Never in the history of Washington State had the legislature not passed a Capital budget within a session. Yet, in January 2018, the Washington State Capital Budget had been stalled since July 2017. To raise visibility about the need to pass the Budget, members of the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA) and the Resident Action Project (RAP) flooded the state capital on Jan. 11 wearing bright yellow hard-hats and carrying shovels (key chain size). WLIHA staff and RAP leaders distributed the shovels to every lawmaker in Olympia in an effort to drive home how many shovel-ready projects were threatened if lawmakers did not pass the Capital Budget with a strong investment in the Housing Trust Fund.
RAP and WLIHA members distributed shovels to Republicans and Democrats, and the hard hats and shovels were met with appreciation from both sides of the aisle. “The lawmakers’ aides were thankful that we were there because of all of the hard work we did for affordable housing budgets,” RAP Steering Committee Member Lisa Sawyer said. “All of the aides said that the shovels were a great idea.”
The need to pass the Capital Budget was particularly pressing given that Washington has a tremendous affordable housing crisis. RAP members planned and implemented “8 weeks of action”, culminating with the Shovel & Hard Hat action, that pushed for the Capital Budget passing and funding for the Housing Trust Fund. The following week, in part because of the advocacy by RAP members and WLIHA staff, lawmakers passed the Capital Budget with a $106.7 million investment in the Housing Trust Fund. In fact, the advocacy action led to a direct shift in the legislative conversation, prompting one senator to raise the subject of at-risk Housing Trust Fund projects in committee.
“It was a powerful day because the shovels showed how much we needed the Capital Budget for more affordable housing, and we definitely need affordable housing in Washington,” Sawyer said.
To learn more about the Resident Action Project, click here.
By Divya Shiv, Voter Engagement Organizer, Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund
To support a local ballot measure for affordable homes in Portland, Oregon, members of the Welcome Home Coalition have developed a smart-phone friendly game intended to engage audiences that otherwise might not connect affordable housing as a solution to homelessness.
Click on the image to experience the game.
The game, Can you Solve It?, takes the player for a stroll on a sidewalk. Along the way, players pass people, young and old, all of whom are experiencing homelessness. As the player passes, she can choose to give people items such as a few dollars, a soda, bus tickets, and other useful gifts, or even just say hello or have a nice day. As the game progresses, signs for Yes for Affordable Homes start appearing on the walls next to the sidewalk. When the player clicks three times on the signs for more affordable homes, all the sudden the scenario of changes, illustrating for the player importance of funding affordable homes and the transformative impact an affordable home can have on families and individuals.
“We wanted to create a new tool to connect to a broader audience and engage them through their phone or computer as an active participant in being part of the solution: creating more affordable housing,” says James Moore, the game developer.
Play the game and experience for yourself — and when you solve it, share it with your family, friends, and Facebook community! Contact the creators to add your local ballot measure campaign to the list and get a unique link to share with your community too!
Housing advocates in Louisville, Kentucky continue to call on Louisville Metro Council members to provide dedicated public funding to support the city’s affordable housing trust fund. CLOUT (Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together), a local faith-based affiliate of the DART Network with thousands of members across Louisville, has been central to this on-going campaign. The Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund has only received $1.5 million in general funds since its inception in 2008.
Advocates are calling for $5 million to be moved from the General Fund this year and $10 million in annual dedicated funding to support the trust fund. In Louisville, nearly 60,000 households spend more than a third their income on housing. CLOUT collected 1,200 cards urging the mayor to invest in the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
The Council meetings are frequently filled with advocates showing support for funding the City’s trust fund, holding signs and testifying—and they did again in support of Mackenzie Berry, Jalen Posey and Jasmine Frederick as they voiced their support for finding a dedicated source of money for the city’s affordable housing trust fund through their own powerful poetry.
Berry used striking facts in her poem emphasizing the thousands of families seeking an opportunity to move into affordable homes. She criticized City leaders for their funding priorities: “If our city were whole, it would be able to be called home by all of its people, instead of temporary.” Posey’s poem hit hard: “The only sight I see, is politicians climbing money trees …We all know hope doesn’t pay the bills, poor people never get the mortgage deals.” And Frederick’s poem shared a heart-breaking story of how devastating the lack of affordable housing can be. She concluded with: “This is a true story about how unaffordable housing destroyed the life of Jamal Brown—a man with aspirations and high thinking. Open your eyes people and you will see what is forced upon you to be unseen.” The impact of the poetry slam was visible on the faces of City Council members … how can you ignore the voice of youth in your community.
DuPont Manual High School senior Mackenzie Berry is founder and executive director of Young Poets of Louisville, a nonprofit organization for young people ages 13-19. Young Poets of Louisville’s vision is to develop socially active and artistic leaders with literary, public speaking, and performance skills. The poetry slam in Louisville met every expectation of this potential.
“This is a perfect opportunity to use our skills in advocating for something that can make a huge difference in our community,” Berry said. “As we delivered our poetry to Metro Council, it is our hope that we are the last generation of young people living in this city with a lack of access to affordable housing.”
By Mary Brooks, Senior Advisor, Center for Community Change–Housing Trust Fund Project
Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA) held one of the most robust advocacy day in the country on February 2nd. Getting more than 655 people to attend this year was due to extensive and innovative outreach by the Action Fund. The Alliance pulls out all the stops to encourage people to attend by reaching out to not only the housing community but includes all of Washington’s communities affected by the lack of affordable housing. This year, WLIHA recruited a labor union, a LGBTQ group, and clients and staff of an organization that focuses on Urban Indian homelessness. Each of those organizations entailed some extra outreach and a particular approach.
Spokane advocates join Housing and Homeless Advocacy Day virtually.
In order to make the day accessible to those affected by the housing crisis, WLIHA strategized on how to help more folks attend. They worked with resident leaders in Seattle Housing Authority buildings, bringing information, support, and transportation options so residents could attend. They provided funding for a bus full of advocates from the Yakima area to attend, including currently and formerly homeless people, farmworkers, and others. Alouise Urness, WLIHA’s Community and Member Organizer, related, “Sometimes you need to go the extra mile to be inclusive of all people. So we funded a hotel stay for 4 low-income attendees so that they would be in Yakima to catch the bus to Advocacy Day at 5:30 am.” Furthermore, they provided childcare onsite, and translated key materials for the day into Spanish and provided an interpreter. They also worked with one of the leaders in the farmworker community to speak, through an interpreter, at the morning kickoff rally.
New this year was an experiment on how to virtually involve people who wouldn’t be able to make it all the way to Olympia. It started out with a conversation between the Alliance staff and some advocates in Spokane who wanted to participate in Housing Advocacy Day but couldn’t make the trip. WLIHA decided to try live streaming the rally portion of their event. Using the Ustream platform to broadcast live from the event opened up the opportunity to share the link widely. Thus, even though this was a test run with the group from Spokane, they decided to send a link to everyone the day before Advocacy Day to see what happened. There were 21 total viewers during Advocacy Day, and one of those “viewers” was the room of 13 people watching together in Spokane. WLIHA had sent them scarves and packets ahead of time so they had all of the same information that the folks in Olympia did. After they watched the Call to Action, as a group, they participated in a conference call with one of their legislators.
Rachael Myers, the Executive Director of WLIHA, said, “The livestream was a trial – we wanted to see how it went for a small group, and hope to expand in the future. We live in a big state, with a snowy mountain range in between the capitol and many people who would like to attend. We’re hopeful that in the future we can significantly increase participation by having a remote option.”
To learn more about Homeless and Housing Advocacy Day or WLIHA click here.
By Katy Heins, Senior Organizer, Center for Community Change–Housing Trust Fund Project