EASTSIDE INTERFAITH SOCIAL CONCERNS COUNCIL MINUTES
P.O. Box 662, Bellevue, WA 98009-0662
November 10, 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 our new EISCC President Tony Copes.
OPENING REFLECTION: Tony Copes opened with an Ojibway prayer from Earth Prayers.
SELF-INTRODUCTIONS were made by 23 representatives and guests.
MINUTES of the October 13, 2015, meeting were approved as submitted.
TREASURER’S REPORT: The Treasurer was not present at the meeting and did not provide a report. We are looking to replace Kimberly as our Treasurer, as she has found it difficult to attend our membership and board meetings, and it is desired that officers be present at those meetings. The board has drafted a tentative job description for the position and is actively seeking to recruit a replacement.
REFRESHMENT COORDINATOR: Many thanks to Nadine Bentsen, Sandy Lewis, Diane Richards, Steve Roberts, Anne St. Germain, and Gordon Williams for providing the day’s refreshments.
Backpack Meals: Jan Starr reported that approximately 100 to 120 kids are being served each week at present. They do need help with donations of food and the weekly packing of the backpacks at the warehouse. For information on needed food items, packing opportunities, or other questions about this program, visit their website at http://www.backpackmeals.org .
Congregations for Kids: Nancy Jacobs was not present and did not provide a report.
Legislative Coordinator: Jean Harris noted that a Appeals Court in Texas had challenged Obama’s recent immigration policy which would allow up to 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the US. Also, there is an on-line petition circulating which is calling for election day 2016 to be declared a national holiday in an effort to boost voter turnout and increase citizen engagement. Many other countries already have holidays on the day of their national elections, and such policies tend to generate greater voter turnout. The petition can be found at signforgood.com/electiondayholiday. Jean further noted that President Obama had rejected the Keystone XL pipeline last week.
Emergency Services Fund: Dave Bowlan said that the Emergency Services Fund that Hopelink oversees wants to know about people in congregations or in the wider community that need their assistance. Their annual Turkey Trot to help low-income families, seniors, and children will be held on November 22, 2015, at Marina Park in Kirkland. Registration opens at 9 am and the race begins at 10 am. They will also have a holiday toy drive. More information on both these activities can be found at their website at www.hope-link.org.
Eastside Meaningful Movies: Dick Jacke reported that an updated list of films has been released that covers the period through March, 2016. This is a project of the Outreach Team at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, the Earthkeeping Team at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, and the Social Justice Coordinating Council at East Shore Unitarian Church. The films are screened at St. Margaret’s on the third Tuesday of each month (through May) in Bristol Hall, the very room in which EISCC meetings are held. Films focus on current social issues and are followed by lively discussion. The next film will be Fresh, looking at how farmers, activists, and entrepreneurs in the Shenandoah Valley are challenging the conventional agri-business model of food production. Requested donation is $5, but no one is turned away. Two additional films will be added for April and May. Watch for that announcement.
King County Emergency Declaration: Karen Studders reported on the recent joint declaration of civil emergency by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. Such an emergency declaration places powers in the hands of the executive required to address the emergency situation.
King County currently has 10,000 homeless people each night according to best estimates. This includes folks in transitional housing, encampments, and other shelters. Further, studies show that each $100 increase in average rents in an urban area produces a 15% increase in homelessness. The increase is even higher in rural areas. In Washington State, there are over 35,000 school children experiencing homelessness. In King County, the number is over 3,000 school children who are experiencing homelessness.
In the declaration, there is a call to state and federal governments to increase the number of shelter beds available, They hope to establish a mobile medical van with multi-disciplinary staff to search out and serve those needing housing. They appreciate the work that faith communities have been doing in this area, but many of those communities are already overtaxed in their efforts. They also hope to expand the LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program, which has been funded by business. They realize that they also need to address detox and dependency resources. They are studying the possible use of currently vacant builidings and tiny houses. The response is expected to bring $5.3 million in funding from the City of Seattle and $2 million from King County.
What can we do to help this effort? Karen suggests six specific things that we can do. Individual members of EISCC and congregations and other organizations are encouraged to write and/or call their city councils, mayors, county council members, and County Executive Dow Constantine ASAP and say:
- Write cities and the county to support increased bed capacity,
- Provide help rather than arrest for the homeless when they become involved with the criminal justice system,
- Find public parking areas that can be used to park vehicles which the homeless occupy,
- Sponsor a family or child,
- Support encampments with supplies and meals, and
- Urge local municipalities to step forward and support the proclamation.
For more information on the proclamation and what you can do to help, please see the attachments to these minutes.
PROGRAM: Congregations for the Homeless.
Executive Director Steve Roberts opened with a quick overview of the history of Congregations for the Homeless (CfH). Their first men’s shelter opened in 1993 to provide a warm, safe, hospitable place for up to 30 single men to sleep and be nourished with three healthy meals each day. Over the years, the shelter has added access to showers, laundry, computers, medical assistance, and dental services. In 2005, they were able to add a comprehensive case management and life coaching program with the intent of moving the men from homelessness to permanent housing and independent living. In 2006, they added subsidized housing to the programs that they offer. At present, this housing can accommodate approximately 75 clients. Beginning in 2008, the Eastside Winter Shelter was opened to help the homeless men meet the winter conditions that endanger the lives of the homeless in our community. In 2013, a Day Center opened to be a daytime resource for men without meals, showers, laundry facilities, computers, clothing, bus tickets, and hygiene products. The Day Center also helps to connect men to other resources such as the Winter Shelter.
Eastside cities have been working together with CfH to create a new shelter in Bellevue. CfH expresses its gratitude to the mayors of these cities for the funding that they are willing to provide to this project, and CfH suggests you thank them as well for their efforts.
Steve next introduced Dwight Jackson, the Director of Shelter Services for CfH. Dwight has been with CfH for a year. While poverty is a major factor in homelessness, Dwight stresses that the homeless are often facing challenges of emotional, spiritual, and relational issues as well. A new outreach program hopes to reach out to people on the streets and connect them to a safe place to stay, food, and other resources. What these men really need is respect, compassion, and empowerment. This new program is getting funding from Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, and Issaquah. They are also working closely with emergency services and police. If you find people that should be receiving this service, contact Dwight. Do note that while he will try to respond to emergencies, demand for such service sometimes exceeds his ability to respond to each immediately.
They have a flex foods program for existing outreach groups to complement their efforts. They have a rapid housing program to get folks off the street, attempting to divert men from the homeless system. They are working with the court system in Issaquah on a diversion project to take homeless men facing charges of trespass, drug offenses, or other low-level crimes to deal with the underlying issues rather than simply putting folks in jail.
Their day services are now reaching about 350 persons annually with meals, sanitary facilities and showers, and connection to services. The Emergency Winter Shelter opened early this year (before November 1), because King County asked for extra help in assisting the homeless. It opened on September 17 and served 200 people before the winter shelter began operations. They expect to serve 600 people this year – up from 450 last year. One big advantage of this shelter is that there is storage space for belongings that would otherwise have to be carried about all day by their owners.
Josh Terlouw, a former case manager and now Director of Housing, started with CfH in January. As he was being considered for a position, he was asked to spend some time just hanging out with the men to see how well he could relate to them. He clearly passed the test, and he continues to stress the importance of building relationships in working with the men now.
They have 70+ people in housing currently: six each in eight houses, ten men in Harrington House, and some for whom they provide rent subsidies. The men have personal rooms with access to common spaces. Their rooms can be locked and belongings secured.
When he was new, he had started out working in the year around shelter as a case manager, working with men to provide support, connecting them to needed services, and helping them to set goals. He noted that many shelters in King County are not able to provide case management to their clients – something that he believes is critical to the success of the programs at CfH.
When the men come into the year around shelter, they are connected with needed services and then begin discussions about their possible pathways to independent living. To move on from this shelter, they need to have been clean and sober for more than two years and have some savings. If they are found eligible, they can move into a room when available (note that there can be a five to seven year wait for public housing). They are expected to contribute 30% of their income to rent initially, and that rent is gradually increased over time. They continue to work with case management at this time.
Finally, David Johns Bowling, the Deputy Director of CfH, spoke. He thanked all of the communities in the room that had participated in any way in supporting the work of CfH over the years. He went on to note that the sale of the First Congregational Church building to developers will mean that their Day Center will need to be finding a new home in the near future – it appears that it will need to close at the current location at the end of April this next year. If your congregation or other community group knows of possible space for such a facility, please let them know.
David indicated that meals are always a need for many of their programs. Congregations are among their most prolific meal providers; Providing meals for such an effort can be a real community builder for your group, so you should consider participating! To schedule your donated meals, visit their website (see below). Finally, he indicated that the biggest bottleneck in their programs is housing. Access to additional housing would enable them to provide services to many that are not currently reached.
Steve returned to close out the presentation. He spoke about the efforts of the Eastside cities to create year round, permanent, low-barrier shelters in the area. The plans are to have a shelter in Kirkland for women and families, a shelter in Bellevue for single men, and a shelter in Redmond for youth. CfH would be the operator for these shelters. The project will cost about $5.5 million and should open in the winter of 2017. Funding is expected to come from the State, King County, and the cities.
Steve reiterated that affordable housing in one of the greatest challenges to the sense of self worth for their clients. It takes about two years to get folks from the streets to permanent housing with their current programs. He urges us to continue to urge our cities to promote more affordable housing in our communities. Much of the ‘affordable’ housing in our area is pegged at folks earning 80% of median income – unfortunately, many folks make only 30 to 40% of the median income!
Finally, Steve reminded us that the Congregations for the Homeless Annual Luncheon will be held on May 6, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue. Save the date and watch for more details!
For more information on Congregations for the Homeless, please visit their website at cfhomeless.org.
Elizabeth Maupin reported that there will be program featuring film and speakers/panel on the topic of People Living in Vehicles at the Issaquah Library on Tuesday evening, November 17, at 6:30 pm. It is part of the Meaningful Conversations at the Issaquah Library series, which brings the community together for movies and discussions that touch on real social issues and possible compassionate responses.
Karina O’Malley reported that there will be a special Community Action-Plan Gathering to address the needs of the homeless and, especially, those in tent encampments on the Eastside. This event will be held at the Peter Kirk Community Center in Kirkland on Thursday, November 12, from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. An event page will be available for registrations on October 15. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help make this happen.
CLOSING REFLECTION: Sandy Lewis provided a closing prayer from Thomas Merton.
THE NEXT EISCC MEETING will take place on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 12:00 – 1:30 pm
PROGRAM: Faith Action Network Legislative Update
LOCATION: BRISTOL HALL, ST. MARGARET’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, 4228 FACTORIA BOULEVARD SE, BELLEVUE (ACROSS FROM NEWPORT HIGH SCHOOL)
Dick Jacke, EISCC Secretary