What RAP Taught Me About Why I Fight for Housing Equity

Written by Ly Huynh, MSW Intern 2019-2020

Ly Huynh, MSW Intern for the Housing Alliance from 2019-2020.

Never could I have imagined where my time at the Washington Low Income Alliance would bring me. In the last 8 months, I went from not knowing that bill numbers were recycled every year to tracking state legislation as it cycled through the session. I got to work with an amazing and creative team that was actively affecting change through community organization, political change, and advocacy. While I did not get to work closely with RAP members and leaders as much as I wanted to due to the shake up with COVID, I am honored to have contributed where I could with newsletters and statewide calls.  

As a social work student, the purpose of our internships is to understand how the concepts we learn in class are applied in real life. The university teaches us that the most effective advocacy is done by those who are most touched by the issue. For housing, the Resident Action Project is the gold star that all our lessons point to. From the community input garnered in listening sessions and power hours that inform policy proposals, to having RAP advocates testify and panel to lawmakers – RAP is an outstanding example of what real advocacy looks like.  

The highlight of my time at the Alliance is undoubtedly Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day in Olympia. I had been to a few lobby days in the past but never understood the sheer amount of work and planning that went into such an event. The day was a megalith of moving parts – faces, activities, and actions – which all went smoothly thanks to Caroline, our amazing Director of Organizing. In a past lobby day, I spoke with a lawmaker about supporting a bill that would dis-aggregate Asian and Pacific Islander data. It was my first time conveying my story to someone with legislative ability. I felt so powerful in that moment, and even more so when the bill passed. To know what it was like to be behind the scenes of an event that amplified the voices of 600+ attendees was invigorating and inspiring.   

While the last few months took an unexpected turn with first a global pandemic and more recently a movement for the sanctity of Black Lives, I have had time to reflect on why I fight for housing equity through my role as a social worker.  

When I am not at the Alliance or at school, I work in Harborview’s Emergency Department. In my time there, I have cared for many patients who lacked stable housing. These patients undoubtedly suffered the worst outcomes as they lack a place to heal and to rest. I once spoke with a doctor who treated so many of the same patients over and over again. They said that the most effective treatment would be a stable place to stay, and that they wished they could prescribe housing. Advising my patients who were homeless to keep up with medications felt like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. When I helped patients apply to public housing, I was astonished by how long the lists were. The fact of the matter is that there is just a greater need for more affordable housing than what already exists. That is why the work of the Alliance to push for systemic change through policy is so important. Housing is healthcare and housing is a human right. Everyone deserves shelter and an affordable place where they feel safe.  

As a child of the diaspora, the idea of home also means security. For my parents, Vietnam stopped being their home in 1975 when Saigon fell to the Northern regime. My paternal grandfather’s involvement in the Southern military marked his family for political persecution. To avoid imprisonment in the post-war concentration camps, my father escaped on a stolen naval ship and braved the journey to a refugee camp. After 11 months of living in the camp with scant food and little shelter from the weather, he was sponsored to live with a distant aunt in America. My mother arrived in 1982 on a family sponsorship. She came at the age of 14 with two aging parents, no ability to speak English, and little money to her name. She immediately had to navigate a new and confusing society.  Both my parents endured hardship and sacrifice in their migration to America in their pursuit of freedom, safety, and most of all, a place to call home. 

no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well. your neighbours running faster.”

-Warsan Shire

While my parents spent the majority of their lives locked into survival mode, their sacrifices gave me the privilege to look beyond and try to afford the same safety of home for others. As a future social worker, I vow to work toward housing equity as it is not only a right, but a foundation for everything else in life. I want to live in a world where finding a home can happen without so much sacrifice.   


Housing Champions 2020: The Importance of the Action Fund and Getting Leaders Elected 

Written by Emily Strange, QuEST Fellow

You may know that there are two organizations working closely with one another to advocate and organize for housing justice at the state level: the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (Housing Alliance) and the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund (Action Fund). But why is having two distinct organizations necessary? How do they work to support each other? What makes them unique from one another?  

The answer lies in the nonprofit tax structure. Essentially, a 501(c)(3) non-profit (Housing Alliance) isn’t allowed to endorse candidates for office and engage in political work. However, when people donate to a 501(c)(3) they will be able to write that donation off their taxes. A 501(c)(4) non-profit (Action Fund) can endorse candidates and engage in political work, like helping to canvass for endorsed candidates. However, when someone donates to a 501(c)(4), they are unable to write this donation off their taxes. You can learn more about the differences here. But these two types of organizations can work together. For example, the boards of the Housing Alliance and the Action Fund both vote jointly on the legislative agenda before session starts. The Resident Action Project itself is funded by both the Housing Alliance (c3) and the Action Fund(c4). Working together, the Housing Alliance can advocate for better policies, and the Action Fund can help elect housing champions to then make it easier to get that housing policy work done.  

In order to find out more about the work of the Action Fund, I asked Caroline Lopez, Director of Organizing for the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund, a few questions:  

Why is the Action Fund important to the work of the Housing Alliance?   

The Action Fund supports the housing justice issues that the Housing Alliance and its members, including RAP, advocates for throughout the year. However, the Action Fund has a specific role to register voters, educate candidates running for office, as well as elected officials, and hold lawmakers accountable to their words. The Action Fund endorses candidates who have been or affirm to be Housing Champions, in that they share the vision of housing justice in our state policies and budget. We work with members to elect those Housing Champions to office. Through this process, we can let new candidates know about the policies we’re working on, find out their stance and hold them accountable to the communities those policies impact once they’re elected.    

What are the steps to the endorsement process?   

We’ve elected to have an Endorsement Committee that includes people outside the board membership. This year, we’ve added two RAP Steering Committee members, Jennifer Bereskin and Brook Fadley, as well as RAP supporter and social worker, Sean Blackwell. They will join Action Fund board members from across the state in reviewing candidate endorsement applications. The application mainly asks questions about where the candidate stands on housing justice issues and policies that affect people with low income, renters and people without homes. The Endorsement Committee makes recommendations and interviews candidates as needed. These recommendations are sent to the Action Fund board members who then cast a final vote.   

How is equity factored into the endorsement process?   

Within the questionnaire, we ask how candidates are reaching out to and supporting Communities of Color, and how the candidates plan on reducing racial inequities around housing issues. We specifically ask about policies that are directly related to racial justice, equity for those most impacted, and housing discrimination.   

What else would you like members of RAP to know?  

Once we announce the candidates we will endorse, we hope that RAP members will help us to elect people who align with our vision for housing justice and encourage everyone they know to vote in the 2020 election! We need to mobilize our friends, family, neighbors and community in electing people who understand that housing is a public health crisis that affects us all.   


“Public Charge” is not just anti-immigrant, it’s anti-family

Written by Ly Huynh, MSW intern

Image credit: Shaina Lu (http://shainadoesart.com)

On February 24, 2020 the new ruling of public charge went into effect. The rule impacts people who are seeking green cards, the legal document that allows a person to become a Lawful Permanent Resident. People are considered a public charge when they use “too many” public benefits and are considered dependent on government services for everyday living. The recent changes to the rule name new public benefits which, if used, would count against an applicant. This is in addition to a more intense assessment process of someone’s socioeconomic standing. Advocates nationwide worry that the ruling will decrease the number of new green card holders, and that confusion over the rule will scare people away from using their legally entitled benefits. 

In writing this piece, I can’t help but think of my mother and grandparents who immigrated through a family sponsor. … Had the public charge rule been in place in the 1980s, it is likely that she and my grandparents would be denied green cards and would never have become the citizens as they are today.

In writing this piece, I can’t help but think of my mother and grandparents who immigrated through a family sponsor. When my mother arrived in the US at the age of 14, she was nearly deaf from conditions in war-torn Vietnam. Medical intervention restored her hearing and while she learned English, her aging parents never did. They relied on food stamps and odd jobs for a time until my mom graduated high school and found steady employment to keep the family afloat. Had the public charge rule been in place in the 1980s, it is likely that she and my grandparents would be denied green cards and would never have become citizens, as they are today.   

Before the February 2020 change on the rule, there were only two types of benefits that would earn someone status as a public charge. The first was cash benefits, such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). The second was long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense. Now, the new policy says certain groups of immigrants who are using one or more federally funded public benefits for 12 months or more are considered a public charge. This means they lose their chance at getting a green card.  

Charge worthy benefits now include federally funded non-cash assistance programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing vouchers, and other forms of public support. Under this rule, if someone is enrolled in more than one benefit, each additional benefit stacks against them as another month – meaning that someone using two services at the same time would gain the public charge status in 6 months rather than 12.   

Here’s the big kicker: The vast majority of immigrants affected by the new rule were never eligible for these benefits in the first place. For example, for someone to receive a housing voucher, the applicant is required to already be a permanent citizen. For immigrants with family members who are U.S. citizens, their family’s legal use of federally funded public benefits does not count toward the individual’s own status of becoming a public charge. 

Additionally, the rule excludes refugees, asylees, certain nonimmigrant visas (human trafficking and crime victims), and petitions under the Violence Against Women Act. The rule only applies to people who are applying for their green card on or after February 24, 2020. Many programs, such as WIC (Women, Infants & Children), CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), free and reduced-price school lunch, food banks, shelters, childcare assistance, Medicaid of pregnant women and children, and any state/local non-cash benefits do not count toward being a charge.   

So, if the changes about benefits do not apply to most applicants, why is the ruling driving 13 states, including Washington, to sue the federal government in opposition?  

First is the “chilling effect,” which has already seen record rates of decreased enrollments in non-related public benefit programs. “Chilling effect” refers to the discouragement of exercising legitimate rights due to fear of legal penalty. In this case, many immigrants are withdrawing from public services that they are legally entitled to in fear that using such services will impact their ability to obtain a green card. This is happening despite the fact that the services many people are dropping are not the ones that would cause them to become labeled a public charge. For example, some are disenrolling their children from CHIP or choosing not to get on Medicaid when pregnant. Even before the rule was implemented, rumors of the rule saw a mass wave of missed or cancelled appointments at community health clinics. Many opponents of public charge feel that the messaging about the rule was purposively vague in order to intimidate people from continuing their use of any benefit including those are that not under speculation.  

Secondly is a new test which assesses whether someone may become a public charge in the future by looking at six conditions:   

  • Age 
  • Health 
  • Family Status 
  • Assets, Resources and Financial Status 
  • Education and Skills 
  • Affidavit of Support 

Immigration officials see certain factors as causing someone to be more likely to use public benefits in the future. Being under 18 or over 61 is a negative factor as these age groups are considered less employable. Having any sort of health condition is another negative. The rule does not specify what types of health conditions would be considered negatively, which is frightening due to its implication that deciding officials could consider anything from asthma to heart disease as a consideration to bar someone from becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident. This is particularly damaging and ableist in practice as the assessment devalues the lives of people with disabilities and may deter people from accessing important health care. These are just two factors. Having a larger family is negative, making an income less than 125% lower than the federal poverty is another negative. Language and English proficiency will be on the test for the first time as well. See this list on the CLINIC for detailed explanations on the topic.  

These rules are drastically capitalistic in nature and tie an individual’s worth to their ability to work, rather than their dignity as a human being or without considering their purpose for immigrating or their family connections. After all, the majority of those impacted by this rule will be those who are sponsored by family, which make up 65 percent of all new green card grantees. This means that many families who have been working hard for years to reunite with loved ones, are separated indefinitely by this public charge rule. These new barriers target Communities of Color and other marginalized applicants who are low-income in what many are calling a wealth test.  

This new rule put forth by the Trump administration is racist, classist and xenophobic. We already know what the president thinks about non-white immigrants, heard in his 2018 remark about not wanting immigrants from “sh*thole countries,” and his Game of Thrones-esque obsession over “The Wall.”  The change to public charge only furthers anti-immigrant sentiment and targets family reunification. In the words of Representative Pramila Jayapal, “This regulation is another anti-immigrant, racially and economically discriminatory policy with a clear message that if you’re not white and rich, you’re not welcome in America.”  

Public charge is not just anti-immigrant, it’s anti-family. It’s time for the federal government to stop bullying people who use social safety net programs and instead give them the support they deserve to grow.  


Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

Protecting Immigrant Families

Public Charge and COVID-19 FAQ Sheet

Public Charge Information Workshop for Service Providers

Public Charge Toolkit

National Housing Low Income Housing Coalition Memo on Public Charge

National Immigrant Legal Services Directory


Register to Vote Early & Be Prepared this Important Election Year

By Emily Strange

Voting & COVID-19 - Vote.org
Photo credit: https://www.vote.org/covid-19/

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more apparent than ever how important government policies are. And, bigger still, how important those policymakers are. In a few months, citizens of this nation will either choose a new president or re-elect the current one. At the same time, us Washingtonians will be voting for federal and state representatives, as well as for many other important civic roles and ballot measures. It’s time to start thinking now about whether you’re registered to vote and how to do so if you’re not.  

Voting Basics: 

Fortunately for us, Washington is a vote by mail state. That means when we pre-register to vote, we receive a ballot in the mail a few weeks before election day. After filling that ballot out, we can then mail it or put it into a ballot drop box. If you haven’t already registered by election day, you’re able to go to a voting center in your area and register to vote there.  

However, given the reality of COVID-19, it’s unclear how voting centers will be impacted. It’s likely the best option to just pre-register ahead of time, either online or by mail, and plan on not attending the voting centers in person. If you’re unsure if you’re registered, you can check this website. Besides registering to vote, you can also use that website to update your voter information and learn more about what’s on your ballot.  

At this point, it’s important to note that you cannot register to vote online without having a valid Washington state ID. However, you can still register to vote without an ID in-person and by mail, so long as you provide the last four digits of your social security number.  

The Department of Licensing has closed all locations due to COVID-19, making it difficult to get a new license or ID for the time being. But if you already have one, the DoL has extended driver’s license expiration dates, and have tried to make the process a lot easier to renew online.  

Voting and Past Convictions: 

In Washington state, you can still vote even if you’ve been convicted of an offense. If you were convicted of a felony in a Washington State court, your right to vote is restored automatically once you are no longer under the authority of the Department of Corrections (in prison or on community custody). If you were convicted of a felony in another state or in federal court, your right to vote is restored automatically as long as you are not currently incarcerated for that felony.  

If you have any questions about your voter status, please consult this website.  

Voting and Having a Disability: 

Steps have been taken seeking to ensure the voting process is truly accessible, such as with the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Voter materials have to be provided in accessible ways. Please read this Crosscut article for more information. If you have any other questions, please consult the Secretary of State’s election website about what services are offered for folks who need more support registering to vote. 

Voting as a RAP Leader: 

 At the Resident Action Project, we believe in building power through storytelling, civic action and organizing. A lot of that hinges on voting – for the policies we want to see passed for affordable homes and for the policymakers who enact them. You know, as a RAP member, the power of collective action. Voting is one essential way we can come together, not just during COVID-19 and this important election year, but always. If you need additional support filling out your voter registration information, please feel free to reach out to your RAP peers or to us directly by emailing kikis@wliha.org.

With so much uncertainty during COVID-19, there is likely to be much more information on how the voting process and our Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts will be impacted. We look forward to revisiting this topic and answering any questions you may have in future newsletter issues leading up to the November election.


Let’s Face It… It’s Overwhelming

During COVID, I’ve witnessed a lot that has reminded me of difficult situations from my past. Despite this, it has been easy for me to let my mental health fall by the wayside. Sometimes, this happens because I’m needing to just get through my day. In other cases, this is due to a belief that what I’m experiencing isn’t traumatic enough to warrant a serious look at it.  In other cases, still, I may just not realize that there’s something going on at all.  

I’ve heard from friends and family that they are experiencing something similar. Perhaps others in the Resident Action Project have too? All those reactions are real and valid. But what we’re all experiencing is traumatic, individually and collectively, and it’s important to take care ourselves. If you have time, please read this article from Psychology Today that discusses what’s happening to us psychologically during this period of collective trauma. If you don’t have the time, just know that you’re cared about.  

The fact that we are experiencing trauma means we’re currently all experiencing a trauma response. Laura van Dernoot Lipsky from the Trauma Stewardship Institute says that this can look like “feeling helpless and hopeless, a sense that one can never do enough, hypervigilance, diminished creativity, inability to embrace complexity, minimizing, chronic exhaustion, inability to listen, dissociative moments, sense of persecution, guilt, fear, anger, cynicism, numbing, addictions, and also grandiosity.” It doesn’t mean that all of these have to be your experience, and it doesn’t mean you can’t be experiencing other reactions. Rather, it’s to show that if you are feeling anything in the above list, you aren’t alone.  

Self-care has become a sort of buzz word that seems to be more accessible to folks in stable homes and with a certain degree of privilege. The truth is everyone does self-care already and being intentional about finding self-care techniques that work with you, your wants, and your needs is all that matters. While self-care looks different depending on who you are and your interests, some self-care strategies you might consider trying includes the following.  

Self-Care strategies: 

  1. Breathing exercises. These have been shown to help with anxiety and will help maintain mental health during this time. Here’s an example of a breathing exercising from University of Michigan health, but do what works best for you! 
  1. Minimizing your exposure to news. It’s important to stay informed, but sometimes staying informed can tip over into being harmful to your mental health. This is going to look different from person to person, but figuring out a strategy to be more mindful about your exposure to news can help to some degree. 
  1. Get creative (Content warning: this link discusses abuse. If you would like to skip that part, scroll to the header that starts with “Running away meant I could explore.”) This also will look different for different people. If you can access a pen and paper, or writing device, then let your creativity run wild. Journal about what you’re experiencing, draw something that brings you joy, write a short story, etc. If you or someone you know doesn’t have access to that, then sing a song, share oral stories (from 6 feet away), or anything that works for you. Creativity is a proven resiliency factor that helps people get through tough times, including time of global panic and uncertainty.  
  1. Reach out to us at RAP. Down in the resources section I’ve included several resources to help connect with us and other RAP members. We’re all experiencing something different, and I know I would love to hear from folks!  
  1. Engage, genuinely, in anything that brings a smile to your face. Perhaps a pretty flower (so many are blooming right now!), or maybe watching a rainstorm, or drawing a picture and putting it in your window. Anything to remind you that COVID isn’t normal. If you want to see a picture of my dog, I’m ALWAYS willing to share. 


  • Sign up to be a part of the RAP Buddy phone tree! We’re a community here, and even if it’s virtual, we’re here for you. 

COVID-19 Underscores Need for Equity in Response

As the global pandemic continues, it is clear that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) as are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. While the virus does not discriminate, it does have harsher implications for folks who are already experiencing health, environmental and economic disparities. BIPOC are more likely to acquire and die from COVID-19, evident by astronomical infection rates in ethnically diverse cities such as New York and Chicago. The disparities in care were bound to happen as the virus is only illuminating the cracks in an already broken system ill fit to serve our nation’s most vulnerable.  

This screenshot was taken during a presentation by the Building Movement Project & SolidarityIs on
the challenges that non-profit organizations are facing during the Coronavirus pandemic when it comes to addressing the needs of disproportionately impacted populations.

At the Resident Action Project, we know that BIPOC folks are already experiencing disparities in housing and tenant protections, and are more at risk to be displaced into homelessness. Even before the COVID-19 crisis swept the globe. A February 2020 study on evictions by the University of Washington showed that in the state’s two most populous counties, eviction rates among black and Latinx adults are almost seven times higher than for white adults. Our state and federal decision makers need to center equity in their COVID-19 response or these issues will only continue to be exacerbated.

Data compiled by Mother Jones shows that in 70 percent of states that have reported accurate ethnic and racial data, African Americans make up more COVID-19 cases than is representative of their makeup in the population. To put the current rates in perspective, a recent CDC report shows that about a third of COVID infections are among African Americans despite making up only 16 percent of the country’s population. It was reported on April 21st that 65 percent of all demographic data being collected on COVID-19 cases do not include data on race. Due to this lack of data, it is suspected that infection rates among People of Color are under reported and it’s likely that the rate of positive infection is much higher. For the COVID-19 response to be truly effective and equitable, it’s crucial for states to release and track this data in order to gain supportive funding for the most impacted communities.

Indigenous communities are being hit hard as well. In Arizona, Native Americans account for 20% of deaths even though they consist of 5% of that state’s population. Navajo Nation in particular has reported 1,321 positive cases as of April 21st and has the third highest infection rate in the country after New Jersey. The cause for these high rates are tied, in part, to underfunded infrastructure. In an NBC article Dr. Loretta Christensen, the chief medical officer for the Navajo Nation, lamented, “You’re telling people, ‘Wash your hands for 20 seconds multiple times a day,’ and they don’t have running water.”  According to a John Hopkins Report, about 54,000 Navajo Nation residents do not have access to reliable clean drinking water.

The recommendations of social distancing, better put as “physical distancing,” along with access to testing and health care is a privilege afforded to few. BIPOC are more likely to work in essential or service industry jobs and are unable cannot work from the luxury of their homes. They are more likely to have to take public transportation and risk exposure from others. BIPOC are also more likely to live in urban centers or in close proximity to others where infection is not as easily contained.

Most importantly, BIPOC have higher rates of pre-existing health conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and asthma which put them at increased risk to develop complications or death from COVID-19. These health problems arise from centuries of historical trauma and systematic racism. To add insult to injury, access to health care for BIPOC is limited with barriers ranging from geographical distance and high treatment cost to culturally incompetent or unwilling providers.

It must be stated that undocumented, LatinX, Asian and Pacific Islander, and other people of color are suffering too. Many face economic instability or racial violence. Undocumented individuals who lose their job during this time face obstacles tapping into social safety programs. While many are ineligible to receive unemployment benefits or stimulus money, there may be local benefits they do not know to apply to.

 During these difficult times, we must stand in solidarity with each other. Leading by example is Dr. Ala Stanford, the founder of the Black Doctor’s COVID-19 Consortium. Her Philadelphia based group brings free-of-charge testing directly to residents who would be otherwise unable to access tests during via mobile testing or home visits. Locally, organizations such as the North West Immigrant Rights Project and One America have compiled resources applicable to Washington State residents. We have compiled our own list at Wliha.org/covid-19-resources.

 Once this is over, we cannot let things return to “normal” as normal was never good enough.

Written by Ly Huynh


National Support Needed for Addressing COVID-19 & Homelessness

States all across the nation are stepping up to respond rapidly and robustly to the health crisis that is COVID-19. But state resources alone will not meet the needs arising, especially when it comes to our low-income renters and neighbors experiencing homelessness. The best way to make your voice heard immediately is to call your members of Congress directly. You can contact the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be transferred. Or you can find your congressional district here and look up phone numbers here

Here are a few examples of organizations pushing the type of progressive policies we need on the national level to uplift the needs of low-income renters and people currently experiencing homelessness during this time. Click on links below for more details about each organization’s suggested policies:

  • Housing Justice Platform
    • Transfer $2,000 in cash to all people in the United States, immediately;
    • Institute a nationwide rent/mortgage holiday, rent/mortgage freeze, and/or rental assistance;
    • Enact a nationwide eviction/foreclosure moratorium;
    • Ban utility shut-offs and restore service to all households;
    • Provide homes and expanded services for people experiencing homelessness;
    • Provide immediate support for public housing residents; and,
    • Ensure a just, green transition post-pandemic.
    • Provide additional resources to McKinney-Vento Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and short-term rental assistance, like the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP)
    • Provide medical respite care to people experiencing homelessness
    • Increase outreach and street medicine resources
    • Put a moratorium on sweeps of homeless encampments
    • Put a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures
    • Provide rental and eviction prevention assistance
    • Provide emergency funds for public housing and other HUD housing providers
    • Provide access to legal services and foreclosure and eviction crisis counseling
    • Increase investments in the National Housing Trust Fund
    • Provide Rental Assistance
  • Congressional Progressive Caucus (This isn’t a non-profit organization, but a caucus group within the US House of Representatives)
    • Provide immediate cash assistance
    • Address housing insecurity
    • Provide worker-centered industry assistance
    • Provide higher education assistance
    • Support for small businesses and Nonprofit organizations
    • Include broad expansion of worksharing and other unemployment insurance programs
    • Provide free testing, treatment, and prevention
    • Include immigration and criminal justice protections
    • Maintain election integrity
    • Ensure Parity for Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Urban Indian Organizations:
    • Utilize the Defense Production Act (DPA)

If you’re interested in learning more about these policies at the federal level and its impact at the local level in King County, Rep. Jayapal (Democrat from Seattle) will be holding a video briefing with Kirsten Wysen of Seattle and King County Public Health today at 5:00 PT on her Facebook page.

-Written by Emily Strange


Organizing For Housing Justice During COVID-19

Though this moment of COVID-19 brings up fear and can feel overwhelming, we’ve been here before. Act Up and LGBTQ activists united to confront the HIV/AIDS crisis in spite of corrupt CEOs and irresponsible politicians. The photo above was taken during one of the many protests they organized in the 1980s. Although our tactics for organizing during COVID-19 will have to be updated to help prevent the spread of the disease, we can take comfort in the fact that we are resilient and when we organize, we’re powerful.

With the continuation of the global health crisis known as COVID-19, our work as organizers building a world where everyone has a safe, affordable place to call home has become even more crucial and urgent. You can’t “stay home” or “socially distance” yourself if you don’t have a stable home to practice these health and safety measures. 

This virus is revealing to us the interconnectedness of our world in a very personal way. It is showing, conclusively, that the health and well-being of one is intimately bound to the health and well-being of all. Novel coronavirus has given us an opportunity to rise to the occasion to care for and support one another. We can take action to protect our loved ones and the most vulnerable in our communities who will be hit hardest by this virus, such as those whose health is already compromised, those who cannot or are denied access to medical care, those who bear great risk in asking for help, and those who are disproportionately experiencing poverty and pollution. It is our responsibility to protect the lives of those around us by limiting the spread of this disease as much as possible. 

We also need our decision-makers to understand the urgency of this crisis, to lead with compassion and thorough action. That’s where we as an organized collective come in.

5 Things You Can Do to Lead During COVID-19

As we are physically distancing and navigating major disruptions to normal routines, you, like me, might be wondering what you can do during this crisis – especially when it comes to the thousands in our state alone with no home to go to. We must organize for robust protections that address the health needs of low-income renters and our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Though this moment brings up fear and can feel overwhelming, we’ve been here before. Act Up and LGBTQ activists united to confront the HIV/AIDS crisis in spite of corrupt CEOs and irresponsible politicians. It is our time to gather (albeit virtually) and rise up again. 


One way is to help our neighbors all across the country is by stopping evictions and foreclosures and providing resources (such as rental assistance and tenant-based vouchers) to those most at-risk in our communities, such as our unhoused elderly neighbors or those living with disabilities. Call your representatives and senators today to demand robust resources to help protect all people so they can continue to keep a roof over their heads during and after this crisis. Ask them to vote or support national bills backed by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Additional resources:
Click here to find your representative
Click her to find your Senator
Click here to access a sample script


If you are a part of the Resident Action Project, you know the collective power that sharing our stories can have on decision-makers. Now more than ever, we must encourage our friends and family to join us in calling our lawmakers. Challenge yourself to recruit at least 5 people to call/email Congress and state decision-makers. Ask them this question, so they can share their response with lawmakers:

With home: “What would it be like to lose your home during the COVID-19 pandemic?”

Without home: “What is it like for you to not have a home during the COVID-19 pandemic?”

We are powerful on our own, but to make a greater impact we must come together as a collective. 


Despite social distancing, we can still organize and recruit new members to join our movement with the Resident Action Project! Encourage your friends, family, and community members impacted by these trying times to spend any extra time building power with our network. Right now we are in rapid response mode. We are organizing to ensure that the health needs of low-income renters and folks experiencing homelessness are addressed in our state and nationally – and we need all hands on deck.

Share this link and encourage your community members to join RAP here


It’s never been more crucial for our shared resiliency and healing to stay connected within our communities. Using social media is one way to do that. However, if you’re like me and need a break from the panic currently sweeping our feeds, you might also consider downloading a couple of other virtual tools to connect with one other: Zoom and OutVote. Plus, by downloading the following apps you will be able to access upcoming RAP training sessions and leadership opportunities. 

Zoom can be used on your smartphone, computer or both. To get Zoom on your phone just go to your App/Google Store on your phone, search Zoom and download. From there you can sign up using your email address or Facebook, up to you. To use Zoom on your computer, follow this link and then you can sign up there. Zoom can be used as just a “call” where you use your phone and no video but using the video makes the meetings feel a bit more in person so we want to encourage you to use the video option if and when you can.

OutVote can also be used from a computer, smartphone or both. The computer version allows you to email your contacts about action and share stories and information back to us.  The phone app lets you get push alerts from us about action, send stories and videos straight from your phone to us, and pass on alerts to people in your contacts. To use OutVote on your phone you can get set up with this link. The app will get sent to your phone and you can sign up via email or Facebook. To use OutVote on the computer use this link to sign up. If you need support setting up your account email us at KikiS@wliha.org. 


There are a TON of amazing resources being shared and created right now, but WE NEED YOU to help gather them! We’ve created a Google Form and shared resource list so that folks can access and add to COVID-19 & Homelessness resources.

Access the Google doc of shared resources here.

Submit brief form to add to list here.

Yes, these are alarming times. Yes, we are facing something new and unknown. But, are we powerless? No. Will we stop fighting for economic and housing justice? Never. We must remember, as activists and organizers, we are resilient. We know how to rise to the occasion – even an occasion such as this. And that is, TOGETHER. Stay safe and stay strong.

-Written by Kiki Serantes, kikis@wliha.org


Help us grow the Steering Committee!

We are now accepting nominations of leaders to join the Resident Action Project Steering Committee! 

We’re seeking leaders who have been personally impacted by housing injustice and/or live in affordable housing. Specifically, we’re searching folks who are eager to: 

  • Organize events, actions, trainings, and more in their region 
  • Mobilize and engage new people in our movement, from your building and/or community;    
  • Coordinate actions and/or connect the Housing Alliance to someone who is able to do so when you’re not available;    
  • Use your own experience with housing instability to build skills around organizing and advocating for statewide change.

We value equity, racial justice and representation of people with multiple marginalized identities. We are therefore seeking nominations from populations, including but not limited to youth/young adults, LGBTQ+, disabilities, Communities of Color, veterans, previously incarcerated individuals, and other communities marginalized in the housing system.

Steering Committee members serve for one year, volunteering roughly 10 hours a month depending on availability and needs. RAP holds the core values of fairness, equity, inclusion, justice, and community.

By participating on this committee, all leaders will receive the following support from the Housing Alliance:

  • Dedicated staff time from the Housing Alliance and Community Change to support the Resident Action Project;
  • Leadership development and training opportunities; 
  • Support around organizing, anti-oppression, advocacy, and policy work; 
  • A budget for the committee to work with; and 
  • Insider knowledge about policy in Olympia. 

For questions or to nominate someone over the phone, please reach out to Kiki Serantes at kikis@wliha.org. Otherwise, use the button below to complete the online nomination form. 


2019 RAP Survey – We want to hear from you!

Have you participated with the Resident Action Project in the last year? We want to hear from you! Complete our brief annual survey and you could win a $25 gift card! 

This 22-question survey is designed to provide helpful information for RAP as we continue to organize for affordable housing in Washington. It will take approximately 7 minutes to complete. The questions deal with your thoughts regarding resident empowerment and your activities on behalf of affordable housing. Participation in this survey is voluntary and anonymous. The deadline for completion of the survey is Friday, January 31, 2020 at 5 pm. At the end of the survey you will have the option of entering your contact info for a raffle to win a $25 gift card. If you have any questions and/or would like to complete a hard-copy survey instead, please contact community organizer Kiki Serantes at kikis@wliha.org

Complete the survey here.