Uncategorized

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.
  • NLIHC
    • 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

Uncategorized

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. 

  1. CALL CONGRESS & STATE DECISION-MAKERS

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

  1. ORGANIZE YOUR FRIENDS & FAMILY TO SHARE THEIR VOICE

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. 

  1. RECRUIT, RECRUIT, RECRUIT!

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

  1. STAY CONNECTED

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. 

  1. SHARE & BUILD RESOURCES

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

Uncategorized

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. 

Uncategorized

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.

Uncategorized

Barred from Housing: Joining the Fight Against “The New Redlining”

On Jan. 13, panelists shared their personal and professional experiences navigating housing discrimination of previously incarcerated individuals. The panelists included Carolina Landa (Washington Statewide Re-Entry Council), Duaa-Rahemaah Williams (Housing Justice Advocate), Julian Saucier (Yoga Behind Bars), Kim Gunning (Columbia Legal Services), and Susan Mason (What’s Next Washington). The event was moderated by Chris Poulos of the Washington Statewide Re-entry Council.

The Housing Alliance co-sponsored a panel on Monday, welcoming the start of the 2020 legislative session with a call to enact a Housing Justice Bill. This bill would prevent categorical denial of housing to people with criminal records.

“Denying housing based on a criminal record is just another way to discriminate against race and class,” Susan Mason, of What’s Next Washington, said during the panel.

In Washington, having a prior criminal history is one of the most pervasive reasons that people are denied rental housing. Although research shows there is no correlation between having a past criminal record and poor tenant behavior, stereotypes and stigmas still inform landlords’ policies to deny applicants for this reason. This has created a significant loophole in fair housing laws which disproportionately impacts Communities of Color, who are more likely to be impacted by every level of the criminal legal system. As a result, widespread landlord policies of blanket exclusion are increasingly being referred to as “the new redlining.”

Panelists shared their personal and professional experiences navigating this form of housing discrimination and discussed why everyone is safer when no one in our community is left without a place to go at night. The panelists included Carolina Landa (Washington Statewide Re-Entry Council), Duaa-Rahemaah Williams (Housing Justice Advocate), Julian Saucier (Yoga Behind Bars), Kim Gunning (Columbia Legal Services), and Susan Mason (What’s Next Washington). The event was moderated by Chris Poulos of the Washington Statewide Re-entry Council.

First Lady Trudi Inslee was one of 40 political stakeholders, decision-makers and legislative staff who attended the event held at the state capitol, with nearly 1000 Facebook users tuning into the live stream.

First Lady Trudi Inslee (left) thanks the panelists and prepares to pose for a photo.

According to NPR, one in four Americans has a criminal record. Those records can include arrests that never led to convictions, as well as convictions for a range of crimes that may have happened decades ago.

“Five percent (78,958) of Washington children had at least one parent impacted by incarceration from 2016-2017,” said Carolina Landa. “That’s 5% of children whose families are categorically denied housing because of their record.”

Seattle unanimously passed a similar “Fair Chance Housing” ordinance in 2017 addresing some of the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, including racial discrimination and homelessness, according to Columbia Legal Services. The Rental Housing Association and private landlords sued the city over the law, however the Washington Supreme Court clarified the legal standard, rejecting the landlords’ argument that a heightened standard should apply and upholding the ordinance.

The Washington Statewide Re-entry Council is now leading this effort to “ban the box” on rental applications statewide. RAP and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance support advocacy and organizing around this topic last year, but the bill did not make it. Still – despite a short legislative session – the fight continues in 2020 to end this form of rental discriminiation.


RAP believes that our communities are stronger and safer when everyone has an affordable place to go at night – even if someone has a record. Changing this law might not solve all of homelessness, but homelessness will not be solved so long as there are still people being denied housing because of their record with the court.

To view a recording of the live stream, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/WLIHA/videos/1414677832044027/

If you’ve been impacted by incarceration and discrimination and would like to share your story this legislative session, please let us know! You can reach out to us directly at kikis@wliha.org or by submitting a form on the Housing Alliance website here: https://housingalliance.salsalabs.org/shareyourtruth2020/index.html.

-Written by Kiki Serantes, Community Organizer

Uncategorized

Unpacking Census 2020: And Why You Should Care as a Housing Advocate

By Emily Strange, Organizing Fellow

In only a few short weeks, we’ll be ushering in a new year and a new decade. After the ball has dropped, the confetti have settled and the 20/20 vision jokes have been overdone, the work of the Census will begin in earnest. While it might seem to be irrelevant to the work of housing advocates on the surface, the Census is central to the work that we do and its results will go on to impact funding and representation for the next 10 years. 

The countrywide census effort will be between March 2020 and December 2020. It is constitutionally mandated to count every resident of the United States every ten years, happening in years that end in zero. This is the first article in a series we’ll be doing to unpack the census: what it is, how it will be used, its importance to housing work, and how those experiencing homelessness are going to be counted. 

Why is the Census so crucial? For starters, the electoral college votes are allocated among the states based on the Census. That means that the more people from our state are counted, the more electoral votes will be available to our state in deciding future presidential elections. Each state has a number assigned to it based on its population, determined by the Census. For example, the results of the 2010 Census is the reason why Washington currently has 12 electoral votes and Florida has 29. State, local and tribal governments use census information for planning and allocating funds for new school construction, libraries, highway safety and public transportation systems, new roads and bridges, location of police and fire departments and many other projects. Yes, this includes funding for projects around building affordable housing, providing services and ending homelessness. According to the New York Times, the Census determines how congressional seats are apportioned, how state and federal dollars are distributed, where businesses choose to ship products and where they build new stores. The Census is used at the state level to redraw congressional districts and legislative districts, which has powerful implications for elections and representation. For example, the state of Minnesota may potentially lose some electoral college votes, whereas the state of Texas may gain votes

This Census, there are multiple ways to get counted. The primary way to participate is online, which will be made available in March. Door-knockers and Census workers will still be used as a way to get folks counted who haven’t completed a form online. This is because it is constitutionally mandated to get as complete of a count as possible. Even though it’s law to get as accurate as a count as possible, marginalized populations have been historically and often intentionally left out of the count. Some changes coming to the Census in 2020 seek to change that pattern. For those that are unhoused, The U.S. Census Bureau will work with service providers to ensure that people who are unhoused also are counted. Because folks have the option to complete a Census count online, this means thousands of people who were not counted in the past due to their housing status can now be included.  

This decade’s Census count will also be the first to include a count of those who are undocumented. There was an attempt early in the Census planning to include a question about one’s citizenship status. Luckily, this was blocked in the courts. One important thing to note in all of this is that it’s against the law for the Census Bureau and anyone who represents it to share your identity and information with anyone, including ICE. If they do, the perpetrator faces the possibility of five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The Census is meant to get an accurate understanding of everyone who’s in the United States, no matter their citizenship status. 

Stay tuned for future RAP Newsletters to dive into the Census more, learn about work happening across the state on it, and how you can help organize for an accurate Census 2020. For more about the Census and its importance in the meantime, listen to Jonathan Van Ness’s podcast (particularly to gain more insight on how unhoused people will be counted) and watch this clip from a Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episode.  

-This article was contributed to by Kiki Serantes.

Uncategorized

Threading Together Housing Justice and Equity: Anti-Oppression Work IS Housing Justice

Pictured above: organized preachers and members of the NAACP march for The Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968 shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In the fight for housing justice, it’s impossible to isolate housing and homelessness from the oppressive structures that impact our society and our people. In even trying to do so, it negates the experiences of those who have suffered at the hands of institutionalized oppression. That’s why here at the Resident Action Project and Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, we are committed to rooting ourselves firmly in equity and anti-oppression work – because that’s the only way we will truly end homelessness. 

Fundamentally, housing is about land. It’s about land use rights and how land is developed. There are a lot of words used to describe housing, but in the end, it breaks down to who gets that right to use land. From the United States’ founding, theft by Europeans from Native Americans has been the root. The city of Seattle currently sits on land that was taken from the Duwamish tribe by the European settlers. The city of Spokane currently sits on land that was taken from the Spokane tribe, also by European settlers. This can be said for every city, town, village, county, state in the entire United States, just with different thieves.

Land has been at the root of many acts of violence committed by those in power, from stealing and displacing Africans from their homes, enslaving them, and forcing them to work the United States’ stolen land, to the inhumane treatment of Mexican citizens during the Bracero program, and then their forced displacement from this land (warning, this link contains information about a government program that was titled a racial slur). 

There’s a whole history of the Doctrine of Discovery, slavery, the Indian Removal Act, the Dawes Act, redlining, and much more that’s important to acknowledge to understand the role that we as housing advocates occupy. The Doctrine of Discovery, Indian Removal Act, Dawes act and more are seen today in the poverty and homelessness on native American reservations, and in the fact that the United States took 137.2 billion dollars of assets from Native lands they were managing, but settled the lawsuits for only $492 million in 2016. The history of slavery and segregation can be seen today in the current inhumane treatment of migrants at the US border and the wealth inequity in African American communities to redlining. It can be seen in the fact that 19% of transgender people are denied apartments due to their gender identity. These histories are still here today.  

Housing justice can’t be isolated from these histories, because these histories are why housing justice is necessary. Racism, sexism, classism, ableism, heterosexism and other forms of oppression were and continue to be central in the development of this country, and in the creation of the housing crisis that we find ourselves in. It took work to develop these unjust systems, and it’s going to take work in order to dismantle them and rebuild new ones. 

The RAP Steering Committee met on Monday and affirmed their commitment to equity and anti-oppression work. We learned about powerful and traumatic moments of US history and discussed the importance of anti-racism work. 

The RAP steering committee team discussed two elements on how racism can show up/cause barriers in our work, colorblindness and this misconception of reverse racism. Color blindness, commonly associated with the phrase “I don’t see color,” often has positive intent, with one meaning to send the message that they see people of color as their equal. The issue with this line of thought is that is negates the real experiences that people have based on their race. By saying that one doesn’t see color, the message they are sending is that they don’t honor the different life experiences that someone else may have had based off their non-dominant culture or heritage, that the beauty of their differences are erased or co-opted, and ignores the privileges that come with whiteness in US society.  

Reverse racism is an idea that has come to the forefront in the modern-day United States. It’s the concept there is a whole system that has formed to oppress white people from those of color. One definition of racism is prejudice plus power. This means that there’s systematic power to back up your prejudices. Ever since the first European settlers arrived on this land, up until now, those who have had the power are white. This can be seen today when looking at the United States congress and even the Washington State legislature. In current US society, it is impossible for reverse racism to exist, for the power structures are firmly in the hands of white people. 

RAP and the Housing Alliance understand that in order to grow and build a strong movement, it needs to not just be inclusive, it must actively work to dismantle these unjust institutions. Because in the end, that’s what we’re doing in housing justice: Working to pull one specific, housing shaped thread in the tapestry of systemic oppression, armed with the knowledge that with our growing community effort it will unravel. 

-Written by Emily Strange, Organizing Fellow with the Housing Alliance