Author: Barb Gorzinski

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.

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!

You’re Invited! Open house on Dec 9th.

Associated M2016-invitationinistries’ entire team is blessed by our amazing partners–like you!

As we complete another year of working side-by-side to meet needs in our community, we’d like to take time to celebrate with you.

We invite you to join us for some light refreshments, activities, building tours and festive holiday cheer on Friday, Dec. 9 at the Associated Ministries’ office.

We’ll be hosting a Holiday Open House between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm that day, and we’d love for you, and anyone else you’d like to invite, to come visit us. Drop in for as little or as long as you can.

Come say hello to AM Executive Director Mike Yoder and the rest of our staff and let’s enjoy some festive time together. Our celebration wouldn’t be complete without you!

Please RSVP so we can have enough food on hand, but it isn’t essential… please just come by, if even for a few minutes!

Let Michele Cotton know if you’ll be able to join us by calling her at 253-426-1507 or emailing at michelec@associatedministries.org before Dec. 8.

We’re looking forward to seeing you on the 9th!

P.S. You love cookies and punch, right? 

People of faith, now what?

now-whatThursday evening, October 27, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Bethany PresbyterianFirst United Methodist, and Tacoma College Ministry hosted a workshop led by Professor and author Dr. Jen Harvey. 

The dialogue of the evening was from a Christian perspective, around important but under-told dimensions of our civil rights story as Christians, the challenge whiteness presents for justice-loving Christians of all racial and ethnic identities, and exploring ways a shift from reconciliation to repair—a shift which is in line with the gospel of Christ—might be pursued.

You can view a recording of Dr. Harvey speaking before a Unitarian Universalist audience on this same thesis:

The workshop included small group discussions across church affiliations and closed with shared ideas about the “Now what?”–the meat of the conversation that drew so many folks out on a dark, rainy night in the middle of the week. Attendees named the collaborative work being started in their own congregations and their desire to expand in partnership with others. The host congregations promise more to come by way of notes generated by workshop attendees and references for further study and dialogue.

Here are some questions you can consider to begin a “Now what?” dialogue:

What is your congregation doing on racial justice right now?

What challenges or inspires you about repair as an alternative model or vision for racial transformation?

 

 

 

Youth homelessness program closing December 1

Associated Ministries (AM) is sad to announce that by the end of December, after 3 years in operation, the Youth Advancement & Housing (YAH) program will be closing operations of the two residences in the Graham area.

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The YAH young men’s residence.

Every year the YAH program successfully received competitive funding through Pierce County Community Connections to operate this vital program in the Bethel School District. But in addition to being competitive, funding for transitional housing programs has continued to decrease over the last 2 years in Pierce County and throughout the nation. Tough decisions were made to best manage the very limited resources that are available within the homeless system and this year YAH and several other programs did not receive the level of funding they requested.

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The YAH young women’s residence.

This news has been met with deep sadness and concern from our young adult clients still living in the YAH homes. Associated Ministries is committed to preventing all of our residents from entering homelessness following the closure of the YAH program and AM staff are working with them to find immediate housing.

We would like to extend our immense gratitude to our esteemed partner and guide, the Bethel School District, for working alongside Associated Ministries over the last 3 years, devoted to the well-being of students experiencing homelessness in their district. Thank you for helping us and the entire community understand the persistent work and heart necessary to ensure that unincorporated Pierce County has advocates and resources for the most marginalized members of their community.

We are also grateful to the Spanapark Lions, Eagle Scouts, Kiwanis Rotary Club, Key Bank, and so many more individual community members who hoped to support and connect with YAH residents. Thank you all.

Our hopes for solutions does not end with the YAH program. Associated Ministries will continue to build relationships and partner with others in the cause of ending child, youth and young adult homelessness throughout Pierce County.

Interfaith dialogue and seeking peace

Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Christian and Buddhist religious leaders met mid-September in Assisi to discuss peace, while across the ocean in New York City global political leaders assembled at the United Nations also focused on a troubled world.

And in Tacoma, Temple Beth El hosted the first meeting of a monthly Interfaith scripture study with St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Bethany Presbyterian Church and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows to consider biblical texts and the theme “Choosing and Living With Leaders.”

Uniting people of faith is an act of peace-making.

Pope Francis, at the closing ceremony of the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi said, “Our religious traditions are diverse. But our differences are not the cause of conflict and provocation, or a cold distance between us…Peace means cooperation, a concrete and active exchange with another, who is a gift and not a problem, a brother or sister with whom to build a better world.”

Our community is fortunate to have many opportunities for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, especially as congregations grapple with how to bring peace and life to a discouraged people. Some ideas:

  1. The 6th Annual Lutheran Studies Conference will take place at PLU on Thursday, September 29th.  The theme is “Free At Last: Perspectives on Racial Justice”. 
  2. Participate in your own congregation’s ecumenical, interfaith, and peace-making activities.
  3. Join the Interfaith Scripture Study Group. The next gathering will take place at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows on October 13.
  4. Join the workshop “People of Faith, Now What?” at Trinity Presbyterian on October 27 to find ways to deal with racism in our daily lives, from a Christian perspective.
  5. Attend the Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Gathering on November 22 at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
  6. Save the date for the inaugural Interfaith Women’s Conference on March 4th.
  7. Participate in the Interfaith Observance of the National Day of Prayer on May 4th
  8. Watch Associated Ministries calendar for upcoming events all around our community or share an event yourself on the AM calendar (click here to post event).

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said peace “needs a few cornerstones to uphold it even when it is endangered. There can be no peace without mutual respect and acknowledgment…There can be no peace without justice; there can be no peace without fruitful cooperation among all the peoples in the world.”

Let’s join together as friends this year, united in mutual respect and an eagerness to discover the rich faith traditions and perspectives our community holds.

Fight hunger! Pierce County Hunger Walk 2016

You are needed in the battle against hunger in our communities!

Family at FISHOne in six individuals in Pierce County is food insecure.  It’s not always obvious who in our community is experiencing hunger – your elderly neighbor, a child in your own kid’s classroom, or that friendly clerk in your favorite store.  Many members of our community are just a paycheck, a medical emergency or a change in family structure away from needing our support. 

Approximately 60,000 students in Pierce County are receiving free and reduced meals, but in the summer and during school breaks their need for nutritious and consistent food increases.

Even now our seniors are challenged with making difficult decisions about paying for medicine or purchasing food.  Seniors who may have had unforeseen medical issues lost pension during the recession and who are now on a fixed income are struggling to secure their basic needs.

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Click this button and make a commitment to solve this desperate situation. Join Associated Ministries’ 36th Annual Hunger Walk on October 2nd as a volunteer, a walker, or make a donation.

 

The event brings together churches, schools, community organizations, businesses and individuals to raise funds to fight food insecurity in Pierce County.  The funds raised go to Emergency Food Network which distributes food through food banks, meal sites, shelters and mobile food banks in Pierce County. 

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A Statement on the Tragedy in Orlando

by Mike Yoder, Executive Director

The tragedy in Orlando this week has caused us all to do a lot of grieving and soul searching. It also led me to reflect on my first address as Executive Director of Associated Ministries last fall, and recommit to my call to action that morning.

At our annual breakfast gathering I shared my passionate desire that we overcome the idea of “otherness.” Especially when it comes to people of faith, I believe we need to understand that we are always talking about “us.” More than ever we can’t afford to think of any other person of faith as “them.” But as the vitriolic dialogue shared this past week painfully points out, there is more work to be done before that view becomes a reality for some.

Ironically, the day before the Orlando shootings, AM cohosted an event titled “Religious Approaches to Peace Building” at the Tacoma Buddhist Temple. The room was packed with nearly 50 participants from a wide range of backgrounds, and an overarching theme was how much commonality there is between faith traditions when it comes to peace building. We need to shout that from the rooftops! AM will continue to seek more opportunities like this to foster interfaith understanding and engagement.

Associated Ministries was founded on a commitment to bridge theological differences by putting love into action. For 47 years we’ve worked to unite people from different faiths and backgrounds in order to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community. We’ve always believed we can tackle great needs together much better than any of us could do it alone.

People of faith are those called to love their neighbors in the most difficult circumstances, acting as agents of healing, restoration and peace-building. While it’s true that we people of faith are just ordinary individuals, now more than ever we must be committed to making an extraordinary difference in this community.

Sarah Sayeed of the Interfaith Center of New York has said: “All faith traditions share a strong commitment to justice and dignity for those who are weak, oppressed, and marginalized. This is our common ground.”

Like never before we need to stand shoulder to shoulder as people of faith and uphold our common commitment to love our neighbor as ourselves; a confused and frightened world desperately needs to find hope and inspiration by seeing this ideal boldly lived out in each of our lives.

Ending Homelessness Requires Creative Partnerships; Here’s a Truly Inspiring Example!

By Mike Yoder, Executive Director

On January 1 of this year a monumental shift was launched in Pierce County to address the crisis of homelessness. It’s obvious that homelessness has become a crisis here, underscored by the recent announcement that the number of homelessness people in our County officially increased by 37% in the past year.

But behind the tragedy of that increase is some good news: Associated Ministries has entered into a partnership with Pierce County to help design and implement a completely new homelessness coordinated entry system, based on the “housing first” approach. Once fully realized, coordinated entry will be an integral part of the new homeless crisis response system designed to end chronic homelessness in Pierce County within the next 5 to 10 years!

Mark Jiang (R) and Shelly Hu (C) with their son.

Mark Jiang (L) and Shelly Hu (C) with their son, Longfei.

An important key to enabling this new effort achieve its incredible goal of ending chronic

homelessness will be creative new partnerships with faith communities, service agencies, businesses, housing providers, and individuals.

An especially inspiring example of a creative partnership is the story of Shelly Hu and Mark Jiang, married real estate agents from Bellevue, WA. In March 2014 they bought a commercial property on Fife Street in Tacoma from the bank; their initial idea was to use the building as a senior care home. The building had been abandoned for several years and was in bad condition. They put almost all the money they had towards renovating it.

Eventually, after considerable research, the couple concluded that finalizing all their plans for the building would require more funding than they had, so they put it back on the market to sell it.

In November 2015, when they were showing the building to a potential client, Mark saw an older couple who had built a tent next to their building; he soon realized they were living there. Mark approached them and found out that the couple was homeless… and that there were at least three groups of homeless seniors in the area. He was shocked.

Back home, Mark talked to Shelly about what he found, and they had a long discussion about what to do. Their own personal journey weighed heavily on their hearts.

Back in 1993 Mark was a teacher in China when he made the decision to study abroad, moving to Canada, leaving his wife and son behind. Arriving with only $500 in his pocket, life was very hard. The family was finally reunited in 1995, but there were still many difficulties to overcome: language, jobs, education, and so much more. Fortunately Shelly and Mark met many people who befriended them and helped them through the difficult times.

One day Mark went to thank their friend Margaret, a kind senior lady who helped them when they first came to Canada. She told Mark: “You do not need to thank us. If you can, we hope you can help other people in the way you were helped!” Mark and Shelly always remembered her words, and since that time they have tried to help others through various charities and by organizing social activities.

In recalling their own journey, Mark and Shelly knew they needed to help the vulnerable seniors they met in Tacoma; they knew they could put their building to use in doing so, rather than selling it. So they started searching websites to try to figure out how to make it all work. Eventually they came across Associated Ministries and excitedly realized AM was doing exactly what they wanted to do!

Mark visited the AM office, met the team, discussed his idea, and took them to see the building. Since those initial meetings AM has helped plan, organize and cooperate in many ways to move this project forward, including teaming Mark and Shelly up with the ideal property management company. BCI Properties helped to further renovate the building to meet codes and obtain the permits needed to get the building into operation. Says Mark: “Without Associated Ministries’ help, their tremendous input and contribution, we could never have achieved all that we have today with this project. Thank you!”

Shelly shares: “We have been able to build our business and have a house, cars, jobs, and a good income. Our life has come a long way since we first moved to North America. But we know that there are still so many people who are not as fortunate as we are, who don’t have a home, or enough money for food and clothing to support themselves or their children. We realized that this is a good time for us to help those who need it. It’s time for us to contribute, work together with all people to make better neighborhoods, better societies, and a better country! This is how we knew we could help, by providing affordable housing for low income seniors so they can improve their quality of life.”

Not many of us would be able to buy a care home and renovate it to provide permanent housing for 50 vulnerable seniors, but we believe most would do something just as significant if we could. That’s the heart of the people who are called to be a part of Associated Ministries: making sacrificial investments to help achieve the vision of ending chronic homelessness in our community. Thanks for your part in making that dream a reality!

Tacoma’s Tiny Home Encampment

by Ella Banken, awesome student writer from School of the Arts

If a local group has its way, a tiny home encampment could be coming to Tacoma.

Tiny home encampments are one of the newest solutions to combating homelessness, and the idea is rapidly spreading. Tiny homes provide a more reliable, semi-permanent housing option for those experiencing homelessness. It offers a private, personal space that is exclusively for the resident and will be available to them at all times. This is a big change from other shelter systems, where it is uncertain if a bed will be available on a day-to-day basis. By having a consistent place to stay, a resident can focus on finding employment and permanent housing instead of worrying about temporary sleeping arrangements.

Project leader, Daniel Johnson, worked with homeless teens in the late 1980’s and then moved into other areas of non-profit work. Recently he was shocked to see the proliferation of tents throughout the downtown and decided to reengage this persistent problem. The tiny home encampment will be the culmination of many projects.

Tiny house project Gannett

Tiny houses being built for a village to house homeless people in Nashville (Gannett)

Johnson has decided to take the next step in combating homelessness. He plans to have an encampment of 12 tiny homes in Tacoma as early as September. Each tiny home will cost about $10,000 for construction and labor costs. According to Johnson, funding is not as big a challenge as finding a location for the 12 homes. A unique public-private partnership will be required.

 Johnson has partnered with Brett DeSantis of Brett Marlo Design Build to construct the tiny homes. Each constructed home will have a porch and a loft, allowing more space for the resident. The tiny homes will mainly be host to single people, due to the size of the house, with a mother and two small children being the maximum occupancy for one home. Johnson and DeSantis have been discussing the possibility of a tiny home encampment for several years now, and are thrilled that the project could finally happen.

The idea for the tiny home encampment stemmed from a group of dedicated people from Johnson’s church, “Next,” simply driving around Tacoma, handing out pizza and blankets to homeless individuals. This project quickly gained traction within Johnson’s community, and soon more than 70 people were contributing and delivering food and care packages to the homeless population every night. The group named themselves “The Next Movement” and they even have a social media presence, with the tag #pizzalove.

           The location of the encampment is still being determined, but he hopes to base it in a central, downtown location so that there are many opportunities available for the tiny home residents. His goal is to build a supportive and beneficial community for those who live there, by providing services like job training that will actually aid individuals in getting their lives back on track. With this new shelter model, the goal is to keep the public involved in this growing community, so that people living in the tiny homes will be integrated into the Tacoma community and are able to feel good about their living situation.

When asked about the outcomes of the project, Johnson said, “The worst thing that could happen is that people become more caring about their neighbors. The best thing that could happen is we provide housing.” With this positive insight, Tacoma is looking forward to its first (and hopefully not last) tiny home encampment.

 

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