Community in Action – Helping a Family in Need

When Lana* came into the Rapid Rehousing program at Associated Ministries, she was struggling; pregnant and had two little girls sleeping in the car with her. She began working very hard to find housing and applied at a few different places and was denied the same amount of times. The reasons varied; her credit, her criminal record, her income, but she did not stop. The Rapid Rehousing team worked alongside her and we finally found a landlord willing to give a young mom another chance at success.

Through Rapid Rehousing, Lana received help with move in costs and from that moment on Lana was making great progress including paying 100 percent of her rent, her electric bill, getting her oldest child into school, and even working during her last month of pregnancy. She was working very hard and was making it, but she had one big concern; her home had begun to show the signs of a roach infestation. She bug-bombed the place a couple of times on her own, but was unsuccessful.

As time passed and her tries to end the infestation failed, and as her pregnancy advanced, she grew more concerned. Lana had gotten used to cleaning incessantly and watching her children around the clock to make sure that no bugs got close to them, but once she realized that her newborn baby would be exposed and in danger, the thought of staying there was becoming less a safe option. At that point Associated Ministries put out the word to the community for assistance. We needed help in preventing Lana’s housing from becoming insecure.

RAMBO Pest Control answered the call. RAMBO offered a completely pro-bono fumigation service for the entire four-plex! They got out there right away and took care of the problem, then offered a discounted monthly service that Lana was able to present to her landlord and neighbors, in hopes of keeping the homes free of bugs.

“We appreciate how RAMBO stepped up so quickly to lend a hand to a family in need”, stated AM staff member Alexis Agee-Cooper. “Their willingness to go above and beyond to ensure the entire four-plex was fumigated, was a wonderful gift to the all of the tenants and the community.”

Since then, Lana’s baby was born and the efforts of RAMBO have helped her keep her home and feel safe and secure. We are so grateful for the efforts of RAMBO who took care of a vulnerable person in need, and proved that there are many ways in which we can help end the problem of housing insecurity. They showed how we can all be a part of the solution in different ways.

*For confidentiality, the name of the client has been changed.

Free Tax Preparation

Tax season has begun! Once again, Associated Ministries, in partnership with several other local organizations, will offer FREE tax preparation services to low and moderate income taxpayers and seniors at 23 different locations in Pierce County. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.

Why get your taxes done through VITA? 

  • You will receive help from IRS certified tax preparers, and you are helping people expand their experience and resume to find jobs in the financial field. 
  • Volunteers will help eligible taxpayers claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other similar credits.  A large number of taxpayers who could qualify for the EITC do not claim the credit.
  • It’s free for low and moderate income taxpayers (incomes up to $54,000), and seniors.

Before going to a VITA site, be sure to bring:

  • Income documents such as W2s from all jobs worked, and 1099 forms for other income
  • Documentation of expenses you want to claim, such as child care expenses, home mortgage interest, higher education expenses, and charitable donations
  • Bank account information for refund direct deposit
  • Photo ID for the primary taxpayer (and spouse, if married). 
  • Social Security Cards or ITIN cards for all family members. 

Please note that VITA volunteers are unable to do tax returns for married taxpayers filing separately, or returns with some complex tax situations.

VITA sites are located throughout Pierce County.  Call 2-1-1 or visit www.VolunteerTaxHelp.org to locate a site near you.

ECF-Boeing Puget Sound Champions Client Safety

ECF-Boeing Puget SoundIn 2016, Associated Ministries received a grant of $40,000 from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound (ECF-Boeing Puget Sound) for the greater part of a multi-faceted Client Safety and Security Project. With their grant, we were immediately able to upgrade our security system and install six video surveillance cameras outside AM’s direct service center. By the end of April, we will acquire a new data-management copier with high security for client documents and we will finish installing solid-core interior doors for better protection of clients, staff and volunteers within the building.

We couldn’t take these important steps without the support from the ECF-Boeing Puget Sound!

The Hilltop Action Coalition, Hilltop business Association, 8th & I Neighbors and AM have done great work together to increase the safety of the Hilltop over the years. But throughout 2016 we had to take action again. Our staff often intervened to keep the vulnerable people who were waiting for our services from becoming targets for drug dealers and others. Our grounds were being used at night as a gathering place and dumping ground for debris.

We invited Tacoma Police Community Liaison Officers to advise us on best practices for keeping our clients safe in a neighborhood beginning to trend towards a higher crime rate again. Installing security cameras around our building was a key measure. The cameras enable us to provide actionable evidence to authorities against those preying on our clients and we can safely monitor hidden corners to stop criminal activity day or night.

Our building also needed to be more defensible against unsettling instances of violence in the Hilltop. Our flimsy interior doors are no protection against aggressive or armed intruders. ECF members on their visit to Associated Ministries readily agreed that replacing all of them with durable doors and frames was a vital step that needed to be taken.

Finally, a less visible security threat was being posed by our electronic handling of client documents. To keep our client data secure, the ECF allocated grant funds for part of the cost of a data management system. This system will allow us to scan client information directly into secure files, receive encrypted fax documents, and safeguard client identity documents.

Associated Ministries is extremely grateful for the support from ECF, an employee-owned charitable giving program managed by Boeing employees. Without question the employees who make the fund possible have a big heart for the needs of people experiencing poverty and homelessness in our community. Their generosity has afforded us ways to improve safety and security for vulnerable people coming to Associated Ministries for assistance. They have given us tools to improve our neighborhood environment and make it safer.

Thank you Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound!

The Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound, known as ECF, is an employee-owned and managed charitable giving program. Since 1951, generous Boeing employees have contributed over $600,000,000 to local Puget Sound nonprofits. ECF grants enable local Health & Human Service agencies to purchase much-needed equipment, renovate their facilities and build new construction that directly benefit their clients.

Pierce County’s Plan to End Homelessness

A Plan to End Homelessness
by Valorie Crout, Chief Program Officer

The Continuum of Care (CoC), Pierce County’s Oversight Committee for the Homeless System, is currently developing a 5-year strategic plan to end homelessness.  The overall goal will be to significantly reduce the number of households that are unsheltered or experiencing homelessness.  This effort comes with great leadership from all sectors of the community.  Leadership from local government, city and county officials, public housing authorities, homeless organizations serving all population, school districts and many more are represented at the table.  Associated Ministries’ seat represents the faith-based community.

As a faith-based agency, we are committed to see this work through and have taken on some of the responsibility outlined in the plan to end homelessness.  One of our first tasks will be to form focus groups for people of color, veterans, youth and young adults, LGBTQ, and those that are chronically homeless to assess for equity within the system.  We are committed to assuring that ALL people gain access to the same opportunities to secure and maintain housing, which is the foundation for wholeness. 

We are interdependent on one another-each person’s success will be our own.   With that said, every person of faith will have a role to end homelessness.   We are the spirit, the heart, and the voice for social justice.  As people of faith, we do NOT accept homelessness in our community! 

Together, we can do this!  I have faith!

To learn more about what homelessness like in Pierce County, please plan to attend any or all of our upcoming quarterly meetings: Thursday, March 16th 4-6pm at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 7410 South 12th Street, Tacoma, WA 98465; Thursday, June 15th 4-6pm at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 4818 East Portland Ave, Tacoma, WA 98404.

The final draft of the Plan to End Homelessness is scheduled to be completed by the end of March 2017.  We will present the plan at one of the upcoming quarterly meetings.

Connecting 4 Students Event

In 2016, over 65 members of the community came together to share resources to help students throughout the Tacoma School District.  Through a partnership of Associated Ministries, Graduate! Tacoma, Communities in Schools Tacoma, and the College Success Foundation, a speed networking event was produced to help like-minded people, over short bursts of time, connect to share resources and arrange further conversation on how to partner for the benefit of students and the community.

This year Associated Ministries is co-hosting the event on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 from 4:30 – 6:30 pm at The Swiss.  The event is free and we will be serving appetizers as community volunteers, nonprofits, businesses, public agencies and faith-based organizations come together with school district employees to share interests in a positive, comfortable and fun setting.  Pre-registration is appreciated at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/connecting4students-tickets-30180801590?aff=erelexpmlt.  For more information you can contact Wendy Morris at wendym@associatedministries.org or 253-383-3056 ext. 117.

Housing Community Pillar Award

Landlord Liaison Project Pillar Award
by Alexis Agee-Cooper, Lead Family Permanent Housing Specialist

We have the honor and privilege to present Landlord Liaison Project with our Community Pillar for the month of November.  They have been a partner in ending homelessness for years here in Pierce County.  Landlord Liaison Project “LLP” is a program that we use to assist in housing our clients.  LLP has a talent and special skill in contacting and fostering relationships with Landlords in Pierce County.

The LLP team that is the driving force behind this program are Crystal Campbell, Sunita Garrett, Kiesha Triplett and Raina Frazier.  Let me tell you from personal experience, these women are all business and are driven to provide our agencies with great landlord partnerships.   They work hard to develop those relationships for our clients.   Working with these strong, dedicated and compassionate women has been a great experience.  The compassion, care, and skill they put into this program is beyond words.  Thank you for all you do!

Q&A

Q-What has driven you to do this work and working with people who are homeless and working with them from the inside out?

Kiesha– “I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am one of those people who believe that if you can change one person, then you can make a difference in helping the masses.  Helping someone with such a basic need as shelter is super humbling experience. Once someone has a home, everything else seems to fall into place. I am honored to be able to work from the outside in and experience the emotional change from the inside out.”

Sunita– “For me it started with health care for the homeless and working directly with the homeless. I learned from being out at the camps that homelessness is a type of disease but there is a way to relieve it and being able to move forward.  From there, I went on to be a housing aid with housing first at one of the first housing 1st buildings that MDC opened up. Through that I became a housing specialist so I am basically back where I was in the beginning helping homeless people get housed, health care, and other services they need.”

Crystal –“I have a background mental health. I work at Greater Lakes as a second job. I would witness after the clients are let out back into the community and they would be on the street. So I wanted to see the other side to see what happens after they’re on the street because a lot of people who have mental health issues also experience homelessness. When I applied for a job I ended up in the rapid rehousing program and I just wanted to see things from the other side and see their successes instead of thinking about “oh they just left the facility and they’re out on the street nothing really changed in their life I didn’t really impact it” Now I can see some of the same people and I get to help them in a greater way.”

Raina-“I graduated with a Social Work degree. I did my internship helping veterans find housing so I started dealing with the homeless population. My thing is the same thing that brings me to work here every day, when I wake up. It’s  just the whole process we go through with every client is different but I know the longer the process it takes with some of the more difficult clients and getting them housed is a big celebration for us. The whole process and seeing their faces when they do move in that they have their own house and the basic needs like “I have a door to shut and I have an address”. That’s really inspiring to us to come and it allows me to come to work and be like hopefully we can get someone housed today. It’s a good feeling when we get to put our metrics together and see all the work we did and having families we got housed is really inspiring to us too.”

Q-I know we see you all as leaders in this community do you see yourselves as leaders and how so?

A-No not as a leader we see ourselves as someone who is able to help when we can and try to make sure we utilize that companionship with all of you.   

Q-So how do you see your role in the community how do you feel and what is your role in fighting homelessness?

A-We are advocates I wouldn’t say leaders if anything we help navigate and direct our client on what they need to do when looking for landlords. We can lead and direct them but it is up to them.  We are the middle piece between landlords and clients, we help them get housed but they have to want to help.

 

Join AM in Olympia – Advocate to End Homelessness – February 2nd

Every year the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance organizes “Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day,” an opportunity for our state lawmakers to hear the voices of their constituents on the pressing issues of housing affordability and ending homelessness. We invite you to join a delegation of Associated Ministries’ staff members to be part of one of the largest annual lobby events at our state capitol, to be held this year on Thursday, February 2.  Registration is $25 per person (scholarships are available). Advocacy Day includes workshops, rallies, pre-arranged meetings with your lawmakers, lunch, and more.

Every voice makes a difference at Housing and Homeless Advocacy Day; this is your chance let your lawmakers know that you care about finding solutions to the affordable housing and homelessness crisis in Washington. Experienced advocates coordinate each lawmaker meeting, but it’s the faces and stories from their district that lawmakers remember.

To learn more or to register, visit the Housing Alliance’s website at: http://wliha.org/housing-and-homelessness-advocacy-day. If you decide to attend, please contact AM after you register to let us know so we can connect with you in Olympia!  Email us at communications@associatedministries.org.

 

2016 AM Year in Review

We couldn’t wait to give you a sneak peak of our results in 2016 (This infographic covers through November). A full Impact Report with financial information will be published by the end of March. You have touched many lives in our community through your support of Associated Ministries. We’re appreciative beyond words that you’ve chosen to be on our team!

How People of Faith & Goodwill Can Address Homelessness

The crisis is real: during the past 11 months, Associated Ministries interacted with 7,212 households that were experiencing some level of housing instability in Pierce County. These are struggling families and vulnerable individuals who spent the previous night on the street, in a shelter, in a place not meant for human habitation, as well as those fleeing from domestic violence.

So what does this number mean? It represents those who have reached out to the Coordinated Entry System (CES), Pierce County’s Homeless Crisis Response System for help, and were determined to be genuinely homeless. The CES is a partnership of Associated Ministries, Catholic Community Services, Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare and Comprehensive Life Resources and is funded by Pierce County Community Connections.

What can people of faith and goodwill in our community do to address the growing challenge of homelessness? To begin, attend one of two interactive learning sessions regarding homelessness in Pierce County on Jan. 19 or 24. Participants will come away with a better understanding of this crisis and will be briefed on the assistance programs that are available, as well as the work that remains to be done.

We are grateful to Rev. Martin Yabroff of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Rev. Dr. Eric Jackson of Bethlehem Baptist Church, both members of Associated Ministries’ Board of Directors, who will host the gatherings. “I hope that as many congregations as possible will be represented to learn about the Homeless Crisis Response System,” said Rev. Yabroff.

Rev. Jackson added, “Often those who need assistance the most don’t know how to tap into the necessary resources. This is the same case with congregations and various faith institutions who seek to support those without a place to call ‘home.’ I personally invite you to attend these meetings and learn about the Homeless Crisis Response System, who should be referred and how to navigate the system. Most importantly, we’ll be better equipped to respond to our community’s homelessness crisis.” 

Two opportunities have been scheduled share an overview of homelessness in Pierce County and how the Coordinated Entry System is being designed to address it:

  • St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, hosted by Rev. Martin Yabroff at 7410 South 12th Street, Tacoma, WA 98465 on Thurs., Jan. 19th at 1-3pm.
  • Bethlehem Baptist Church, hosted by Rev. Dr. Eric Jackson at 4818 East Portland Ave, Tacoma, WA 98404 on Tues., Jan. 24th at 6-8pm.

For more information or to RSVP, please contact us at communications@associatedministries.org.

Mark Your Calendars – Upcoming Associated Ministries’ Events!

It is hard to believe that 2017 will be upon us in less than 2 weeks! As we look ahead to a new year, Associated Ministries is excited to share with you some of the upcoming events for the next year. 

MLK Reclaiming the Prophetic Vision Interfaith Service, Urban Grace Downtown Church, Sunday, January 15 | 2:30pm

Women Building Bridges of Interfaith Unity Interfaith Women’s Conference, Curtis Senior High School | Saturday, March 4 | 8:30-4:30 p.m.

Spring Gala Foss Waterway Seaport, Saturday, April 29

Interfaith Ramadan Iftar Observance, University of Puget Sound, June (day TBD)

Interfaith National Day of Prayer Service, Location TBD, May 4

Tacoma Rainier’s Baseball Interfaith Night, Cheney Stadium, July 16 | 1:35pm

For more information on all of these events and more, please check out our website at www.associatedministries.org or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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