On February 28th, Catherine, a resident at Bellwether’s Security House Apartments, joined a group of Bellwether Housing staff and board members at Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day 2019. Organized by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, Advocacy Day brought 700 people from around Washington State together in Olympia to ask their representatives to prioritize solutions to the affordable housing and homelessness crises this legislative session. This year’s legislative priorities include securing $600 million for affordable homes, enacting eviction reform, and expanding the Housing and Essential Needs voucher program. We sat down with Catherine shortly after Advocacy Day to hear about her experience and why she was motivated to become an advocate.
Bellwether: In a few words tell us how Housing and Homeless Advocacy Day was for you?
Catherine: It was awesome! I had never been on the Capitol grounds before, so I was excited to be down there and see what it was like.
B: Before we hear more about Advocacy Day, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
C: I have lived at Security House for 12 years, and I’ve lived in the Belltown neighborhood for 22 years. I stay active in the community through two intensive volunteer jobs. I volunteer for Bloodworks Northwest as a donor register and monitor. I volunteer for Providence Mt. St. Vincent’s “No One Dies Alone” team, so sitting with people who are in hospice. I also work with patients who are in the transitional care unit after operations like hip replacements at Providence. I love to read and am currently studying Buddhism and meditation, which I got into by attending weekly meditation sessions at the Frye Art Museum.
B: How did you decide to attend Advocacy Day? What motivated you to go?
C: One day I was having a conversation with my building manager, Taylor, and we got to talking about Microsoft’s recent big investment into affordable housing in our area. Then Taylor said, “You know, you might be interested in attending Housing Advocacy Day.” She went to her computer and printed off a flyer. I looked at the flyer, and I thought about how I’ve appreciated having my stable apartment for so long, so now is the time to advocate for housing. I’ve done advocacy for other issues before, but never housing. Housing always seemed so complicated to me, but I stepped outside that concern and tried to educate myself about what’s going on.
B: A key part of Advocacy Day is constituents meeting with their districts’ representatives. Did you speak at any of your legislative meetings, and if so, what did you say?
C: I did speak at one meeting. The Housing Alliance’s agenda is all about enabling communities to build safe, healthy, affordable homes, so I said what a safe, healthy, affordable home has meant to me and what makes my building safe: having a level-headed manager, a good, trusted, reliable maintenance staff, and a nice community room where I can socialize with my neighbors.
B: What were a few things you enjoyed about attending Advocacy Day?
C: One thing I enjoyed was seeing people I knew down there. That helped me feel a sense of support for my own story and ideas. I loved meeting people and working together to try to accomplish something through the legislative process. I was learning from other members of my legislative district. The Chief Seattle Club was in my legislative district, so they were talking a lot about housing or lack of housing among native populations and historic trauma.
B: What’s one thing from Advocacy Day that will stick with you?
C: There were a few phrases that I learned at Housing Advocacy Day that I thought were interesting. One was, “We are looking for a robust response”. I really like that phrase, having a robust response, because this is a housing crisis. Seattle has changed rapidly. The income levels have risen dramatically for some people, but you’ve got the other side, income levels that have not risen or stayed flat. At the same time, housing prices have risen so high, and now our neighbors are out on the sidewalk without an apartment, or have moved to other states, or are sharing housing with people who may not be the best solution for them. Action is needed now. We have plans. It’s time to do something.
B: Describe the impact you think having 700 housing advocates at the Capitol on the same day made.
C: For us to all be walking around in red scarves, we were the reminder that while all this other big stuff is going on, housing is a critical issue and we’re still here. Definitely we were seen. We had a rally on the steps. We were seen. We were heard. I felt valued. My perspective felt valued.
Learn more about housing policy and funding at the state level and how you can get involved in housing advocacy from our partners at the Housing Alliance. Learn more about advocating for affordable housing in Seattle and King County here.