Author: Sandy Windley

Hundreds Attend Forum on “HomeFULLness”

On Saturday, April 28, the League of Women Voters of Tacoma-Pierce County partnered with several local agencies, including Associated Ministries, to host 300 members of our community at a unique forum addressing homelessness. Entitled “Facing Pierce County Homelessness: Creating HomeFULLness,” the event was designed to explore not only what is currently happening but also what else could potentially be done to address this community crisis.

A wide range of information and perspectives were provided by 47 participating speakers and moderators, including four members of the Associated Ministries staff; Raphael Hartman, Klarissa Monteros and Valorie Crout presented in the session on Racial Inequity in Homelessness, and Mike Yoder shared during a panel that addressed Coordination of Services.

Among the conclusions reached by participants at the forum:

  • The public needs education about homelessness, who is experiencing homelessness and why.
  • Increased coordination among the jurisdictions in Pierce County is needed to achieve consistent data and policies and priorities for programming and funding.
  • The gap between what is available and what is needed in affordable housing and supportive housing must be filled to address this problem. The private sector will not respond without changes to their financial and regulatory environment because affordable housing is currently not a profitable undertaking.
  • Since the cost of emergency responses to homelessness is three times the cost of providing housing, it is cost-effective to provide housing as quickly as possible.

Associated Ministries is honored to participate in these informative community gatherings, and also to do our part to continue convening those who desire to make a difference for those experiencing homelessness. Our next Community Quarterly Meeting will be held on Thursday, June 21, 5:00-7:00 pm at Shiloh Baptist Church in Tacoma; attendees at this gathering will hear important updates, learn about resources and work together to help end homelessness.  Plan now to join us!

Awards Given at AM’s Volunteer Luncheon

Keeping dreams alive.  How do we do that at AM?  Through the generosity of the hundreds of volunteers who walk alongside us.  On May 9th, we were honored to have many of the volunteers and partners who help us build stronger communities join us for our first Keeping Dreams Alive luncheon.

AM Board President Rev. Dr. Eric Jackson and Michele Cotton, AM’s Development Coordinator

The purpose of the luncheon, graciously hosted by Temple Beth El, was to award a few of the many nominated individuals and organizations that have helped us make a difference in our community.

Award winners were:

Community Partner: Gray Lumber
Gray Lumber is a company who, since 1903, has been helping people in need throughout Pierce County.  Their commitment to the community is the same today as it was four generations ago.  Thanks to their on-going support, and dedication of thousands of volunteer, over 2,200 low-income homeowners have homes that have been painted through our program, Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful.

Faith Partner: Bethlehem Baptist Church
As a faith community that exemplifies what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself”, Bethlehem Baptist Church has been a strong presence in our community. Through their work to give safe shelter to those in need, hosting interfaith events, encouraging others to come alongside the most vulnerable among us, they have continually showed how to unite people of faith to build stronger communities and are truly, keeping dreams alive for all members of Pierce County.

Melinda Huish & Karin Van Vlack

Group of the Year: Melinda Huish and Karin Van Vlack

“It won’t take too much time”…the words that brought our Group of the Year recipients, a duo, together as they co-created the inaugural Interfaith Women’s Conference, a first of its kind in Pierce County.  This gathering enabled hundreds of women from many different faith backgrounds to come together to learn about one another, come together in community, and hopefully come away with a new perspective and open heart to people of all faiths.  It is through their selfless dedication (to the tune of a couple of thousand volunteer hours) that this event was a success and has created a movement to engage more women of different faiths to come together. 

Individual of the Year: Tony Lewis
Over one thousand, seven hundred hours; that is the gift of time Tony has given in service to our community. Coming to us first as a temp at the front desk, then as an intern, he has been giving 8 hours a day, 5 days a week to help in a number of different program areas, including data services and the new Landlord Liaison Program. Through his selfless volunteer service, many more people are easily helped, finding their way to stability. 

We are grateful to these volunteers, and the hundreds of other people who give of their time and talent.  People like Jim who has been with the program since its beginning in 1985, Riki, Marty, Roy, John and many others who have donated hundreds of hours each for Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful.  Volunteers are the backbone of the program, helping with assessing homes, training new volunteers, and of course, painting themselves.  Each year it takes hundreds of volunteers to ensure that the people in need of the program can be served.

We are also grateful to our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteers including Sherri who has been a site coordinator for 20 years, Michelle, Dawn, Monyneath, and Norman who have made a difference by helping people prepare their taxes.  Through the VITA volunteers’ dedication, including the hours of training and certification by the IRS, millions of dollars that might have gone unclaimed, is helping stabilize households throughout Pierce County.

These are just a few examples of the hundreds of individuals, groups and organizations who are heroes in our eyes.  By giving of their time and talent, and following their passion for helping others, they are deeply engaged in transforming our community, and are definitely keeping dreams alive for people in need. 

Make sure to mark your calendars for Wednesday, May 8, 2019 to join us for our second annual Keeping Dreams Alive luncheon. 

 

Join Us! Annual Interfaith Iftar Dinner

Come be part of this interfaith dinner, coming together to celebrate the nightly iftar of our Muslim neighbors during the month of Ramadan. This year’s gathering will feature interfaith voices of local young people around ‘Spirituality and Social Justice.’

Download flyer here.

Interfaith Iftar Dinner
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
7:30 p.m. doors open, 8:00 – 9:30 p.m. program & dinner
University of Puget Sound
Upper Marshall Hall, Wheelock Student Center

This meal is free (provided by Pacifica Foundation), but registration is required.  Click on button below to register.

Register Here

Upper Marshall Hall is located in the Wheelock Student Center.  Guests are encouraged to park (no cost) in parking lot P1, which you can enter off of N. Alder Street at its intersection with N. 14th Street.  Please enter through the double doors facing the parking lot; Upper Marshall is just upstairs from that door.  An elevator is also available; please ask our greeters for directions upon your arrival.  Click here for UPS Campus Map – Wheelock Student Center/Upper Marshall Hall.

Co-sponsored by Pacifica Foundation, University of Puget Sound and Associated Ministries.

If you have any questions prior to the event, please feel to contact Sandy Windley at sandyw@associatedministries.org or 253-426-1506.

Community Listening Sessions on Affordable Housing

Download flyer here.

The City of Tacoma is working with its community partners to create a comprehensive action strategy addressing community needs relating to affordable housing.

To help inform this process, the City and its community partners are hosting a series of Community Listening Sessions to understand community members’ experiences surrounding this issue.

Tuesday, May 8th, 6-8pm
Peace Community Center
2106 S. Cushman Ave.
Tacoma, WA  98405

Saturday, May 12th, 4-6pm
Blix Elementary School
1302 E. 38th St.
Tacoma, WA  98404

Contact Carol Wolfe at cwolfe@cityoftacoma.org or 253-591-5384 with questions about these upcoming events.

Open to the Public: AM’s Community Resource Connections Center

by Klarissa Monteros, AM Program Manager

The Community Resource Connections Center (CRCC) is part of Associated Ministries’ Referral and Resource Department. It is overseen by the Referral and Resource Department Team Lead and is staffed by volunteers and interns. This project is a one-stop-shop where people can receive multiple services needed to come out of crisis, reach stability and work towards gaining assets.

Anyone in the community is able to access the CRCC. Current clients of Associated Ministries can receive direct referrals to CRCC from the staff person they are working with. Non-clients wishing to receive CRCC services must meet in person with a Community Resource Connections Center Representative.  CRCC is open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm and can take walk-ins. Clients can also call 253-383-3056 ext 128 if they would like to schedule an appointment.

Resource and referrals provided focus on bringing people out of crisis, reaching stability and working towards gaining assets. 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.

CRCC is based on the cascade effect model. This model suggests that sometimes there are inevitable and an unforeseen chain of events, that has a domino effect on stability, leaving people in a state of crisis. There are several community resources geared towards bringing people out of crisis but very few that provide support around keeping people stable and out of crisis. CRCC aims to be a resource support for people living through those unforeseen events.

Tiki Apartment Volunteer Opportunity / Adopt an Apartment

We are looking for a volunteer(s) to be grouped in teams of approximately 4 people to be matched with a Tiki Apartment unit needing assistance with packing and/or moving.  

If you are of able body, have access to trucks, and/or can be on an on-call basis, please take the following action:

The Process

  1.  We want to keep our tenants safe.  Fill out a very quick & easy background check via the Associated Ministries website.  https://associatedministries.org/volunteer/.  This takes less than 3 minutes and is very easy.  Information you will need to provide:
       First Name, Middle Initial, Last Name
       Maiden Name and/or any alias, if applicable
       Date of Birth (careful, many people get on automatic when filling out the form and    enter 2018)
       Gender

2.  Once the background check clears, Associated Ministries will forward your contact information to the organizers:
Wendy Engen wengen71@gmail.com
Mary Verd massagebymaryverd@gmail.com

3.  Volunteers may sign up to be matched with a team of approximately 4 to help pack and/or move. Please indicate your preference.  Packing and moving dates may be differ (based on how much needs to be packed and availability of moving vehicles.

4.  As tenants become ready for their unit to be Adopted for either packing and/or moving assistance, Wendy or Mary will reach out to you to facilitate an introduction and begin the process of setting up logistics.

Keep In Mind

Tenants are still in process of securing affordable housing, so the need unfolds in real time and can be a challenge to estimate date of volunteer need, hence requesting Volunteer On Call status.  We endeavor to work together to find suitable day/times for all involved.

Tiki Apartments are a total of 60 units.  30 units to be vacated by end of April; the other 30 vacated by end of May.  All units are in a variety of ever changing status and capturing real time needs change quickly.  Many do not have email addresses or limited phone access to communicate, but nonetheless, we move through these challenges and ask for your patience and flexibility.  

If you have read through this call to action for volunteers, thank you for caring for the vulnerable in our community.  Please join in this effort.  Your precious hours of volunteering will make the difference to someone else in need. 

Reminder:  There is power in contributing & sharing: https://www.gofundme.com/tiki-tenant-relief-fund.

If you would like to donate but not through the GoFundMe site, feel free to send a check with “Tiki” in the memo line to:
   Associated Ministries 
   901 S. 13th Street 
   Tacoma, WA 98405

Thank you for your care and contributions!  

Resources to Protect Your Faith Community

The world we live in can often be divisive, scary and unpredictable.  None of us like to think that a horrific event would happen in our neighborhood, at our schools, at our place of worship.  But they could, which is why it’s so very important to be prepared and have a plan.

FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security have put togehter a comprehensive resource list around planning, training and testing a security plan for your faith community.  To learn more, go to https://www.fema.gov/faith-resources.

Additionally, Associated Ministries has created a practical tool to enable local faith leaders to support one other during a time of crisis. Through our emergency response alert system, a text message will be sent in the rare event that a local faith community is threatened with a hate crime or violence and is asking for other communities of faith to lend support. To join the Pierce County Faith Leaders’ Emergency Response Network, text the keyword PCFAITHRESPONSE to 80123 and you will be automatically subscribed.

For more information contact Sandy at AM at (253) 426-1506 or email sandyw@associatedministries.org.

Results of 2018 Homeless Count Released

Each year, Pierce County’s Human Services Department participates in a nationwide effort to determine how many people are experiencing homelessness within each community; this effort is called the “Point-in-Time” (PIT) Count. On January 28, 2018, Pierce County conducted its annual PIT Count, a process that enables participants to talk with people and learn more about their homelessness. This year 1,628 homeless persons were counted on that one night within our County.

 

The PIT Count is a snapshot that captures the characteristics and situations of people living here without a home. The PIT Count includes both sheltered individuals (temporarily living in emergency shelters or transitional housing) and unsheltered individuals (those sleeping outside or living in places that are not meant for human habitation).

 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Washington State Department of Commerce require communities to conduct these one-day counts annually. The information is collected to design and fund programs that help people re-establish housing and access support services to keep their housing.

 

The PIT Count happens the last Friday of every January, and is carried out by volunteers who interview people and ask where they slept the night before, where their last residence was located, what may have contributed to their loss of housing, and disabilities the individual may have. It also asks how long the individual has been homeless, age and demographics, and whether the person is a veteran and/or a survivor of domestic violence. This year, more than 300 volunteers fanned out across Pierce County, talking with people in places like encampments, overnight and day shelters, meal sites, libraries, and special events like Project Homeless Connect. Perhaps you volunteered; if so, thank you very much!

 

The County made some changes to the process this year. They counted people during the early hours of the morning—from 1:00 am to 5:00 am. They included an observation count of people in encampments who preferred not to participate in a survey. And they replaced their old paper surveys with a mobile app that gave them real-time, consistent data entry. These changes resulted in a more accurate picture of homelessness in our County.

 

Like all surveys, the PIT Count has limitations. Results from the Count are influenced by the weather, by availability of overflow shelter beds, by the number of volunteers, and by the level of engagement of the people being interviewing. Comparisons from year to year should be done with those limitations in mind.

 

Please visit the County’s PIT Count website to view an infographic and presentation highlighting this year’s results, and to explore the full dataset.

Be an Advocate by Using Your “Moral Voice”

by Mike Yoder, Executive Director, AM

You’ve likely heard the old adage that rather than just giving a man a fish, it’s more valuable to teach him to fish so that he can be self-sufficient. While that certainly is the better action, something more might still be needed. If a big company is polluting the water just upstream from where our friend has been taught to fish, we will need to advocate for new laws that will keep the water clean for him.

Advocacy can be defined as any activity by an individual or group that aims to influence political, economic, social and institutional decisions. People engage in advocacy when there is a need to push for social justice or improved public services, by making a direct approach to legislators and appealing to them. The goal is to change policy or practice at a certain governmental level.

Because one person’s opinion may not carry huge weight considering representatives hear from hundreds of people, larger groups are often mobilized to present a united message; what such groups tell their representative serves as a powerful indicator of broader public opinion.

That’s traditional advocacy; but how can we as people of faith advocate by using our moral voice?

Moral voices achieve their effect mainly through education and persuasion, rather than through coercion. They exhort, admonish, and appeal to what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” They speak to the capacity for reasoned judgment and virtuous action.

Moral voices are needed in a society that increasingly threatens to become normless, self-centered, and driven by greed, special interests, and a brazen quest for power. Because this important moral realm has been neglected there is an urgent need for a movement to give moral voices their essential place once again. And communities of faith are the ideal source of moral voices.

I don’t believe we can wait any longer to speak up and express our moral concerns when it comes to issues we care about deeply. And I’m confident that people of faith are ready to be a voice for the voiceless if they are called upon to do so.

As I shared at our March Community Quarterly Meeting, during 2018 AM will begin efforts to bring people of faith together, do some training, and then start showing up at City and County Council meetings, at the local offices of our elected leaders, etc. to “exhort, admonish, and appeal” to them to listen to that still, small voice which is within each of us – and within them – calling us all to bring about justice for the vulnerable. If you’d like to explore being a part of such a group, please email us at communications@associatedministries.org.

There is much to celebrate this legislative session

There is much to celebrate this legislative session
By Rachael Myers, Executive Director of Washington Low Income Housing Alliance

(Reprinted from http://wliha.org/blog/there-much-celebrate-legislative-session)

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 the 2018 legislative session having made unprecedented and significant progress on solutions to the housing affordability and homelessness crisis in our state. 

In addition to the $107 million investment the legislature made in January in the Housing Trust Fund as part of the Biennial Capital Budget, lawmakers passed a package of seven bills that:

  • increase funding for building and preserving affordable homes
  • prevent homelessness
  • increase stability for people living on low incomes
  • and remove barriers to finding and keeping a home.

The investment the legislature has made is a giant step closer to what’s needed to actually solve this problem. We know that housing affordability is a huge problem to tackle and it takes many solutions that all work together. The legislature signaled that they understand this and prioritized passing a package of bills that, when taken together, will have a real impact.

One bill in particular passed after more than a decade of advocacy – a ban on source of income discrimination. 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. This is a huge victory for thousands of people across Washington. Families of color, single moms with children, veterans, and people with disabilities are all disproportionately impacted by source of income discrimination. Passage of this bill will help level the playing field and make affordable housing more fair equitable.

For now, here are the successes we are celebrating:

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. Finally, the bill fixes a problem created in 2014 which mandated 45% of all state dollars be used on rental assistance solely on the for-profit rental market. Now, state funded rental assistance can also be used in nonprofit housing geared toward serving people exiting homelessness who may have multiple barriers to securing for-profit housing. 

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. The mitigation fund includes important consumer protections for tenants, including prohibiting landlords from taking legal action against a tenant if they have received reimbursement from the mitigation fund. 

Preventing homelessness by expanding access to the Housing and Essential Needs Program (House Bill 2667) 
Before this bill’s passage, people with permanent disabilities and people whose primary disability is a substance use disorder were ineligible for Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) rental assistance. This causes people with disabilities to become homeless. This bill fixes that by allowing people with permanent disabilities to retain their housing assistance while they apply for federal disability benefits. 

Improving access to federal benefits by providing free access to medical records needed to appeal a denial to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs (House Bill 1239) 
People who are appealing a denial to SSI or SSDI must obtain a copy of their medical records in order to prove their disability status. Washington has the highest medical record copy fee in the country, which is prohibitive for people with low-incomes and creates a substantial barrier that prevents people from accessing federal disability benefits. This bill provides free access to those records once every two years, and will help more people access economic security.

Improving housing stability of people experiencing financial hardships by expanding access to public assistance programs by updating asset limits (House Bill 1831) 
This bill allows people to keep a greater portion of their resources and still be eligible for public assistance (like the Housing and Essential Needs and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs). It will prevent people from having to sell a reliable car that lets them get to work or to the doctor, and lets them maintain a greater amount in savings to better weather a financial emergency.

Other key policies for the building and preserving of affordable homes

Clarifying a real estate excise tax exemption for homes built with Low Income Housing Tax Credits (House bill 2444) 
Affordable homes built with federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits go through a transfer of ownership when the for-profit investor exits the partnership, usually 15 years after the homes are built. No cash is involved in this ownership transfer, but without this clarification, nonprofit organizations could be taxed on this transfer at a significant amount. This bill requires the state to continue the current practice of not charging the Real Estate Excise Tax for an additional 17 years which allows nonprofit housing providers to keep those resources for providing affordable housing and services in their communities.

Promoting the use of surplus public property for affordable homes (House Bill 2382) 
In many Washington communities, the cost of land has a significant impact on the ability to create homes affordable to people with low incomes. This is especially true in high cost areas like the Puget Sound region. This bill makes it easier to transfer underutilized public property so it can be used for affordable homes.

Thanks for being part of the movement for safe, healthy, affordable homes.

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