Think of it as an online flash mob. Thunderclap is a free tool for posting simultaneous messages from lots of people across multiple social media accounts. Today on the podcast we highlight a few Thunderclap success stories, talk about our experiences as “crowd-speak” participants, and share ideas for organizing your own campaign.
"The Beast Inside" is one of four animated shorts produced by the Film & Family Homelessness Project. Co-director and animator Drew Christie told us that making this film helped him understand how "institutional racism, bigotry, misunderstandings and fear" contribute to homelessness.
Seattle University's Film & Family Homelessness Project worked with six Seattle-area filmmakers to produce four beautiful animated films revealing different aspects of living with poverty and homelessness. The stories were informed by families who have first-hand experience with these challenges. Developing these films was a learning process for the filmmakers, and we invited them to share lessons they came away with. Read their reflections and watch the American Refugees films.
Hannah Cheung chose this image to accompany her essay, in which she notes that children account for 39 percent of the population experiencing homelessness. Image found at change.org.
We have a winner for our Spark Change Essay Contest! Shorecrest High School student Hannah Cheung challenges stereotypes surrounding homelessness, explores some factors that contribute to homelessness, and calls on you to help raise awareness.
Susan Russell is a Real Change vendor and member of the Homeless Speakers Bureau. Image credit: Still capture from video by Anissa Amalia.
Have you heard about Real Change’s Homeless Speakers Bureau? It’s a group of homeless and formerly homeless people who speak about their personal experiences with homelessness. Speakers help educate the public, facilitate conversation, and inspire social action. Susan Russell, a Speakers Bureau member and passionate advocate, wrote this excellent post about why she speaks up about homelessness.
StoryCorps offers people the opportunity to record, share, and preserve their stories. The organization will come to the Puget Sound area this summer to record conversations about family homelessness. Photo credit: Tony Rinaldo via StoryCorps.
We know that stories can build bridges between people and drive social change. That’s why we’re thrilled to be part of the new initiative "Finding Our Way: Puget Sound Stories About Family Homelessness." This summer, StoryCorps will come to Washington to record conversations between people who have been affected by family homelessness. Read on to learn how you can participate.
Organizers of Seattle's first Hack to End Homelessness went to great lengths to make sure their event would have only positive outcomes, in the form of both tech solutions and an expanded awareness of the complexity of homelessness. And they made it easy for participants and collaborators. Because we felt the Hack was an example of organizing and community-building done right, we invited Candace Faber to write about her experience managing the initiative. She shares seven lessons she learned while pulling off a successful event.
Meg Roberts (@megchirps on Twitter) built this collage featuring scenes from the Hack to End Homelessness.
Seattle’s first-ever Hack to End Homelessness brought housing advocates and service providers together with members of the tech community to design and build solutions to homelessness. The weekend of May 2-4, more than 100 people collaborated on a dozen projects, including informative infographics, data analyses and visualizations, websites, and mobile apps. Read on for our take on the event, as well our videos featuring activist Mark Horvath.
With the right apps, smartphones can be great tools for advocacy. On today’s podcast we share some of our favorite apps, as well as a few we’re testing. Learn about apps that connect you with elected officials, jazz up your photos, make it easy to share files, and more!
The many faces of Mark Horvath and his good friend, social media, as shown in the new film @home. Original art by Haley Jo Lewis.
Equipped with a video camera, a big online following, and endless compassion, Mark Horvath documents and shares stories of people who are experiencing homelessness. The new documentary "@home" follows Mark on an 11,000-mile road trip across the United States, and introduces us to the homeless men, women, and children he connects with. Haley Jo Lewis from Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness reviews the film and invites you to its May 2 Seattle premiere.
Rep. June Robinson of the 38th District was a freshman lawmaker this year, but she's a longtime champion of policies that will help end homelessness. She gave great advice for communicating with legislators today on a conference call hosted by theWashington Low Income Housing Alliance. Don't miss our takeaways from the call!
Until recently, it was easy for organizations to reach their Facebook followers with content like status updates, links and photos. Last fall, however, Facebook changed the algorithm that determines who sees that content in their News Feeds. After we noticed a decrease in the number of people who see Firesteel's posts, we did some research and experimenting to figure out how to use the network effectively. In this podcast, we talk about about boosting Facebook engagement with and without paid advertising. We also suggest ways to expand your online presence beyond Facebook.
Host Margaret Larson interviews Whitney Keyes on New Day Northwest. Guest blogger Tiana Quitugua attended the show's taping and asked Whitney's advice for advocating on TV talk shows.
Television talk shows are an excellent way to share your advocacy message with a large audience. But how does someone get booked to appear on one? And what makes for a successful TV appearance? Tiana Quitugua from the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness set out to answer those questions and more. She attended the live taping of communication expert Whitney Keyes’s recent appearance on New Day Northwest, and asked Whitney for her top tips on talk show advocacy. Get a look behind the scenes, and learn how to tell your story on TV like a pro!
Housing advocates posted this image as their profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook to inspire their networks to take action to end homelessness. The image was designed by Stephanie Velasco of the Housing Development Consortium.
One of our policy priorities, a bill to maintain document recording fee funding for programs that are ending homelessness, had a wild ride in the legislature this year. Advocacy, both online and in-person, kept pressure on lawmakers to ensure that important services like domestic violence shelters could stay open. Here’s a look at some of the tweets, blog posts, photos, news stories and Facebook updates that made a difference.
Sideways rain soaked our clothes, and wind threatened to send our unsturdy blue plastic tent smashing into the steps of the Capitol building. Why were dozens of housing advocates huddled around a gong in that nasty weather?
With just a couple of weeks left in the state legislative session, it’s a critical time to speak up for laws that will help end homelessness. We’re highlighting how state policies affect communities across the state, and sharing simple actions you can take to ensure everybody has the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home. Today Sarah Foley from YWCA of Spokane, a new member of the Firesteel network, shares a story from her community.
At a YWCA event, Jenny shares her story of becoming homeless with her young son. Photo: YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish
Jenny had a great job as a crane operator, an apartment of her own and a healthy three-year-old son. Then she was laid off, and her family was forced to couch-surf for two years. Guest blogger Gina Yarwood tells us how Jenny got back on her feet, and shares how you can take action (in five minutes or less!) to help homeless families get the support they need.
A table filled with bright mustaches, bowties and glasses; signs with catchy captions; and a basket filled with pink Hershey’s kisses. This was Tiana's Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD) photo booth amidst the morning hustle and bustle of Seattle University’s business building.
Followers of this blog have heard about the success and fun we had with our photo booth at this year's Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day. In Olympia, we had the privilege of inviting committed housing advocates to pose for a picture displaying an advocacy message of their choice. At the same time, Seattle University student Tiana Quitugua was hosting her own photo booth on campus. She was not only asking her peers to pose for a photo, but also providing information about housing and homelessness that was new to some students. Tiana was kind to share some insights from her experience. Read on for great tips and fun photos!
When Thomas was living in a homeless shelter in Tacoma, he saved up to get an apartment. He had first and last months' rent, a deposit, and enough money for three tenant screening fees each month. An error on his screening report got him rejected by landlords time after time, though, and he spent hundreds of dollars on tenant screening reports. Thomas was stuck in the shelter months longer than he needed to be. A proposed law making its way through the legislature solves this problem by creating portable screening reports -- find out what you can do to support this solution!
“Unselfies” and photo booths make advocacy fun! We’ve seen an explosion of selfies, or self-portraits, as camera phones have become ubiquitous and people want to share photos of themselves on networks like Facebook and Instagram. Now, nonprofits have flipped the term and asked people to share unselfies -- photos of themselves advocating for a cause. In today’s Spark Change Podcast, we share our experiences with unselfies, as well as photo booths for advocacy.
High school students have a lot at stake in the journey to end homelessness. We want to share their voices. Encourage the high school students in your life to write and submit an essay about homelessness to the Spark Change Essay Contest. We'll post winning essays on the Firesteel blog!
Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day was a great opportunity to let our friends, family and other online contacts know about our advocacy efforts and encourage them to join us. To make online advocacy easy and fun, Firesteel set up a photo booth, complete with pre-made signs, dry-erase boards for those who wanted to write their own messages, and props. Hundreds of advocates took pictures, which were shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a slew of websites. Check out some of our favorite shots!
Each year, volunteers across the country fan out through their communities to count people who are sleeping outdoors. 3,117 homeless men, women and children were out in the cold in King County between 2 and 5 a.m. today.
Real Change, a homeless empowerment project and newspaper based in Seattle, organizes a "Sounding of the Gong" event the morning after the count to bring attention to the problem of homelessness. Firesteel spoke with Real Change Founding Director Tim Harris about the count results, which reflected a 14 percent increase from 2013 in the number of people sleeping outdoors. We also interviewed Rachael Myers, Executive Director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, about advocacy efforts to end homelessness in Washington state. Join Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day on Jan. 28 in Olympia to meet your legislators and encourage them to support policies that will end homelessness.
Emma Lee is a Family Advocate for YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. She believes that portable screening reports would help her clients move into permanent housing.
During a single housing search, the average prospective tenant spends more than $166 in screening fees. This can be a real challenge for low-income families. Guest blogger Emma Lee, a Family Advocate for YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, shares a story about a client whose small monthly budget was devastated by these fees, and explains why she supports the Fair Tenant Screening Act. This common-sense legislation would create a portable, standardized report that a renter could share with multiple potential landlords, eliminating the burden of paying over and over for screenings.
Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (#HHAD2014) is Jan. 28, just a couple of weeks away. Help us get the word out by participating in the Social Media Day of Action TODAY. Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about policies that will help end homelessness, and also encourage people to join us in Olympia for #HHAD2014.
Calling all twitterers and Facebook fans! Social networks are a great place to share your thoughts on housing, and to rally your friends to advocate for policies that will end homelessness. Take social media to the next level! Join our free Social Media 201 Google+ Hangout this Monday, Jan. 13.
Short videos are easy to make and share with smartphones, and they can have a big impact because of their power to create an emotional connection between viewers and people they're watching. In this podcast, we share tips for producing and distributing simple advocacy videos.
Interactive content, such as polls, quizzes and photo contests, are effective ways to increase engagement. In this podcast, we share ideas for using interactive content creation tools like SnapApp to advance advocacy.
In our very first podcast, Erin Murphy and Denise Miller of Firesteel share ideas for using Google+ Hangouts to advance advocacy. Hangouts are a very accessible way to connect people, wherever they are, and to create an archive of their video conversations.
At Firesteel, we test a lot of new media tools as we mobilize our community to advocate for an end to homelessness. The purpose of the Spark Change Podcast is to share what we've learned, and to help other advocates use these tools.
Sue's former partner seemed like a nice guy at first. When they moved in together, though, the difference was night and day. He beat her so badly that she frequented the emergency room. He completely controlled her finances, and isolated her from her friends and family so she was trapped. On this last day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, hear Sue's story, and find out what you can do to help end the cycle of abuse.
Lou Reed’s 1989 album “New York” told some harsh truths about the policies that mired families in homelessness.
On the surface, Lou Reed's "Dirty Blvd." seems like a song about extreme poverty and the hopelessness it engenders. But there’s much more to it than another sad story. Reed is railing against the policy that got those children into poverty and trapped them there. Catherine Hinrichsen from Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness remembers Reed, who died a few days ago, and reflects on the social injustices he so eloquently confronted.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we're exploring the connections between domestic violence and family homelessness. In this video, Norene Roberts, program manager at a domestic violence shelter, explains how abusers isolate their victims from their friends and family -- and how this isolation can contribute to homelessness. She also gives advice for helping a loved one who is experiencing domestic violence.
Today marks the beginning of the Week Without Violence, an initiative created by YWCA USA nearly 20 years ago to mobilize people in communities across the United States to take action against all forms of violence, wherever it occurs. Washington state Sen. Steve Hobbs has done important work to remove barriers to housing for survivors of domestic violence. In this video, Sen. Hobbs talks about the importance of the Fair Tenant Screening Act. He also invites you to join the Week Without Violence -- we hope you will!
Domestic violence isn't just physical abuse -- it can also be emotional and economic abuse. In Naomi's case, her former partner manipulated her finances and stole money from her. He isolated her from her friends and family and threatened to kill her. Though Naomi wanted to leave him, she feared retaliation. She also needed him around to help pay the bills.
In the Academy Award-winning documentary "Inocente," the featured artist talks about growing up with a physically abusive father. What many people don't know is that Inocente Izucar has also experienced domestic violence at the hands of a boyfriend. In this video, Inocente shares how she got past that relationship, and encourages others to break the silence about domestic violence.
In this video, Jennifer Quiróz, Economic Resilience Program Manager at the YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, explains how economic abuse can look in different relationships. She also shares why economic abuse is such an effective tool for trapping women in violent situations.
The cycle of abuse depends on silence. First we must name domestic violence. Then we can act to end it. Firesteel is breaking the silence. Our interactive quiz testing and building your knowledge about domestic violence in Washington state will be online and sharable throughout the month. Each week, we’ll share a new video and blog posts about domestic violence -- what it looks like, how it causes family homelessness, and how we can end it.
What’s the best way to learn about complex social issues like poverty and family homelessness?Guest blogger Lisa Gustaveson, Seattle University's Faith & Family Homelessness Program Manager, has been working with faith communities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties to answer this question. Among their strategies is a simulation exercise. Read on to learn how Poverty Immersion Workshops can help people more deeply understand and take action to stop the cycle of generational poverty and homelessness.
Guest blogger Winta Kassaye's family immigrated to Seattle from Ethiopia. Their immigration story has turned out well, but Winta notes that some people struggle and experience homelessness after coming to the United States. In this family photo, Winta is second from right.
High school student Winta and her family came to the United States from Ethiopia about eight years ago. While they had a relatively easy transition, some of their friends who are also immigrants have struggled to make ends meet and experienced homelessness. Winta shares her friend Martin's story as well as her own in this guest post.
Brandy Sincyr experienced homelessness throughout her high school years, and now advocates on behalf of homeless youth. Photo courtesy Brandy Sincyr.
At age 14, Brandy Sincyr, along with her mother and sister, escaped an abusive stepfather and found herself bouncing between shelters and temporary living arrangements. Despite the many challenges of not knowing where she would sleep each night, Brandy graduated from high school -- and then went on to earn a political science degree from Seattle Pacific University in June. Now she's leveraging her own experience to advocate on behalf of the more than 27,000 homeless students in Washington state. Read Brandy's story in the final post of our "Back to School" series on student homelessness.
A YouthCare client works toward his GED. High school completion and GED programs designed for homeless youth must focus on individual students' needs and goals. Photo courtesy YouthCare.
27,390. We've been sharing that number a lot this week because it's how many students in Washington state have been identified as homeless. What that number doesn't include is the thousands of young people who have left the school system because of homelessness. If they never find their way back to school, they are likely to become trapped in the cycle of poverty and homelessness. Melinda Giovengo, YouthCare's executive director, writes today's guest post about how flexible high school completion and GED programs can help homeless young people find a path to post-secondary education and successful careers.
Thousands of parents across the state are sending children back to school this week. One in 38 of those students are homeless.
Over the next several days, as young people across the state settle into their classrooms, we’re exploring the issue of student homelessness. In Washington state, more than 27,000 students are homeless. Some live in cars; others couch-surf or sleep in motels or shelters. Fortunately, all homeless students have rights under a federal law called the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act. Today we'll share the story of a teenager whose family lost their home, and list resources for helping homeless students exercise their rights.
Today's featured advocate, Terry Belcoe, works toward ensuring that all children in his community have their basic needs, like a safe home and nutritious food, so they can reach their potential and break the cycle of poverty. Read about what motivates Terry's advocacy work, and find out what he argues to people who believe it's not their responsibility to “foot the bill” for someone else’s housing.
Seattle native Janice Tufte has been advocating on behalf of people living in poverty for over a decade.
“Your voices form the laws.” This is Janice Tufte’s motto, and she works to prove its truth through her housing advocacy efforts. Read about how Janice has catalyzed positive change and raised awareness about housing and homelessness issues through the Islamic Civic Engagement Project and her other volunteer efforts. You’re guaranteed to feel inspired!
The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance's new Emerging Advocates Program builds on the organization's strong history of supporting housing advocacy. In this photo, advocates rally at the state capitol at the Housing Alliance's Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day on Feb. 11, 2013. Image credit: Washington Low Income Housing Alliance
At Firesteel, we believe that making your voice heard can spark change that will help end homelessness. The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is a statewide leader in connecting community members who want to speak up with opportunities to make a difference. We're very excited about the Housing Alliance's new program focused on empowering people who have experienced homelessness or housing insecurity to share their stories and have a positive influence on budget and policy decisions. Guest blogger Alouise Urness explains the motivation for the program in today's post.
The number of women veterans is on the rise in the U.S. While some adjust well to civilian life, others struggle with a variety of barriers. This "From Soldier to Civilian" blog series will share veterans' experiences and explore the challenges that veterans, particularly women veterans, experience. Image credit: Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs
Many veterans experience barriers transitioning into civilian life, and some become homeless. Between now and Veterans Day, November 11, our “From Soldier to Civilian” blog series will examine barriers that veterans, and women veterans in particular, face as they re-enter civilian society. We’ll also share suggestions from experts – veterans themselves – on making the transition easier. Today we introduce you to Leanna, an Air Force veteran and single mom who struggles financially, in part because of the high cost of childcare.
In this promotional poster for “American Winter,” you see single mom Jeannette and her son Gunner, a Portland, Oregon family profiled in the documentary film. After Jeannette suddenly loses her husband, and Gunner his father, they end up homeless.
For those of us who feel securely middle class, the idea that a family would retrieve water from a bucket in the backyard, or that parents would go without food so that their children could eat, is unthinkable. That might be a reality for “other people,” maybe in other countries, separated from us by the insulation and distance provided by money. Unfortunately, many members of our community know what it is to live with reminders of the American Dream and signs of affluence all around, yet feel that they are living in a separate America. In this America, hunger is normal, poverty is real, and joblessness feels permanent. Perry Firth reflects on this reality, portrayed in the documentary film "American Winter," in this latest post in our Culture Watch blog series.
After Alice was laid off, she and her three young children were forced to live with friends and family. Moving from place to place was tough on the family; one year, the oldest child attended four different schools in two different states. Alice's family eventually found a stable, affordable home built with the support of the Housing Trust Fund. This fund, along with the state’s social safety net, is in danger as our lawmakers negotiate a budget. Your advocacy is more important than ever -- learn easy ways you can speak up and help keep families like Alice's in safe, affordable homes.
An expert panel of community members who have experienced homelessness spoke at the Conference on Ending Homelessness. Photo credit: Janice Tufte.
The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance's excellent 2013 Conference on Ending Homelessness featured many of the speakers you'd expect -- direct service providers, policy wonks, elected officials, and leading advocates. But organizers also offered a panel discussion by experts we don't see often enough at these types of gatherings: people who have experienced homelessness themselves. They are, of course, voices we should be listening to as we advocate for an end to homelessness, and we commend the Housing Alliance for including their perspectives. We recorded a couple of their stories, and we've included videos of Mindy and David.
Featured advocate Norene Roberts has worked as a social services provider for over a decade.
What's the first step you should take when you advocate for an end to homelessness? Listen. "Advocating for any person or group first requires that you know what it is that that person or group wants and needs – not what we think they want and need – and that requires opening your ears before your mouth," says Norene Roberts, program manager at The Salvation Army’s Catherine Booth House, a domestic violence shelter for women and children. Norene shares her thoughts on advocating for housing stability in this installment of our "I'm An Advocate" series.
Monica and her eight-year-old son Eric are grateful that the Housing Trust Fund helped build their safe, affordable community. Two years ago, they were on the verge of homelessness. Photo credit: Degale Cooper.
Right now our state lawmakers are making important decisions about investment in the Housing Trust Fund. Their budget decisions will have life-altering effects on people statewide. Through our "Policy Matters" blog series, we’re introducing you to community members who are directly impacted by state housing policies. Monica, a single mother who was on the edge of homelessness but found stability at a community built by the Housing Fund, shares her story in today’s post. Read Monica’s story and find out how you can advocate for a budget that invests in families and communities.
On Monday state lawmakers started a special session to work toward a budget agreement. Their decisions about investment in social safety-net services for the disabled and the Housing Trust Fundwill affect community members across the state. Our "Policy Matters" blog series introduces you to people whose lives are directly impacted by state housing policies. Today we share the story of Ron, a single father who lives at YWCA Family Village at Issaquah. Ron's community, along with many other safe, affordable homes, was built with help from the Housing Trust Fund. Read on to find out how this fund helps people like Ron, and what you can do to encourage our legislators to invest in our communities.
Many of us have had the experience of walking somewhere, and encountering someone asking for food or money. Or we see someone who is clearly homeless, and in dire need of basic services. The majority of us usually keep walking. Why? What feelings does seeing people who are homeless, specifically individuals who are homeless, bring up for us? What do these emotions mean for advocates trying to both engage and mobilize the public? How can we humanize/put a face to people who are homeless? Guest blogger Perry Firth from Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness considers these questions.
This month in Olympia, Washington's lawmakers will come together to hammer out a budget agreement. With investment in social safety-net services and the Housing Trust Fund on the line, our legislators' decisions will have a huge impact on YWCA clients and other community members across the state. In a guest opinion piece published today on Crosscut.com, YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish CEO Sue Sherbrooke asks state budget negotiators "to step back from the revenue and expense line items for a moment and look at these big-picture budget matters with an eye for the bigger picture."
Today the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism annual event brings together hundreds of thousands of people across the nation, from all walks of life, to call attention to the legacy of discrimination and raise awareness that racism still exists. In the four days leading up to the Stand Against Racism, we examined how discrimination and institutional racism can block violence survivors from accessing housing services and other resources. We've compiled the series for you here, co-authored by YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish's GirlsFirst and Volunteer Services Coordinator Nanyonjo Mukungu, and YWCA Walla Walla's Communications Coordinator Sara Rasmussen, who became friends while students at Whitman College. Will you take a stand alongside Nanyonjo and Sara? Reading their blog posts is one important way to grow awareness and sharing one or more posts with others is a great way to continue to build that awareness.
Friends of YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish march at the 2012 Pride Parade, showing their support for and solidarity with the LGBTQ members of the YWCA community. Read more about the “many faces of pride” in our "Participating & Proud” blog series.
With its expansion and renewal earlier this year, the Violence Against Women Act made an important step in ensuring that its protections and services fully include and extend to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. But changes in the law won't instantly end discrimination against LGBTQ community members and create access to services they need. As YWCA Walla Walla Communications Coordinator Sara Rasmussen points out in this third installment of our Stand Against Racism blog series, we need to continue to shift the cultures of law enforcement, service providers and shelters, amongst staff as well as those they serve, in order to protect and better meet the needs of the LGBTQ community.
Guest blogger Nanyonjo Mukungu shared her personal story of surviving rape, and the poor treatment she received when she reported the crime to police, in order "to break the silence around domestic and sexual violence and to combat the invisibility of the experiences of survivors of color." Photo credit: YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish
"As a black woman aware of the way communities of color are treated by the police, I was afraid of reporting my rape," writes guest blogger Nanyonjo Mukungu. When she did go to the authorities, they refused to report her case.
This second post in our Stand Against Racism blog series shares Nanyonjo's personal experience of being re-traumatized by police when she tried to seek justice for sexual assault. Her story is not unique; she writes about how violence survivors who already face oppression -- such as racial, class-based and gender expression discrimination -- are at particular risk of being denied victim status. When victims are not treated as such, they face barriers to accessing the resources they need to heal and remain stably housed.
Two Walla Walla citizens demonstrate for the passage of a fully inclusive Violence Against Women Act during a rally held in February 2013. Photo Credit: Madelyn Peterson.
This year's reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) will continue to bring the United States closer to decreasing the incidence of and improving the services for domestic violence and sexual assault. The expansion and renewal of VAWA was essential—and it’s great that we can move forward with it. But there are many needs that the law has yet to meet. This post by YWCA Walla Walla Communications Coordinator Sara Rasmussen considers the improvements made in the current version of VAWA, as well as its limitations. Sara also introduces you to our Stand Against Racism blog series, which will examine how discrimination and institutional racism create barriers for violence survivors trying to access housing services and resources.
Cherisse Webb talks about volunteering with the Point-in-Time Count in a new video produced by Seattle University's Project on Family Homelessness.
On a cold and rainy day this past January, Snohomish County volunteers were among the many thousands nationwide who helped conduct a Point-in-Time Count of homelessness in their communities. The Seattle University's Project on Family Homelessness team visited two of the sites and asked volunteers about their experiences. Watch this new video to hear fromvolunteers who gather important data that creates a snapshot of homelessness in our communities.
YWCA Opportunity Place resident Shelby Powell was on track to attend medical school when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She couldn't hold down a job, and became temporarily homeless. Shelby has faced many challenges since her diagnosis, but she's thankful for the financial support she receives through the Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) program, which has helped her afford her rent and basics like bus fare and cleaning supplies. She testified at the state capitol, asking legislators to protect the social safety net that has kept her stably housed. Watch Shelby's testimony and learn how you can advocate for lifeline programs like ABD.
We didn’t look very far when we decided who to interview for this third installment of our "I'm An Advocate" series! Denise Miller is the new Firesteel Advocacy Coordinator and the co-founder of ChangeStream Media, a nonprofit organization that uses digital storytelling to advocate for social justice. She shared her motivation for speaking up for housing issues, along with her thoughts on how digital storytelling can spark change.
YWCA Family Village at Issaquah resident Linda says the community, built with Housing Trust Fund dollars, offers "more than just a place to live." Photo credit: William Wright.
In the "Policy Matters" blog series, we're sharing stories from people who are directly affected by state housing policies. Today's post introduces you to Linda, a grandmother with limited resources who lives at YWCA Family Village at Issaquah. Linda's community, along with many other safe, affordable homes, was built with Housing Trust Fund dollars. Unfortunately, this vital fund is under threat. Housing advocates call for a $175 million investment, but the recently released Senate budget allocates only $35 million for the Housing Trust Fund. Read on to find out how you can ensure we invest in our communities.
Nikkisha was denied housing after she got a protection order against her abusive ex-boyfriend. Image credit: Vine Maple Place.
When Nikkisha bravely stood up to her abusive boyfriend and got a protection order against him, she faced a repercussion she never expected: She was denied housing because of her history as a domestic violence survivor. With two children and a third on the way, Nikkisha became homeless, bouncing from shelter to shelter and washing up at a restaurant.
When tenant screening reports include domestic violence records, stories like Nikkisha's are all too common. This family's experience is a powerful example of the need to break down housing barriers and keep domestic violence records off of tenant reports. Fortunately, state lawmakers are close to enacting legislation that will help protect domestic violence survivors like Nikkisha from discrimination when they apply for housing. The Fair Tenant Screening Act has received bipartisan support, and is on its way to becoming law.
Read more about Nikkisha, and learn how you can help ensure other domestic violence survivors don't face the same housing barriers that she did.
Over the next few weeks, legislators are making important decisions about the state budget, including the Housing Trust Fund. Their decision to invest in the Fund can help end homelessness. How? Our new infographic breaks it down and shares advocacy steps you can take today.
In this second installment of our "I'm An Advocate" series, we introduce you to a longtime legal advocate. Kay Field created the free family law clinic at YWCA Pathways for Women in 2002, and has operated it ever since. She helps low-income women in Snohomish County navigate the legal system and fight for their rights. Kay shares her story about how she came to be an advocate, and how she does her important work.
YWCA Family Village at Issaquah residents Sharon and her granddaughter Charon love their new home, which was built with the help of Housing Trust Fund dollars. Before they found this permanent, stable housing community, they were crowded in a studio apartment in a neighborhood that felt unsafe.
With about four weeks left in this legislative session, the Firesteel team continues to advocate for the Fair Tenant Screening Act, as well as investment in the Housing Trust Fund and Housing and Essential Needs program. We’ve laid out the reasons we believe in these policies, and many of you have added your voices using video comments. Now, with our new “Policy Matters” blog series, we want to share some personal stories from community members who are affected by these policies. The first story is about a family whose lives were changed when they moved into YWCA Family Village at Issaquah, a community built with Housing Trust Fund dollars.
We're excited to launch our newest series, "I'm An Advocate!" Have you ever wondered what it means to be an advocate? Where do you begin? At Firesteel, we think that advocacy in its simplest form is speaking up and people do that in lots of different ways. There is no one "type" of advocate; we're a diverse community! In this series, we'll introduce you to many different housing advocates and hope you'll find inspiration to speak up in your own way. Our very first highlighted advocate is Kim Herman, the Executive Director of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.
The Firesteel team is thrilled to present a new way for our community members to make your voices heard. Introducing video comments!
You can now upload video comments up to one minute in length to share your stories and advocate for policies that matter to you. This is your chance to add your voice to the conversation from wherever you are.
(L-R) Project coordinator Graham Pruss and project assistants/Seattle U students Ashwin Warrior, Judy Pansullo and Perry Firth from the Project on Family Homelessness stand on the steps of the Capitol Building. Photo credit: Catherine Hinrichsen
Perry Firth is a graduate student and a project assistant for the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness. She attended the Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day in Olympia for the first time this year. Two more Seattle U grad students and project assistants attended for the first time too. In this post, Perry shares their reflections as first time participants. In Perry's words, "I would say that sometimes you may feel that advocacy doesn’t work. It can be hard to connect your own actions and awareness-raising to meaningful policy change. But it is only through advocacy and collaboration that systemic change ever occurs." Learn more about the advocacy that happened on February 11th!
Housing advocates convene on the steps of the state capitol to rally for affordable homes for all.
On January 11th, over 650 housing advocates came together in Olympia, our Washington state capitol, and spoke up for affordable housing. Hosted by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, it was the largest Advocacy Day yet. We represented 43 out of our 49 state voting districts! Why did so many people make the trek to Olympia? Hear from participants directly in the following post and learn how Firesteel and the YWCA contributed.
The homeless counts at the end of January revealed how many people are without shelter in Washington state. Count volunteers come away motivated to advocate for affordable housing and there are lots of advocacy events in the near future! In this "Everyone Counts" blog post, Erin from the YWCA heard from volunteers both at the downtown One Night Count headquarters and also in Renton. Following volunteer quotes and video, you'll also find a list of great advocacy resources and events so we can create change together.
Watch this #YWHangout tolearn how to use tools like Twitter and Facebook for housing advocacy. You’ll master the basics of engaging your contacts in housing and homelessness issues that matter to you. You’ll also find out how to directly connect with decision makers. Your online voice will help give everyone the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home.
Volunteer Breanne Andrews was one of the organizers of the Point in Time Count in Everett, Washington
Everyone counts, even community members that are experiencing homelessness. In this series, we explore the importance of the homeless counts that take place in every county and hear from many of the volunteers that help count. Not all counts are the same. Some occur in the darkest, earliest hours of the morning, and others take place in daylight. Catherine from the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness takes us through some of these differences and shares her experience at the Point in Time Count in Snohomish County.
Homeless counts will have taken place in every county across the country by the end of January. In this series, "Everyone Counts," we'll explore the importance of these counts and hear what impact they had on some of the thousands of volunteers in Western Washington. Perry, a student at Seattle University, shares insights from her One Night Count experience and the importance of doing social justice work in community. Volunteering is very important but so is self-care!
We continue our "Everyone Counts" series with insight into the homeless Point in Time counts occuring across the country. In this post, we hear again from Ashwin, a student at Seattle University. He volunteered with a One Night Homeless Count team that explored the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, where many people live in vehicles. In fact, vehicle residents make up the largest percent of the homeless population on "the streets" in King County. How do we so often miss the presence of this population? Ashwin shares how his eyes were opened.
Homeless counts will have taken place in every county across the country by the end of January. In this series, "Everyone Counts," we'll explore the importance of these counts and learn about the impact they had on some of the thousands of volunteers in Western Washington. Today, Ashwin from Seattle University shares insights from the Count Us In homeless youth and young adult count--a population which has only recently been counted. A big thank you to the volunteers who contributed video clips!
Count Us In volunteers from Auburn Youth Resources. Photo from Teen Feed.
Homeless counts will take place in every county across the country beginning later this month. In this series, "Everyone Counts," we'll explore the importance of these events. Here we introduce you to four different homeless counts and how you can get involved as a volunteer. The counts depend on volunteers like you so check it out!
The 2013 Washington State legislative session begins today. Which means we are mobilizing to advocate! The quote above reminds us that we can all be advocates. It's time to introduce you to our 2013 Firesteel policy priorities and then we'll take you through some new ways we plan to speak up.
"So what's with the name?" I hear this question a lot and at first glance, it doesn't really seem to have anything to do with family homelessness or the YWCA. Yet it was quite the collaborative process selecting the name and we are very excited about our name Firesteel and what it represents.
The Firesteel Director, Erin, shows off a Hangout live on her phone!
Firesteel and the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish hosted two Washington governor candidate Hangouts to discuss issues that women prioritize. Democratic candidate Jay Inslee joined us on 10/3 and Republican candidate Rob McKenna joined us on 10/5. If you're curious to learn about Hangouts, here's a behind the scenes look at our #YWHangouts with the candidates. Scroll down to view the final videos and inform your vote!
"Our goal here was to convene and create a conversation" - SKID ROAD coordinators
The Olson Kundig Architects storefront in Pioneer Square, Seattle is currently hosting a collaborative exhibit, SKID ROAD. The installation invites visitors to learn more about homelessness and interact with the issue in new ways. I sat down with the project coordinators to learn more about the exhibit and gladly share their insights with you here.
"I was homeless, abusing substances and making very poor choices when I was diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in May of 2007. I thought being homeless was hard enough, but receiving an HIV+ diagnosis while homeless was completely unbearable......." Brenda is a Peer Advocate with the BABES Network of the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish. In honor of National HIV Awareness month, she shares her personal story in which stable housing was the first big step to securing treatment.
I attended my very first Seattle/King County Coalition On Homelessness meeting last Thursday. The Coalition invited state legislators to attend the meeting so that we could thank them for their hard work in 2012. Having legislators present also provided us with the opportunity to ask questions and have a frank policy discussion with decision makers. I posed a question asking how we can better use social media to communicate with and influence policymakers. I received a 5 step answer in response.
When YWCA staff approached me asking if Firesteel could help raise awareness of their participation in the 38th Annual Pride Parade in Seattle, I said, "Sure! How can we connect this to housing and homelessness?" One Family Advocate, Nora, stepped forward and offered to write not one, but 5 blog posts related to housing challenges facing the LGBTQ community and the importance of YWCA participation in the Pride Parade. Thank you Nora! Because of her thoughtful writing and time, we have the following blog posts, compiled here for easy reference.
In the week leading up to the Pride Parade in Seattle, we continue our series, "Participating & Proud." YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish staff and volunteers are participating in the parade this upcoming Sunday and we will take you through many of the reaons why it is important to do so. Nora Johnson, a Family Advocate at the YWCA I Seattle I King I Snohomish Family Village in Mountlake Terrace, takes us through the meaning of the "T" in the acronym "LGBTQ" and how programs can provide needed services for this community.
On June 4th, 2012, the Gates Foundation invited all their family homelessness advocacy grantees into one room. This convening allowed each of us to learn about each other's efforts and to discuss opportunities for even greater collaboration. The discussion that took place is likely the first of many! Firesteel, as a Gates grantee, was at the table, including theYWCA Wenatchee Valley as a Firesteel partner. Sharlene England is our Firesteel contact at theYWCA Wenatchee Valley and here she shares her meeting take-aways. And thanks to Sharlene for making the trek to Seattle to attend!
How cool is this for innovative advocacy with lots of incredible exercise thrown in? Bike and Build organizes cross-country bike trips which benefit affordable housing groups. They have donated more than $3.3million over the last 9 years, biked over 5 million miles, taken riding breaks to contribute over 100,000 building hours towards affordable homes, and engaged over 1500 young adults. All the while raising awareness about the affordable housing crisis in America.
Today’s post was written by Samantha Tripoli, Health Access & Volunteer Services Coordinator for YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, who attended the 22nd Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness in Washington State held in Yakima last week. Read on to find out more on ways nonprofits can benefit from using social media and games in their advocacy.
Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize winner and co-author of New York Times best-selling book, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide", was the guest speaker at the YWCA Inspire Luncheon in Seattle this year! At the Luncheon, Sheryl and Firesteel Director Erin Murphy had the opportunity to discuss marketing and advocacy through social media and other innovative strategies. Today we will get to see this interview and also hear from Firesteel marketing Intern Kelsie Reidy about Innovative Advocacy!
Today we get to hear from another YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish staff member, Joanna den Haan! Joanna is a Housing Case Manager at the YWCA and works with many undocumented immigrants. In light of the May Day Immigrant Rights March in Seattle last week, Joanna shares some of the challenges that these immigrants face. Find out what Joanna thinks some solutions to these challeges are..
YWCA represent! At the May Day rally for immigrant and human rights that is. Meet Devin, a Health Care Access Advocate at the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish. She was joined by other YWCA staff in support of the many families at the YWCA's East Fir and East Cherry locations who are immigrants and refugees, facing unique barriers in accessing safe housing, as well as educational and employment opportunities, and health services. Here Devin shares her reflections on the peaceful protest in honor of International Worker's Day.
Carey Fuller manages multiple social media accounts with vibrant online communities. She is also experiencing homelessness. Living in Kent, WA, with her two daughters, Carey shares her perspective on online community and social media advocacy that can positively impact the homeless community.
Great news this morning. After working through the night, legislators agreed upon a budget and session has come to a close! What's in the budget? $67.1 million for the Housing Trust Fund, Housing Essential Needs fully funded, no cuts to TANF and Disabililty Lifeline Medical saved!
Advocacy works and we are so grateful for everyone who added their voice during this last session. Our two Firesteel priority bills, the Housing Trust Fund and EHB2048 document recording fees, both received the support they needed. It's time to celebrate all the hard work that was put into these passing!
We are seeing technology used more and more to do something about homelessness. The Department of Veterans Affairs announced within the last few days a new Innovation Initiative competition for an app that will "provide easy access to resources that the homeless need, when they need it, and where they can get it."Project Reach (Real-time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless) challenges contestants to create a free and accessible app that shares real-time information on where someone can meet basic needs such as a bed or place to eat. This tech competition comes on the heels of the South by Southwest Homeless Hotspots, the controversial digital take on a street newspaper model. Here I'll share a bit more on these two tech projects that address homelessness, along with a few more that have been around longer.
I am really excited to see technology making advocacy more accessible and government more accountable and transparent. The Sunlight Foundation is a leader in this way and Firesteel is using state legislative data through their Open States Project to match registered users to their legislators in their profile banner. But it gets better! Open States just released an iPhone app! The free mobile app provides up to the minute information on your state legislators' profiles, legislation being considered, voting records, and more. Allow me to share my excitement by walking through some of the features of Open State and the new mobile app.
The Snohomish County Point in Time Homeless Count helps to ensure that vital federal and state funding continues to come into the community to fight and end homelessness. On January 26, 2012, many Point in Time volunteers are experiencing homelessness themselves. Hear one man's motivation for volunteering in addition to some reflections on how homeless counts differ across counties.
Every county is federally mandated to coordinate a homeless count in order to better understand the need in our community. "The One Night Count" in King County is coordinated by the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness and the 2012 early morning count on 1/27/12 found 2,594 people without shelter. This unique advocacy event requires the help of over 800 volunteers. Read on to hear the perspective of one volunteer, Michael Blumson of Common Ground.
Firesteel is all about structural change and a large part of that happens through legislative advocacy. We want help translate what goes on in our state Capitol and make advocacy more accessible for you. That's our Pierce County YWCA on the steps of the Capitol building! Want to know how to help pass policies that will directly support homeless programs, including YWCA housing programs? Visit our bill page and advocate by simply clicking the endorse button. Firesteel has endorsed two bills, translates them for you, and gives you ideas on how to help them pass. Your voice (or mouse click!) makes a difference! And a "Thank You" goes a long way in reinforcing good policies.