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Where We've Been

Fall 2017: Statewide Summit for Homes

On Saturday, October 7th, the Resident Action Project held its first Statewide Summit for Homes. More than eighty people packed the Southside Commons and filled the space with conversations about the primary solutions that RAP should fight for to address the housing and homelessness crisis.

At the beginning of the meeting, we welcomed everyone into the space. We introduced folks to RAP and told the story of how we arrived at the Summit. We did an initial presentation about the information that we collected in the listening sessions and provided people with handouts to look at the data for themselves. Then, we turned to the group to find the solution.

Inspired by the World Café, RAP leaders on the Statewide Steering Committee and others who attended the cross train facilitated small group conversations based on each of the problem areas that we identified. The goal of each of the small group conversations was for the participants to consider the listening session data for that theme area and begin to brainstorm solutions that the group would then vote on at the end of the day. We had three rounds of fifteen minute conversations, and we asked people to rotate to a different theme each time.

Following our World Café conversations, participants had the opportunity to hear from Representative Nicole Macri and Michele Thomas, policy staff from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, about the political landscape in Olympia.

After lunch, we gave each of the table facilitators the opportunity to report out on the solutions identified at their tables. From there, we asked the group to vote on the issues that they want to recommend to the Statewide Steering Committee to prioritize in the 2018 legislative session. Each of the participants was given three dots that they could disperse however they liked.

The issues that rose to the top were:

  • build more low-income and affordable housing
  • change the law that makes urinating in public a sex offense
  • ban statewide source of income discrimination
  • develop a legal department that handles all housing discrimination issues
  • do away with statewide ban on rent control
  • establish a “homeless court” based on a model for other states that offers alternatives to fines, jail, and to people to services

Even though it was a long, action-packed day, there was a lot of energy in the room as we closed. Several people lingered – appreciating each other’s company and the work that we’d done together.

Where We've Been

Summer 2017: Listening Sessions

In early 2017, RAP’s first statewide steering committee formed and began making plans for 2017. After releasing an extensive Toolkit for Organizing in May, RAP launched its first listening tour. Since the beginning, we had been struggling with question: how do we do democracy well? How do we make sure that we are being inclusive in RAP’s decision-making processes? How do we make sure that RAP’s work actually reflects the needs of the communities that we seek to serve? The answer that we landed on was to start by sitting down with people to listen.

Our goals for the listening tour were to learn more about how the affordable housing and homelessness crisis was impacting communities locally and to invite more people to join our network. We visited twelve communities around the state: Kent, Lynnwood, Federal Way, Centralia, Bellingham, Kirkland, Bellevue, two in Tacoma, and three in Seattle. During each listening session, we gave people a brief introduction to the Resident Action Project, explained our belief in systemic change to impact many people’s lives, and promoted systems thinking. Then, we asked people: what were the biggest challenges that you faced the last time that you tried to find a new home, and what are the challenges that your larger communities face? We gave people individual reflection time and discussed in small and large groups.

Every listening session that we did was unique. It was clear that the housing crisis is impacting each area in different ways, but it was also clear that there were trends between all of the communities that we visited. Because we left the listening sessions open-ended, we gathered a ton of information. The best way that we came up with to present it back to the group was to identify all of the unique problems that were identified and organize them into larger themes or problem areas: finding an affordable place to live, housing discrimination, available housing doesn’t meet diverse needs and is inaccessible, and the criminalization of homelessness and additional barriers that occur after someone becomes homeless.

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This Month’s Advocacy in Action

This Month’s Advocacy in Action blog post comes from none other than Lisa Sawyer who is on RAP’s Steering Committee and a Real Change vendor. Lisa wrote this article on the Conference on Ending Homelessness for Real Change’s May 30 – June 5 issue.