EASTSIDE INTERFAITH SOCIAL CONCERNS COUNCIL
P.O. Box 662, Bellevue, WA 98009-0662
June 9, 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: Jean Harris provided the opening prayer.
SELF-INTRODUCTIONS were made by 28 representatives and guests.
MINUTES of the May 12, 2015, meeting were approved as submitted.
TREASURER’S REPORT: The Treasurer was not present at the meeting, but she did provide an update to our president. Our current total balance is $71,591.59. They majority of that total is for dedicated projects, Congregations for Kids and Backpack Meals. Our actual available total for the operations of the Council is approximately $7,000.
RFRESHMENT COORDINATOR: Many thanks to Tony Copes, Warren Marquardson, Betty Spohn, and Aaron Meyer for providing the day’s refreshments.
Backpack Meals: Farida Hakim provided a report from Jan Starr. They have been able to distribute some Safeway gift cards, which provide some flexibility in menu choice for recipients. Ramen is the most liked item included in backpacks, and they received a very generous discount on ramen from the Issaquah PCC. Instant items like mac and cheese and snacks are very popular as well. They have recently been partnering with the Urban Farm.
Legislative Coordinator: Jean Harris reported that the legislature has now entered into its second special session. There are currently no bills on the floor of either house. Education remains a major issue, with particular attention to funding for none-required classes. At the national level, Adam Smith has been involved in a reintroduction of the Dream Act and is working to address our broken immigration detention policy.
City of Bellevue: Alex O’Reilly from the City of Bellevue is gathering input from faith communities for Bellevue Human Services. The three questions that she put to us are 1) what are the top human services that people in your congregations (or walk-ins) are requesting, 2) what services does your congregation provide, and 3) how could the City of Bellevue support the efforts of your congregation to address these needs. A survey sheet was provided, and attendees were urged to leave their responses for her. For those who did not have time to complete the exercise at the meeting and those who were not able to attend the meeting, comments may be sent to Alex at Parks and Community Services Department; Attn: Community Services; PO Box 90012; Bellevue, WA 98009-9805.
Eastside Legal Assistance Program : Our expected presenter was unable to attend our meeting.
PROGRAM: Church Council of Greater Seattle: Michael Ramos, Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, spoke with us about his organization and some of the work that it is doing. The Council has been in existence since 1919, and its work extends to King County and South Snohomish County. The Church Council works in the areas of advocacy, training, and service around issues such as housing and homelessness, living wage, economic justice, immigration reform, accompaniment, and others. A current effort is working with Rep. Adam Smith on reform of our broken immigration detention policy. He pointed out that 30% of the population of Bellevue is foreign-born – or, as he would say, ‘them is us.’ They are particularly concerned about the quotas that the system has for filling beds to meet contract terms with for-profit prisons.
They have been working with the Committee to End Homelessness in King County to develop a regional, community plan to end homelessness in King County which will be officially released in July. This would be a follow-on to the recently ended 10-year plan to end homelessness in King County (which, needless to say, did not reach its goal). Some preliminary copies were made available at our meeting. There will be a meeting to discuss this document at the Church Council offices, 4820 S. Morgan St., in Seattle on Saturday, June 27, in the morning. They will gather at 9:30 am and the sessions will run from 10 am to noon. Input from faith communities is ardently sought to help shape this plan. Those interested in attending should RSVP to Michael.
Michael pointed out that $1474 is the average Eastside rent. A family would need to earn $70K annually in order to keep their spending on rent at or below the recommended 30% of total income.
The problem of homelessness can be addressed, but solutions require political will. The desire would be to find housing for people so that they do not go homeless. To the extent that is not possible (people do continue to fall through the cracks), the desire is that homelessness be rare, that it be brief, and that it be one-time. Michael noted that he comes from New York City, where rent controls make city rents affordable for those most at risk.
Great appreciation was expressed for those that do provide emergency housing. It is very much needed. Still, 10,000 people are homeless every night in King County – with homeless persons spending 100 days homeless on average. He charges that this is a moral scandal. People deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
Some of the things that most need to be done to address the homelessness problem:
1) review how homelessness has been criminalized under our current laws,
2) charge governments with the safety of all of their citizens, including the homeless,
3) coordinate efforts to address this problem among cities,
4) understand that services are most effective when they can be made available locally,
5) adopt best practices by learning what has proven successful elsewhere,
6) avoid displacement through loss of existing housing stock wherever possible, and
7) help homeless children by working with schools.
Some of the specific actions that could be taken to address the lack of adequate housing stock is to support more remodeling of stock, work with non-profits to purchase units, work with private landlords wherever possible, find or develop more funding sources for affordable housing.
Salt Lake City, Utah, has found that getting folks into housing actually saves them money in the long run. It is also more palatable to communities that object to tent city encampments. There are currently 4 tent cities in Seattle, with 3 more recently authorized – the most ever! Still, 50 to 60 people die on the streets each year. While encampments are not a first choice, it is presently complementary to other strategies and, while not ideal, the need clearly exists.
There is currently a bill in the State Legislature, House Bill 2263, which would provide for an optional .1% local sales tax to fund housing, mental health and operational services for the most vulnerable in our state. It is estimated that this could make as much as $50 million available for affordable housing. The Church Council supports this plan, despite the fact that the sales tax is a regressive tax where Washington State already has the most regressive tax system of the 50 states.
Michael urged attendees to consider attending the Church Council’s fall conference, Weaving Our Strengths. It will be held on Saturday, October 3, at University Congregational UCC. It will be a day-long conference of fellowship, inspiration, and skill-building to strengthen local churches’ efforts for the common good. Last year’s even was attended by over 200 people from 14 Christian traditions and at least 57 congregations. A flyer for this event is attached to this mailing. This is a Save the Date announcement, as not all of the details of that event are yet available. You can visit the Council website, thechurchcouncil.org, to watch for additional information as it becomes available.
Elizabeth Maupin reported that Passage Point is a supportive residential community that helps parents facing homelessness after incarceration to reunite with their children. It is in the Issaquah School District down toward Maple Valley, and their representatives have been coming to the Issaquah Nourishing Network. If you don’t know much about this YWCA program, or if you do and would like to give some community support, you are invited to the King County Open meeting on Passage Point which will be held in the Eagle Room at the Issaquah City Hall on Wednesday, June 10, at 7 pm. Want to know more about this 46 unit facility? Check out https://www.ywcaworks.org/page.aspx?pid=758 .
Elizabeth also reported that the Issaquah Sammamish Interfaith Coalition is in need of more diverse leadership. When the coordinator moved to Seattle in 2010, they lost a lot of energy and cohesion because one person had taken on too much. To get a bit more organized and stable, they need a broader net of leadership. A “board” might be too formal a structure, but they do need at least a dedicated core of advisors who will help with planning and take some of the networking responsibilities off the shoulders of the coordinator. Their function has been to let the faith communities know of the needs of the more vulnerable in our communities in east East King County, to publicize opportunities for service and collaboration, to advocate for the poor, and to foster understanding and cooperation among local faith groups. They are looking at ways to educate the wider public about such issues as the growing economic gap, homelessness, poverty, and restorative justice. If you are interested in participating in an advisory network please contact Elizabeth Maupin at firstname.lastname@example.org , or call 425-392-3344 and leave a message.
Alex O’Reilly from the City of Bellevue reported that they were going to be holding a forum on basic needs on Wednesday, June 10, from 7:20 am to 9:30 am, at the Mercer Island Community Center. The event is titled ‘Lessons Learned‘ and will look at what efforts have been successful and which not so much.
Linda Hillesheim encourages wider cross-group connections as a strategy to extend our work and make it more effective. She reminds everyone of our October EISCC meeting which will be looking at the future direction of EISCC and urges representatives to invite others to that meeting (actually, you should feel free to invite others to any and all of our meetings).
Karen Studders reported that she took the Ballard Community Taskforce on Homelessness and Hunger (BCTHH’s) concerns (see attached letter) about the No Parking overnight signage to the Committee to End Homelessness Interagency Council (IAC) May 4th meeting. As a result, the
IAC issued the following statement: ‘The IAC calls on all cities to not ban the overnight parking of oversize vehicles due to the disproportionate impact these bans have on people who are experiencing homelessness and living in their vehicles. Nearly one third of all unsheltered people experiencing homelessness live in their vehicle and banning the parking of oversize vehicles overnight is less effective than addressing the reasons why a person might be living out of their vehicle.’ She considers that a great reponse to their volunteer efforts!
CLOSING REFLECTION: Nina Weaver provided a closing song.
THE NEXT EISCC MEETING will take place on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 12:00 – 1:30 pm
PROGRAM: The Sophia Way
LOCATION: BRISTOL HALL, ST. MARGARET’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, 4228 FACTORIA BOULEVARD SE, BELLEVUE (ACROSS FROM NEWPORT HIGH SCHOOL)