on Community-Level Determinants of Homelessness. Journal of Urban Affairs, 35: 607-625. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9906.2012.00643
[7] National Low Income Housing Coalition, The Gap Report 2016
[8] Ibid
[9] Data Provided by the Washington State Department of Commerce

Community Quarterly Meeting to End Homelessness – March 22nd

On March 22 Learn if You are the Solution to Homelessness!

You’ve seen tents popping up in our community. You’ve seen single adults walking the streets trying to stay warm. You may have seen families with children sleeping in cars overnight.
You’ve seen enough!

Come to 2018’s first Community Quarterly Meeting (CQM) on Homelessness to learn what you can do to help impact this crisis in our community.

When: Thursday, March 22 from 5-7 pm (light snacks provided)

Where: Shiloh Baptist Church, 1211 South I Street, Tacoma (download flyer here)

Special guests and topics to be discussed at the March 22 meeting:

  • Representatives from the Salvation Army Family Shelter, which hosts 90-110 individuals experiencing homelessness every night, will share specific ways attendees can support the shelter.
  • We will learn how to exercise our moral voice to advocate for policies that impact homelessness.
  • Attendees will walk away with at least one specific step they can take to help end homelessness, inspired by people who are actively involved in the journey.

In 2017 Associated Ministries began convening these meetings in partnership with other Pierce County homeless and housing service providers, with the goal of creating an energizing space to gather regularly to learn about, discuss and take action on the crisis of homelessness in our community. Last year nearly 200 people representing 44 congregations attended these meetings; we need you at the table as we continue this important work in 2018.

Who should attend the meeting?

  • People of faith and good-will who have an open heart and a willing spirit to come together to learn, participate, and be involved in practical ways to address homelessness. We especially encourage attendance from those representing a specific faith community (the pastor or their appointed representative), as well as other interested individuals.

What will be achieved at the meeting?

  • Attendees will be informed and educated regarding the background, context, and challenges related to the issue of homelessness.
  • Attendees will gain a better understanding of effective interventions already underway to address homelessness.
  • We will discuss potential projects and solutions that attendees can engage in as faith communities or individuals to positively impact homelessness.

Dr. Gregory Christopher, Senior Pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, is excited to host the next meeting. He says, “Come out and join in the conversation; who knows, the best way of addressing homelessness could be within you.”

If you have any questions about the CQM, please contact Valorie Crout, Chief Program Officer for Associated Ministries at 253-426-1508 or valoriec@associatedministries.org.















Remember 1969?

That was the year that Associated Ministries (AM) was officially started as a nonprofit.  1969 was also the year of the first landing on the moon, we were watching Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on television, and we were listening to the Beatles “Abbey Road”.   At Associated Ministries, Reverend Bruce Foreman was called to be the founding “Metropolitan Minister”. Under the leadership of Rev. Foreman, the agency developed a solid organizational base and broadened its constituency to include over 100 churches. 

There have been many activities here at AM over the years including developing programs that have spun off into their own nonprofit, moving into our current building in 1988 (30 years this year!) and becoming an inclusive, interfaith agency.  We are grateful to the many individuals, faith communities and groups we have had with us over the years, and are hoping that they might have some stories to share. 

Whether you received services as a client, were a staff member, volunteered, or connected in a different way, we would like to hear from you!  Please send any stories, anecdotes and/or pictures you would like to share with other to wendym@associatedministries.org. And keep watching for more news to come about our 50th celebration events!

Meaningful Connections at the Stability Site

Please consider participating in the ‘Daily Meaningful Activities’ program with residents at the City of Tacoma’s Stability Site, an encampment for individuals experiencing homelessness. This program promotes positive community connection between residents at the Stability Site and outside community groups by working alongside one another on meaningful activities. In the past residents have been invited to help paint low-income housing, serve meals at a church’s community breakfast, and plant in a community garden. In addition to working with residents away from the site, your faith community could bring a program or activity to the Stability Site (i.e. AA group, fitness class, site clean-up alongside residents).

To learn more, please contact Catholic Community Services, Sarah Stutzke at (253) 307-2456 or sarahstu@ccsww.org.

Download flyer here.

Lenten Action for Dreamers: Congressional Call-In Campaign

Please consider participating in the Call-in Day to Congress on Monday, February 26, 2018! Your advocacy is critical to help the nearly 1.8 million Dreamers, young people who were brought into the United States by their parents as children. They may face deportation as soon as March 6, unless Congress reaches a bi-partisan deal to protect them.

Thank you Rev. Patrick McDermott of Sacred Heart Parish here in Tacoma and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for sharing this!  For those of you that are not Catholic, feel free to insert your faith community denomination/name in the third bullet point.

Please follow these easy steps to help:

  1. Please call 855-589-5698 to reach the Capitol switchboard, and press 1 to connect to your Senators. Once you are connected to each Senator’s office, please ask the person on the phone to deliver this simple message:

“I urge you to support a bipartisan, common-sense, and humane solution for Dreamers:

  • Protect Dreamers from deportation and provide them with a path to citizenship.
  • Reject proposals that undermine family immigration or protections for unaccompanied children.
  • As a Catholic, I know that families are not “chains,” but a blessing to be protected.
  • Act now to protect Dreamers, our immigrant brothers and sisters.”
  • Please call 855-589-5698 a second time to reach the Capitol switchboard again, and press 2 to connect to your Representative. Once you are connected to the Representative’s office, please ask the person on the phone to deliver the same message as above.

After completing your call, please go to justiceforimmigrants.org to learn more about Dreamers and find other ways to voice your support.

Copyright © 2018, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington DC. All rights reserved

Show up in fight against racism, is white American pastor’s plea

14 February 2018
Credit: World Council of Churches
Pictured: Rev. Seth Wispelwey; Photo Credit: Heather Wilson

Charlottesville in Virginia hit world headlines in 2017 during clashes between white supremacists and neo-Nazis who attacked protestors, including clergy, calling for the removal of a controversial statue.

The attack by the extremists in the small U.S. city led to the deaths of three people.

One of the American founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, once had his home there, but one of its parks also has a statue of General Robert E. Lee.

Lee led the side fighting to retain slavery during the 19th century Civil War, and Rev. Seth Wispelwey was one of a group of clergy and laypeople among those calling for his statue’s removal.

Wispelwey, a United Church of Christ (UCC), minister grew up in Charlottesville and moved back there several years ago with his wife and daughter.

Shortly after moving back, walking with her father one day, his daughter asked about a prominent statue in the park.

“I explained that statue was a general from the Civil War, the war related to the freeing of the slaves,” Wispelwey recalls.

“Using perfect kid logic, she said that of course he fought for freeing the slaves. I had to say, no, that he fought to maintain slavery.”

His daughter asked: “So why is there a statue of him?”

Wispelwey, directing minister of Restoration Village Arts in Charlottesville, didn’t have an answer at the time.

But from that encounter, and from others, he came to realize that a good part of the combatting racism is having the guts – both spiritual and physical – to show up.

To say something. To refuse silence. To come up with an answer.

“We have to name these things and claim these things,” says Wispelwey, recalling the way events unfolded on 12 August 2017.

He is proud and grateful for the few hundred clergy and laypeople who joined together to counter the white supremacists who marched in the usually quiet college town

But he also thinks about those who didn’t attend.

“Summer of hate”

“I wanted to impress on them the urgency of showing up,” says Wispelwey. With other clergy, he felt called to mobilize when their town needed them, publicly bearing witness during what they later called the “Summer of Hate.”

Speaking bluntly, Wispelwey says that in some ways, the haters – that is, the 500 Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville – displayed more honesty than their supposed opposition.

“They grew up in a country where, from the age of birth, you just absorb it.” It says you’re king, “by simple virtue that you’re born a white man in the USA. You’re top of the heap.”

U.S. public institutions have failed, Wispelwey says, “for not taking the systemic evil of white supremacy seriously enough. It’s sort of the fabric that knits our society together – a fabric purposely structured to maintain white supremacy.”

Now, six months later, Wispelwey terms it “a weird journey.”

Congregate Charlottesville

Congregate Charlottesville started as a group of pastors willing to “show up” and stand up against white supremacists. It has grown into a standalone nonprofit, and Wispelwey remains on its advisory board.

Congregate Charlottesville’s genesis came to Wispelwey and his friend, Rev. Brittany Caine-Conley, more than a year ago, long before the unrest on 12 August.

“We needed a mechanism for faith leaders,” he says. “I asked: what if we had a mechanism where we train people up?”

Train people to stand for peace; protest nonviolently; show up for justice.

Starting in mid-July, Congregate Charlottesville hosted training. People wanted to be ready for what was to come to their town. They knew the potential severity, and Wispelwey had trained and participated in nonviolent civil disobedience in troubled zones before.

Still, the Summer of Hate was unprecedented in Charlottesville, and preparing was shown to have been vital.

Around 70 people showed up for training each week, most of them laypeople.

“At the training, we’d do everything from singing to practical simulations,” explains Wispelwey. They also trained in how to prepare to be arrested.

Often Wispelwey is asked: did you know it was going to be so bad? “The truth is we were preparing people for violence and death. This was such a raw trust episode.”

Since that day, Charlottesville has become – for better or worse – known as “ground zero” for a fight against racism that has spread across the USA.

Congregate the nation

Wispelwey hopes to see Congregate Charlottesville’s model replicated across the country. At the same time, he acknowledges there is still significant healing needed in Charlottesville.

“We’ve all been so shocked and traumatized,” he says, “and we were in the position of building the airplane while flying.”

Requests for more information have swamped Wispelwey and his colleagues on how to create anti-racism groups for churches. “It doesn’t just have to be for urgent situations – racism is both urgent and systemic.”

As Congregate Charlottesville progresses, Wispelwey can return his attention to Restoration Village Arts, a retreat, learning and action community for artists and ministers creating resources within today’s liberation movements.

“I want to show that transformational work is possible, and already happening.”

And that is what Wispelwey and his peers created on 12 August.  “We stood together to say that God is not okay with this.”

Can we overcome systemic sin?

Every U.S. community needs to be involved in the long, hard work of overcoming the systemic sin and evil of white supremacy, Wispelwey says.

“How do we get churches mobilized in an urgent yet long-term way?”

And what does one do with the anger at white supremacists and other racists?

“I think anger is a natural and good human emotion,” says Wispelwey. “At times, I still have rage and my anger is connected to my mourning.”

Wispelwey is angry with those who hid behind insufficient excuses and did not stand up against racism.

“I heard many prominent reasons and excuses that allow for the belief that we can opt out. I was told in these long exchanges over email and through conversations that we were inciting violence by showing up.”

What will it take for the USA to change?

“It is going to take hard honesty and divestment from the lie of white supremacy and patriarchy,” says Wispelwey.

How can you help? Bring your body and risk it, Wispelwey says. “White people need to be much more honest and blunt with each other. Show up.”

Check out YOUR impact!

The headline for the impact you are making is A Future Where No Family Is Homeless in Pierce County.

Because of you, because you care about families and individuals experiencing homelessness here in our community, because you make a choice to contribute financially and with your time, as a volunteer or as a supporter advocating that more should be done.

You can access Associated Ministries’ 2016-17 Impact Report here. And you can be proud that thousands of your neighbors are being served and raised up. You are instrumental in that impact!

You’ll notice we’ve changed the format of our usual Impact Report. It’s shorter and to the point–your support does enormous good in the community. We plan on telling more of that story throughout the year, instead of in one jam-packed read.

We think it’s also important to let you know that what you’re supporting is a strengths-based approach to ending homelessness. That means we’re not just throwing money at a complex set of problems. Families and individuals possess the power to change their circumstances, and they have the motivation to return to permanent, affordable housing. And we’re walking alongside them to ease their barriers and help them build networks of support and community resources.

You may also be directly engaged in this work as a volunteer–through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful, perhaps in training to respond to the aftermath of a disaster, or in other projects that build up our community. We thank you for devoting time, and more importantly, love of neighbor, kindness, and compassion to the work we do together.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We look forward to the miraculous, creative, deeply personal ways you will continue that impact in 2018 and beyond.


Resiliency and unwavering hope in the midst of hard times

by Klarissa Monteros, Program Manager

Peter is Associated Ministries’ newest Housing Specialist working in the Rapid Re-Housing Department. Within the first month of his employment here, he met with a remarkable young couple. This couple is a perfect example of why we practice Housing First at Associated Ministries.

At AM, we believe that housing is a RIGHT not a PRIVILEGE. We firmly believe that the very basic need of housing should be met first in order to lay the foundation needed to self-actualize.

Only in their early 20’s, this couple has been sleeping outside, in their car and with their cat, for about 18 months. This is a really long time and shows how much resilience lives inside them. One of them was raised in the foster system, both are in recovery and both have been clean and sober for a couple months now! They received a referral to our Rapid Program and quickly came in to meet with Peter. This power couple worked the program the second they came in! They were in communication with us every day. Their resiliency and unwavering hope in the midst of hard times is inspiring. Within a matter of days we were able to locate a unit for them. That same day the unit passed inspection, Peter hand delivered the check for move-in costs and this amazing couple signed their lease! Their foundation is laid and we can’t wait to walk alongside this family as they continue to accomplish their goals one day at a time.

VADIS – AM’s Community Pillar Award Winner!

by Klarissa Monteros, Program Manager

We would like to take a moment to publicly thank the VADIS team for their awesome support and partnership in 2017. This partnership began in 2016 when colleagues from both agencies began sharing ideas on how we could work together to better serve clients. Today, we have a formal partnership in which Vadis accepts direct referrals from our Rapid Re-Housing project and provides employment advocacy, career exploration, resume building, interviewing skills and sometimes even clothing to help prepare folks for the job search process. Associated Ministries is proud to say that we partner with Vadis and we know that our clients are in good hands when they meet with Sandra or Serena. They are given the support they are seeking and treated with compassion and respect. This wonderful team has also walked alongside us as we piloted Renters Readiness in the first year of implementation. They help facilitate the budgeting and increasing income portion of the class. Not to mention, that they have also supported by providing food and materials. This team has went above and beyond for removing barriers that make services easier to access. We value this team of rock stars! Sandra, Serena and Kathy, thank you for being an outstanding community partner, a pillar for change, by signing on to help end homelessness!

(pic L to R: AM Staff Klarissa, Mike and Maggy; VADIS staff Kathy Hall, Sandra Iverson, Serena Thomson; AM Staff Ivette, Peter and Kelsey)


AM Staff Advocates in Our State Capital

By Kelsey Johnson, Rapid Re-Housing Specialist

Several members of the Associated Ministries staff and Board participated in the annual Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day in Olympia on Feb. 1; they went to urge lawmakers to pass bills that would provide families and individuals who are experiencing homelessness with better access to housing. The AM delegation included a Board member and our Executive Director, along with Coordinated Entry Specialists and a Rapid Re-Housing Specialist, all of whom passionately advocated for housing justice for all residents of the 25th, 27th, and 29th State Legislative Districts. Teona, a Coordinated Entry Specialist, said,

“I had the greatest experience at Advocacy Day in Olympia. To see so many people from different counties throughout Washington State advocating for people’s right to housing was amazing. Before going to this event, I never knew how much power we hold in getting votes for bills to pass. I know that I will be attending this event again to continue fighting for our rights to have housing for all our communities.”

For one of the 27th District meetings, the AM team met with State Representative Jake Fey, who provided understanding and empathy towards the personal stories of client’s struggles that we shared. At the end of the day, Associated Ministries believes housing is a right not a privilege and continues to advocate for vulnerable populations all year long, far beyond advocacy opportunities in our State capital.

For more information on the legislative priorities shared at this year’s Advocacy Day, visit the website of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance at http://wliha.org/advocacy/state

(Photo: L to R: Kelsey, Teona, Board member Martha Ward, Rep. Jake Fey, Andrea, and ED Mike Yoder)

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