Author: Sandy Windley

Welcome Your Neighbors

Welcome Your Neighbors
by Rev. Nancy Gowler, First Christian Church of Puyallup

No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.

It started as a simple, hand lettered sign in front of a Mennonite church in Harrisonburg, Virginia. That one message of welcome in English, Spanish and Arabic posted in a multicultural neighborhood in 2015 created a groundswell. Soon a digital design for a yard sign followed, and before long signs were being distributed as quickly as they were printed. To encourage others the congregation made the design available online for anyone to print. Now signs are appearing throughout the United States and Canada, proclaiming a message of welcome.

2017 is the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Camp Harmony, the assembly center at the Western Washington Fairgrounds where 7,390 Americans of Japanese descent from Washington and Alaska were held before being transferred to relocation camps. We in the Northwest live with the painful legacy of times when fearful distrust of neighbors held sway. One wonders whether things might have turned out differently in 1942 if people of faith had posted yard signs throughout our state proclaiming, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in English and in Japanese?

We can’t change the past, but we can create a better world now. Count our small congregation in—together, we can spread a word of welcome and compassion in our neighborhoods and throughout Pierce County.


Learn more about the movement at https://www.welcomeyourneighbors.org/.  You can print yard/window signs directly from the website or have them professionally printed.  Consider working together with your local faith community neighbors to order from your local print shop in one bulk order to reduce costs!

Associated Ministries’ Community Quarterly Meeting

Thank you to all those who were able to make it to Associated Ministries’ first Community Quarterly Meeting and to those of you who wanted to be there, but couldn’t make it.  We’ll see you next time.

Associated Ministries hosts an on-going quarterly meeting for people of faith and goodwill to continue learning about homelessness and to work together on strategies to end homelessness.

During the latest Community Quarterly Meeting, people of faith were charged with identifying projects to impact homelessness, and triumphantly, they stepped up to the plate! 

Three work groups formed and envisioned the following projects:

  • Connections Network: using social media to better connect people of faith with those experiencing homelessness.
  • Strengthen Catholic Community Services’ Family Housing Network, and
  • Explore ways people of faith can better partner with Associated Ministries.

Some GREAT ideas surfaced from some pretty amazing people!   There were a few exciting and tangible takeaways from our meeting:

  1. The Family Housing Network may have identified one more church to house five families experiencing homelessness;
  2. A church that is already participating with the Family Housing Network may be able to extend their service by one week. 

That is FOURTEEN additional nights to house FIVE families experiencing homelessness!  What a FEAT WE ACHIEVED in less than a 2 hour meeting!

Join us during our next Community Quarterly Meeting on Thursday, June 15th from 4-6pm at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 4818 East Portland Ave, Tacoma, WA 98404 as we continue this work. 

We need a lot more people in the room to create the wave needed to end homelessness, so reach out to people you know want to be involved and invite them in.

In solidarity,

Valorie Crout | Chief Program Officer

253.383.3056, ext. 108  valoriec@associatedministries.org

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.

 

Racism and Disproportionality in Homeless Services

Racism and Disproportionality in Homeless Services
by Klarissa Monteros, AM Program Manager, Diversion Services

On December 6, Pierce County Community Connections brought in Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities at the Center for Social Innovation (SPARC) to have a training and thoughtful discussion on racism and disproportionality in homeless services.  We worked together to come to a common definition of levels of racism among our conversations and explored the history of racism and disproportionality within housing.

We went into depth about homelessness being a symptom of racism dating back to racially restrictive covenants in 1917 which lasted until 1948. From 1948 all the way up until 1968 these covenants were still used except they were no longer enforced by the state they were enforced on local levels. Federal Housing Authority Red Lining was also a major contributor and this lasted from 1934 all the way until the Fair Housing Act in 1968. Since 1968 we have still had to struggle with inequities in housing because of race but the form has changed into gentrification and housing discrimination. Another aspect of racism and homelessness is the Racial Wealth Gap. To this day Median Total Net Worth and Median Home Equity differs drastically when compared by race.

 

White

Black

Hispanic

Median Total Net Worth

$214,450

$86,100

$75,860

Median Home Equity

$84,000

$50,000

$42,670

 

Some of the focus of the training was on equity and the need for housing services to be equitable and not equal.  Discussion was also had about the difference between diversity and inclusion. If an agency seeks to be fully inclusive and not just diverse there are several steps that can be taken which includes hiring practice. They suggested revamping job descriptions to include culture and language of diverse populations, have a diverse hiring committee so that candidates of all races can see people who look like them, and need for personal experience to be just as high as education or to evaluate if a degree is truly needed for the position. Associated Ministries was proud to discuss our work in becoming an Anti-Racist, Multicultural organization. We have created a taskforce and implementation plan for 2017 so that we can address Anti-Racism across the organization. We take this work very seriously and were excited to see the community come together to educate one another and talk about what anti-racism, equitable services and full inclusion looks like in our local community. We are definitely in the forefront in hiring practices and service delivery.

If you would like to learn more on your own some great educational resources are below:

Videos and Podcasts

An Unprecedented “Investment” Opportunity for Faith Communities

Associated Ministries is inviting faith communities throughout Pierce County to prayerfully consider participating in a special giving opportunity: the “Homeless No More Challenge Fund.”

Every gift made to this fund will double in impact thanks to a matching grant from the Help Us Move In organization (http://www.helpusmovein.org/home). We encourage faith leaders to present this important need to their entire congregations as a special giving opportunity during the holidays.

Throughout the years Associated Ministries has been blessed to partner with many congregations that are committed to caring for the most vulnerable in our communities and that desire to invest in creating positive change.  

Where society has failed to look after the most vulnerable among us, we are asking local faith communities to step up to provide hope for parents who cannot meet this most basic need for their children: stable shelter.

Your designated gift or special collection for the Homeless No More Fund will give many families hope for the future. United by our call to love our neighbors, together we can make a difference to help end chronic homelessness as people of faith.

Through this special fund Associated Ministries is able to assist those families with the greatest vulnerabilities, as identified by our thorough screening process. AM case managers work with each eligible family to determine the minimum amount of one-time assistance they require to successfully move into a stable home of their own.

The Homeless No More Challenge Fund allows AM to serve families with urgent or exceptional needs who would otherwise be left without options. This unique and valuable resource, funded almost entirely by local faith communities, is an inspiring example of compassion in action to serve the poorest of the poor.

Thank you for considering an investment in this vital effort this holiday season! Remember that every gift is doubled in impact thanks to the matching funds provided by Help Us Move In! To learn more or give a donation from your faith community, contact Michele Cotton in the AM office at 253-426-1507 or michelec@associatedministries.org.

AM’s Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Gathering

 Undivided in Faith

AM’s Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Gathering

Tuesday, November 22nd at 7:00 p.m.
hosted by
Bethlehem Baptist Church
4818 E. Portland Avenue | Tacoma, WA 98404

For more than a quarter of a century, this annual Thanksgiving gathering has brought together people of many faith traditions.  Join us as we come together in peace and community at Thanksgiving to explore and reflect upon gratitude and being “undivided in faith.”  Now, more than ever, it’s important for people of all faiths to come together to be one community…undivided.  Let’s pack the house!

The service will include choirs and participants from the Bahá’í, Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Center for Spiritual Living, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Sufi, and Unitarian Universalist faith traditions.

A reception and fellowship time will follow the service.

Download Bulletin Inserts Here

Thanksgiving Interfaith Choir…Back by Popular Demand!

This interfaith choir is open to all participants who would like to gather the day of the event, quickly practice and learn the song, and then sing at the Thanksgiving Gathering with friends, new and old!  Plan to arrive at 6:00 for a run-through of the song as an interfaith choir.  No need to sign up or RSVP.  Just show up the night of the event at 6:00 for a quick practice ahead of the service!

This year’s song selection is the South African Freedom Song “We Are Walking” (also known as “Siyahamba” or “Caminando”).  The song will be sung in English, Swahili, and Spanish, a quick learn for those of you that will be singing it for the first time the night of the event.  Feel free to share with members of your congregations/faith traditions that might be interested in participating in the choir.

You may listen to the song to help learn the tune and the various languages:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_am5crjgCCE.  Click here to review lyrics in all three languages. 

 

For more information please call (253) 426-1506 or email sandyw@associatedministries.org.

MultiCare Supports AM Programs

Thank you to the MultiCare Community Partnership Fund for their generous $10,000 donation.  Funding has been designated to support our Family Emergency Fund (FEF) and the Community Resource Connection Center (CRCC).  These programs provide direct assistance for unique needs to keep households stable and to pay for vital documents to help homeless households achieve permanent affordable housing.  Things that many individuals are able to take for granted become extreme barriers to households that are struggling to become stable:  funds to request a birth certificate copy in order to obtain services; assistance purchasing a required pair of work boots for a new job; access to a comprehensive resource center and use of a computer.  Without generous supporters like MultiCare, Associated Ministries would be unable to offer much-needed services like this to our community.

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