Author: Sandy Windley

Responding to Hate

by Mike Yoder, Executive Director, Associated Ministries

Our hearts are broken by the devastating events in Charlottesville last weekend, and we mourn with you for those needlessly killed and injured. We believe we are all called to confront racism and we are encouraged when we see the best of our faith traditions stand up to help ensure that love and justice win. We are encouraged that the local faith community is coming together as a presence of peace and to stand for justice. Please let us know about any events or activities you are planning so we can share the word via our network: https://associatedministries.org/events/

Associated Ministries has met with local faith leaders over the past few months to determine together what role the faith community can play in responding to hate speech and threats of violence directed at faith communities (particularly synagogues and mosques). We are organizing an opportunity for local congregations to stand in solidarity by declaring their shared commitment to be agents of compassion and mutual support. A Statement of Compassion has been prepared that can be signed and/or read in worship services during the weekend of Sept. 22-24, which corresponds with the City of Tacoma’s Compassionate Communities observance. Please email sandyw@associatedministries.org if you’d like to receive the Compassion Weekend materials.

As an encouragement to us all, following are links to statements by faith leaders and organizations on the events in Charlottesville that were gathered by Faith Action Network. Please share others you know about with them at fan@fanwa.org.

May we all continue to do whatever we can to promote a different narrative in Pierce County, one in which people of faith stand unanimously against hatred and racism, and may it spread across our nation.

Statewide Student Homelessness Numbers are Staggering

The Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness (ICPH) has released a data snapshot analyzing student homelessness in public schools in Washington, where in the state they reside, and how they perform in school compared to their peers. It is based on data from the 2014-15 school year. This is part of a series of state-specific snapshots. The report is free to download here.

Highlights from the report:

  • There are more than 35,500 homeless students in Washington.
  • The number of homeless students increased 30% between SY 2011-12 to SY 2014-15.
  • Washington had the 8th highest number of homeless students and the 9th highest rate of student homelessness in the U.S.
  • There are 3.3 homeless children for every 100 public school students in the state.
  • Orondo and Dixie School Districts had the highest rates of homeless students in the state.
  • Seattle Public Schools, Tacoma, Spokane, and Highline had more than 1,000 homeless students each.
  • Washington’s homeless students are not achieving academically on a par with their housed peers. Bellevue School District had the largest achievement gap. In reading, 77% of all students were proficient, while just 25-29% of homeless students were proficient. In math, 75% of all students were proficient, while only 20-24% of homeless students were proficient.

There were more than 1.26 million homeless children and youth in the 2014-15 school year, across the U.S. Homelessness disproportionately impacts children and families. A quality education can be the most important tool to helping children and families lift themselves out of a recurring pattern of housing instability. To do that, however, these children must first be identified as homeless and then receive the necessary support to ensure that homelessness does not disrupt their learning. 

“We cannot afford to ignore the complex challenges faced by homeless children and their families,” says Dr. Ralph da Costa Nunez, President of ICPH. “Unless we enact common sense public policies that address the educational and economic needs of homeless families, today’s homeless children may become tomorrow’s homeless parents.”

Bahá’í Faith and Social Justice

by Karen Oleson, Bahá’í Faith Community
 
The Bahá’í community’s commitment to social and economic development is rooted in its sacred scriptures, which state that all human beings “have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.”  Social justice is of utmost importance to those of the Bahá’í faith.
   

Excerpted from a letter to a national community from the Universal House of Justice [Supreme governing body of Baha’is of the world], Apr. 2, 2010:

“…. rear children that see their own welfare as inseparable from the welfare of others”…

“…Social justice will be attained only when every member of society enjoys a relative degree of material prosperity and gives due regard to the acquisition of spiritual qualities. The solution, then, to prevailing economic difficulties is to be sought as much in the application of spiritual principles as in the implementation of scientific methods and approaches. …

Today the world is assailed by an array of destructive forces. Materialism… has now spread to every corner of the planet, breeding… a culture of consumerism. It skillfully and ingeniously promotes a habit of consumption that seeks to satisfy the basest and most selfish desires, while encouraging the expenditure of wealth so as to prolong and exacerbate social conflict…  And meanwhile, a rising tide of fundamentalism, bringing with it an exceedingly narrow understanding of religion and spirituality, continues to gather strength, threatening to engulf humanity in rigid dogmatism….

The key to resolving these social ills rests in the hands of a youthful generation convinced of the nobility of human beings; eagerly seeking a deeper understanding of the true purpose of existence; able to distinguish between divine religion and mere superstition; clear in the view of science and religion as two independent yet complementary systems of knowledge that propel human progress; conscious of and drawn to the beauty and power of unity in diversity; secure in the knowledge that real glory is to be found in service to one’s country and to the peoples of the world; and mindful that the acquisition of wealth is praiseworthy only insofar as it is attained through just means and expended for benevolent purposes, for the promotion of knowledge and toward the common good. Thus must our precious youth prepare themselves to shoulder the tremendous responsibilities that await them. And thus will they prove immune to the atmosphere of greed that surrounds them and press forward unwavering in the pursuit of their exalted goals.”

Meet AM’s Community Resource Connections Center!

by Klarissa Monteros, Program Manager

Do you know someone who is need of resources needed to come out of crisis, reach stability and work towards gaining assets?  Send them to the Community Resource Connections Center (CRCC) at Associated Ministries. This center is a one-stop-shop where people can receive multiple services.

 Services include:

  • Support with application process and costs associated with obtaining needed documents for basic employment, education and housing. Documents include but are not limited to birth certificates, identification cards, driver’s license, food handler’s cards and employment licensing (i.e. CNA or CDL license).
  • Referrals to Northwest Furniture Bank for those who may need furniture for their new homes.
  • Access to a variety of community resource connections that can help fill any areas of need. Resources can include but are not limited to DSHS benefits, food bank information, hot meal sites, legal aid, employment training programs, educational opportunities, transportation and utility support, child and youth services, and medical resources.
  • Access to the Stability and Enhancement Fund (SEF) which can provide limited financial support when someone is in need of something that the community does not provide. This is minor financial assistance, for those trying to make ends meet, to prevent one situation from having a trickling effect and leaving a person in crisis.

Anyone in the community is able to access the CRCC. Current clients of Associated Ministries can receive direct referrals from the staff person they are working with.

Individuals must meet in person with a Community Resource Connections Center Representative. CRCC is open Monday-Friday 1pm-5pm and can take walk-ins. Clients can also call 253-383-3056 ext 128 if they would like to schedule an appointment.

Foster Care Crisis – How Can Your Faith Community Help?

Nearly 8,000 children in Washington are currently in foster care, resulting in a critical need for families that can provide safe, loving homes for youth who have experienced abuse and neglect.  How can your faith community help?

Homes are urgently needed for foster children, especially:

  • sibling group of three of more
  • youth age 12 and older
  • Native American, African American, Hispanic and other children of color
  • infants to three-year-olds
  • children who need behavioral and emotional support
  • gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender children
  • children with significant medical needs

Learn how you can open your home to a child in your community.  Call 888-KIDS-414 (888-543-7414) or visit www.fosteringtogether.org.

Download flyer here.

Registration Now Open for AM’s New “Can’t Miss” Event!

It’s time for you to sign up for Pierce County’s newest and most exciting event: “AMAZING QUEST to Understand Homelessness.” Visit the AM website now for more details and registration information about Amazing Quest, which will take place in October.

Associated Ministries is excited to be hosting this unique event for the first time this fall. It’s an innovative family-friendly experience that sends members of our community on an exciting scavenger hunt-style challenge with the goal of better understanding the realities faced by those who are homeless. It will be a bit like The Amazing Race television show, with activity stations and learning challenges located at various landmarks throughout Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood.

Because there are so many misconceptions about homelessness, AM has designed Amazing Quest to educate and inspire participants of all ages by illustrating the true daily struggles of our homeless neighbors in an insightful and engaging way, while also raising funds to make a lasting impact for those in need.

The Amazing Quest will take place on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, beginning and ending at People’s Park in Tacoma. Teams of 2-8 people will sign up and visit locations around the Hilltop and participate in challenges to win points. These challenge points will be combined with points earned during a fundraising period prior to the event, with prizes awarded to the winning team. Teams can consist of families and friends, church groups, office teams, and others.

Funds raised before and during the event will benefit Associated Ministries and its work to address homelessness and empower people to live stabilized lives off the streets. Amazing Quest to Understand Homelessness is AM’s newest way of engaging our community to learn and make a difference in an impactful and memorable way.

Sacred Activism: An Interactive Workshop

  • What does it mean to live in the sacred space where our unique gifts meet the world’s needs?
  • How do spiritual practices ignite the fires of justice and love within our innermost beings?
  • In a world that seems to be falling apart at the seams, how do we determine the best use of our gifts and talents and energy?
  • What does the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible look like, feel like, sound like?
  • How do we respond rather than react to the pain of the world?

Join Vania Kent for an interactive conversation around sacred activism. This time together will include storytelling, meditation, journaling and heartfelt sharing.  Come explore your spirit and gifts and realize your potential for sharing those with the world.

Saturday, July 29th, 9:00 am – 1:30 pm
Hosted by Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation
$15 (includes light morning snack) – scholarships available

Register today!

Vania is a yogi, contemplative, and writer exploring the intersection of yoga new monasticism, feminism, and social change. She is a co-founder and co-director of Samdhana-Karana Yoga, a nonprofit healing arts center, and has over 1,000 hours of teaching experience focused on under-served populations for whom yoga is not readily accessible. She is also the spiritual director for Hab Community an ecumenical and inter-spiritual new monastic community which offers formation in radical spirituality and sacred activism.

Families Experiencing Homelessness – Walking Alongside

by Klarissa Monteros, Program Manager, Coordinated Entry Services

Associated Ministries’ Family Permanent Housing Project is an intervention that accepts families that score highest in terms of vulnerability. These families are sleeping on the streets, in their cars, or in a shelter and are living with very complex barriers. They are served under a Housing First model which means we look at every family that comes to us as “housing ready” and deserving of the very basic need of housing. This is an immediate need that must be filled first in order for families to acknowledge their own power and self-actualize into full self-sufficiency.

We walk alongside our families to get them into a rental property within the first 30 days of project entry. Once they are off the streets we provide rent assistance while the family works with a case manager on their self-identified goals i.e. education, employment, increasing natural support systems. Each family has access to community support and resources, assistance with increasing mainstream benefits, employment and education services and referrals, and other varieties of assistance as needed.

This intervention is specially designed to be strength based and family driven because when a family takes ownership of the work being done they develop a commitment to their action steps. We help families see what they do well and what strengths allowed them to survive during their desperate times so they can apply those same skills to reach their goals. They know they are not being pushed to act as someone else needs them to, but as they desire, and therefore client and worker share a transparency that allows trust needed for families to own the power to change their circumstances and the motivation to exit homelessness, return to permanent housing and sustain stability.

In the first 6 months of this year we have been honored to serve 296 adults and children in this project! We plan to continue this work and serve these families the best we can in the midst of very tough circumstances!

Community Pillar Award Goes To….

by Angela Thompson, Housing Specialist

Here at Associated Ministries we love to keep an eye out for amazing things happening in our communities and backyards. Each month a staff member brings to our attention someone who is acting as a Community Pillar by doing something great or someone who is supporting our families in unique ways.

This month the Community Pillar Award was accepted by Dan Smith on behalf of the Bates Architectural Woodworking, Cabinetmaking, and electrical Programs because of their hard work creating and building a “tiny home” under 100square feet, which will go to house up to four individuals experiencing homelessness.

This “tiny home” will provide a warm, dry and safe place to sleep while they work to find a stable long-term housing solution. The home is much more secure and habitable than other temporary options. The students and faculty involved in the project were thoughtful in the design and construction of the home in order to make the most of the space. They also added welcoming touches such as a small front porch with a flower box, sheets and cushions. The home also featured solar panels.

Multiple programs and students at Bates came together to make the project happen. We are grateful to have made the connection with Mr. Smith and hope to foster this relationship as we continue to try and meet the needs of those experiencing homelessness in our community.

The Gift of Paint Tacoma Beautiful

by Heidi Maloney, Administrator, Unity of South Sound

I run a crew of about 25 volunteers in participation with the Paint Tacoma Beautiful program. Six years ago during a staff meeting for our church, our Reverend presented the idea of partnering with Paint Tacoma Beautiful to paint a house for a homeowner in our community. Something in me lit up and said, “I would love to be a part of that!” So I started recruiting painters, and supplies every Sunday, and that July we took on our first home.  

The day before “Paint Day”, my Mother passed away unexpectedly. I was heart-broken, and questioned whether I would have the strength to run the crew. I decided to go anyway. I put on some sunglasses (as my eyes were so swollen with tears), and showed up to the house with my “brave face” on. I was met with such love and compassion from the volunteers and the homeowner. A part of me was healed that day. I was so moved, that I decided to commit to painting one house every summer in honor of my Mother.

Two years later we were given a house that was a serious challenge. It was a cedar shake house that looked like it had been picked up, moved to the desert for decades, and then moved back. It required weeks of scraping, and pressures washing before we could even paint it. The homeowner was a delightful woman, who was so incredibly appreciative of the work we were doing. Half way through the project, her Mother passed away, and she had too travel out of state to be with her family.

The day we were scheduled to paint her house, one of our volunteers had a wonderful idea to write prayers and words of encouragement on the primer, photograph them, and then paint the prayers into her house. We asked the homeowner’s permission, and she gave us her blessing. We poured our love and compassion in to her house that day. She returned the week after we finished, so I met her at the house for the “unveiling”. I presented her with a photo album of the project, including the prayers painted in to her house. She was so moved to see her home looking so beautiful. She told me that it healed a part of her broken heart. It was in that moment that I realized that the healing had come full-circle. Since then, we have made it a tradition to paint prayers into our project house every year.

I can’t say enough about the Paint Tacoma Beautiful Program. It has changed lives in countless ways. I’ve seen people filled with joy, healed from pain, and even fall in love while painting. It is a beautiful gift to our community, which we will be a part of for years to come!

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