I live in a Seattle neighborhood that has seen a major upswing in homelessness. My home is across the street from a park - so it is easy for people to sleep in their cars, feeling somewhat safe as they are on a major street. Many of these people leave every day, go off to work, and then return “home” – to the same spot on the same street. It gives them a little comfort to have a place to return that is at least predictable when so much else in their lives isn’t.
My mind was on these individuals – as well as all the others unknown to me – during Tuesday’s Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day.
What is Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day? It’s a day, organized by Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, where people gather in Olympia to advocate for safe, affordable homes for all and for ending homelessness. Anyone who is passionate about this may attend – residents, affordable housing staff, those who need an affordable place to live. It’s an opportunity to share stories, promote specific legislation and, in general, send a clear message to our legislators about the urgent need for housing affordability. It’s democracy in action! And it’s a privilege to be able to be part of this process.
Several Bellwether residents attended this year. And all found it rewarding. Each was able to speak before his/her representative about why it is critical to increase the supply of affordable housing. One resident felt very moved by the experience. She asked, “can a studio on Capitol Hill (a Seattle neighborhood) that rents for $1,000 really be considered affordable?” Another resident was so excited to speak for his legislator that he opted to stay late so that he wouldn’t miss the scheduled meeting time. Both stated that they felt they were in the minority as low-income residents as so many in attendance worked in housing. They were able to put a face to the cause and felt validated.
Bellwether staff who attended also felt the powerful impact of the day. As one of our resident managers said, “it was a great opportunity to get exposure to the big picture of the housing crisis and the different stakeholders that are working towards a solution. It was reinvigorating and keeps me motivated to do the work we do.” Another commented, “I think most politicians get so wrapped up in the daily grind that they forget who their decisions make an impact on.” And finally, this comment: “it was great to hear about how various housing programs that are currently in place have enhanced and benefited the lives of so many individuals. It really solidifies the importance of mobilizing legislative support for the Housing Trust Fund so that we can continue to build long term sustainable communities.” So true!
I am already looking forward to 2016’s Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day and hope you too might be motivated to join the movement for affordable housing and an end to homelessness. We all need to do our part so that everyone has a safe, affordable place to call home.
By Julie Lombardo, Bellwether's Outreach & Communications Manager