EASTSIDE INTERFAITH SOCIAL CONCERNS COUNCIL MINUTES
P.O. Box 662, Bellevue, WA 98009-0662
May 12, 2015
The meeting was held in Bristol Hall of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church beginning at 12:00 noon.
WELCOME: The meeting was called to order and conducted by EISCC President Diane Richards.
OPENING REFLECTION: Tony Copes provided the opening prayer by Vaclav Havel from Life Prayers.
SELF-INTRODUCTIONS were made by 24 representatives and guests.
MINUTES of the April 14, 2015, meeting were approved as submitted.
TREASURER’S REPORT: The Treasurer was not present at the meeting. She did send a report indicating that a follow-up dues letter has gone out indicating which congregations and service organizations have already paid their dues for the new year. If your group has not yet paid, we hope that they will do so soon.
REFRESHMENT COORDINATOR: Many thanks to Esperanza Borboa, Nadine Bentsen, Sandy Lewis, Nickhath Sheriff, and Betty Spohn for providing the day’s refreshments.
Congregations for Kids: There was no separate report from Congregations for Kids, as it was included in the main presentation of the day .
Backpack Meals: Jan Starr thanked everyone for their support of Backpack Meals – especially the support during the Seattle Foundation’s GiveBig event. The program would not be possible without the generous support of individuals and congregations.
Legislative Coordinator: Jean Harris reported that the legislature had not yet been able to wrap up a new budget and had gone into special session. The three primary areas of focus for the special session will be the budget, schools, and transportation. At the national level, there are bills to shut down the prison facility at Guantanamo, Cuba, and to automatically grant citizenship to immigrants who serve in the US armed services.
Winter Shelters: Steve Roberts had to leave early and was not able to give a report on the shelters. Others were able to report that the Bellevue and Snoqualmie shelters were now closed for the season. Congregations for the Homeless, which runs the shelters, was able to raise $125,000 at its recent luncheon. The women’s shelter run by Sophia Way has not yet closed, but will be doing so very soon.
PROGRAM: Family Connections Center and Congregations for Kids: Betty Takahashi is the McKinney-Vento Liaison and Family Connections Center Coordinator for the Bellevue School District. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act is a federal law that ensures immediate enrollment and educational stability for homeless children and youth. McKinney-Vento provides federal funding to states for the purpose of supporting district programs that serve homeless students. Bellevue School District handles many of these mandates through their Family Connections Centers. Staff for the program link families to services for basic needs and community resources, to academic programs, and to community support. They provide a link for communications between families and the school and focus on school readiness and family involvement.
McKinney-Vento provides that children have the right to enroll immediately in the school of their attendance area, where they are currently living, or they may remain in their school of origin (the school that they attended when they were permanently housed or school in which they were last enrolled). These families do not need to fill out Free/Reduced Lunch applications . They do not have to fill out Transfer for Cause of Inter-District Transfer applications. Once a student is eligible under McKinney-Vento, the services extend to the end of the school year.
These students are eligible for all district services when applicable. That includes transportation, special education, ELL Support, talented and gifted programs, after school programs, Head Start and Early Childhood programs, summer school, and Title I tutoring support.
The homeless children that they serve lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This would include children that share housing due to a loss of housing, economic hardship or similar reason. It includes those living in emergency or transitional housing or in motels, trailer parks, or camp grounds. It also includes those who are couch surfing, awaiting foster care placement, and those whose nighttime residence is a public or private place not designated for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodations for human beings. Also included would be those living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, etc.. They also serve migratory workers’ children and those displaced by natural disasters.
In Bellevue, the School District currently serves 107 students in shelters or transitional housing, 101 students that are doubled up, 6 students that are unsheltered, and 5 students in hotels/motels.
Their goal is to provide resources, information, and referral for the following services: school supplies (Good Start Back to School), holiday programs, infant items (Baby Corner), Headstart information, clothing (Clothes for Kids, Operation School Bell, Shoes That Fit), computer classes, ESL classes, summer camps, food programs (BTMT, Backpack Meals), family support, employment, transportation, counseling, health/dental care, emergency assistance, childcare referrals, immigration referrals, parenting classes, domestic violence services, after school programs, and tutoring services.
They hope to connect families to the school and community by helping parents get to know their child’s teachers and what is being taught, having parents keep them informed about their child’s needs and any changes in family circumstances, enlisting them in checking their child’s homework, attendance, and academic progress, having them attend school meetings and parent-teacher conferences, and volunteer at school during class time or, for those that work during classes, ask for ways to help at home or on weekends.
Betty’s presentation was followed by several specific examples of the work that they do at the center. Julie McIntyre, Human Services Specialist at Stevenson Elementary School, spoke of a family that had been affected by domestic violence at home. The family was connected with housing, counseling, Lifespring for rent and utilities, Eastside Legal Assistance Program, and an ORCA card. The children were enrolled in the Bellevue Boys and Girls Club (paid), the younger kids were enrolled in Headstart. The son received glasses. They were enrolled in summer school. The youngest daughter was enrolled in Kindering. They were connected with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. The children were enabled to participate in drama and arts clubs. They received food from the food bank. They received clothes from the Baby Corner and shoes from Shoes That Fit. They got books from their supply. They participated in the Keep Warm program, the Christmas program for gifts, and received tickets to the aquarium. This gives you an idea of the breadth and depth of the support that can be provided.
A second example was provided by Grace Kuan, Human Services Specialist at Sherwood Forest Elementary School. She spoke of a refugee family of three people with a special needs child and financial challenges. They were connected to the food bank and to the Baby Corner. They received lunch bags and backpacks, and they are now back on their feet.
For more information on the Family Connection Center, contact Betty Takahashi at 425-456-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy Jacobs of Congregations for Kids then spoke of the work of that organization, which is one of the community organizations that works closely with the Family Connections Center. This August, Congregations for Kids will hold its 20th annual Good Start Back to School project. They expect to help about 1600 students from low income families in the Bellevue School District by providing backpacks and/or school supplies from kindergarten through high school.
When the program first began in 1996, they helped 143 students in 13 schools. Ten congregations participated in the program. The number of students increased to 500 in 2000 and 1000 just two years later. It has hovered at about 1500 to 1600 since 2009. This current church year, they have helped 1508 students in 28 schools, with 27 congregations, one service organization, a foundation, a corporation, and a realty firm taking part.
As the number of students and participants have changed, so have the locations where the supplies and backpacks are sorted each year. In the first few years, it happened in a portable building at Lake Hills Elementary School – long before the new school was built. As the number of students in the program grew, that space was no longer adequate. It moved to a small building at the district transportation department, the Wilburton Instructional Service Center, the Bellevue First Methodist Church, and the Stevenson Elementary School cafeteria. In 2008, they moved to their present site in the Stevenson Elementary School gymnasium.
Supplies have also changed through the years. In some cases, there are enough of some items left over from the previous year that they do not need to collect them the following year. In other cases, they have learned that the items were no longer being requested. For the first six years, they collected some clothing items such as underwear, socks, and t-shirts. However, because other agencies began to focus on clothing, they decided to focus just on the school supplies. They did, however, begin a Warm Coats for Kids project in 1999 and did that until 2008 when other groups were collecting coats.
Requested supplies used to include lunch boxes until they realized that most of these kids qualified for free or reduced price lunches and did not need lunch boxes. For a while, they collected pencil boxes, but the new desks purchased for Bellevue elementary schools no longer have enough room for them. Last year, for the first time, they provided a First Picture Dictionary in every kindergartner’s backpack, hoping to stimulate a love for learning at the very beginning of a child’s schooling. Since 2007,they have also provided flash drives to counselors to give to students who need them.
Backpacks have also changed over the years. Until last year, they provided a new backpack every year. Now they give them every other year, but they continue to provide new supplies each year. Because they must last longer, they purchase sturdier backpacks which are more expensive. High school backpacks must have laptop compartments these days – not a requirement 20 years ago.
Congregations for Kids is still the only organization that fills Bellevue School District requests for specific students. They have been able to fulfill all of these requests – over 19,980 to date – with a backpack and/or supplies tailored to each specific student.
As the numbers have increased, they no longer wait until donated supplies are counted before purchasing what is still needed. They guesstimate what purchases will be needed and purchase them in advance so that there is no time lag once the project starts. This means that not only are the donated supplies very important, but the donated cash to buy backpacks and supplies is increasingly important as well.
The project has been sponsored by EISCC since 2009, and they express their profound gratitude for that support. For more information, contact Nancy Jacobs, email@example.com or visit their website at
Elizabeth Maupin reported that Tent City in Issaquah is in need of evening meals. If you can help, go to their website at www.brownbearsw.com/cal/tcmeals to schedule a date to provide meals.
Karen Studders reported that Seattle University School of Law’s Homeless Rights Advocacy Project has just released groundbreaking briefs on the “criminalization of homelessness” in Washington State. The first statewide analysis of laws criminalizing homelessness finds those laws are expensive, ineffective, and disproportionately impact already marginalized individuals. Those were among the key findings of a series of in-depth policy briefs released this week that examine the scope and extent of the problem of criminalization in the State of Washington. These briefs are the most extensive of their kind in the nation. Among the findings:
· Washington cities are increasingly criminalizing homelessness. Since 2000, communities have enacted laws that create over 288 new ways to punish visibly poor people for surviving in public space.
· Millions of dollars could be saved if cities would redirect funds used for enforcement of these laws toward affordable housing.
· Homelessness and poverty disproportionately impact people of color, women, LGBTQ youth, individuals with mental illness, and veterans.
· The greater the income gap between the rich and the poor, the higher the rates of enforcement of these laws.
· Modern anti-homeless ordinances share the same form, phrasing, and function as historical discrimination laws, such as Jim Crow.
Please circulate the links to your contacts! Downloads actually count and help the students justify to the higher-ups that the work we do matters – so please circulate the links (not the documents) as widely as possible. Here are links to the briefs:
Olson, Justin and MacDonald, Scott, Washington’s War on the Visibly Poor: A Survey of Criminalizing Ordinances & Their Enforcement (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602318
Howard, Joshua and Tran, David, At What Cost: The Minimum Cost of Criminalizing Homelessness in Seattle and Spokane (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602530
Lurie, Kaya and Schuster, Breanne, Discrimination at the Margins: The Intersectionality of Homelessness And Other Marginalized Groups (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602532
Ortiz, Javier and Dick, Matthew, The Wrong Side of History: A Comparison of Modern and Historical Criminalization Laws (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602533
For questions about the Seattle University School of Law Briefs Released May 2015, contact: Seattle University staff, Katherine Hedland Hansen, firstname.lastname@example.org ; 206-793-3487.
For questions about the Washington Homeless Anti-Criminalization Campaign (WHACC) and Washington Statewide Day of Action against the Criminalization of Homelessness, contact: WHACC volunteer member Karen Studders, KarenStudders@gmail.com ; 612-386-1021.
FIRE (Fostering Interfaith Relationships on the Eastside) will be offering another in its sequence of Dinner Dialogues on Sunday evening, May 17, at 5:00 pm. The event will be held at Temple B’nai Torah; 15727 NE 4th Street; Bellevue. The topic of the dialogue will be ‘Prosperity and Poverty.’ Six panelists representing Buddhist, Catholic, Evangelical Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American traditions will address the theme. This will be followed by a period for questions and then small group dialogue. All are welcome. The dinner is a potluck. No pork or shellfish in deference to the host.
Diane Richards reminded us that there will be two Eastside CROP Walks for Hunger with Church Worldwide Services this year. The first will be held on Saturday, May 17, 9:30 am to 1 pm. Registration begins at 9:15 am. This will start at Hopelink in Kirkland. The second walk will be Sunday, May 18, 1 – 3 pm, at the Bellevue First Methodist Church, 1934 108th Ave NE, Bellevue. Proceeds from both events will go to local organizations such as Hopelink and other international charities which work to eliminate hunger. For more details on both events, go the Church Worldwide Services website at
http://hunger.cwsglobal.org/site/PageServer?pagename=events_wa . More details about the events can be found at our EISCC website at eiscc.net/ ?page_id=316 .
Karen Waalkes reported that REACH has just been told that its grant application to United Way has been approved and their Emergency Winter Shelter in Renton will be funded for the next year. They will receive $93,000 from United Way and the City of Seattle to pay for overnight staff and other costs associated with running the shelter. REACH Executive Director Maggie Breen expressed thanks to all of those who made donations in the past few months while they waited to hear about the funding. They were able to serve an average of 30 people each night and will now be able to continue to do so.
CLOSING REFLECTION: As Jan Starr had to leave before the end of the meeting, Karen Studders read the closing prayer that Jan had provided.
THE NEXT EISCC MEETING will take place on Tuesday, June 9, 2015, 12:00 – 1:30 pm
PROGRAM: Michael Ramos of the Church Council of Greater Seattle
LOCATION: BRISTOL HALL, ST. MARGARET’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, 4228 FACTORIA BOULEVARD SE, BELLEVUE (ACROSS FROM NEWPORT HIGH SCHOOL)
Dick Jacke, EISCC Secretary