As Heard on NPR: Homelessness Threatens Student Success

Denise Miller points out a staggering fact: Over 30,000 schoolchildren in Washington state are experiencing homelessness. Read on to learn about what the Storycorps “Finding Our Way” Initiative is doing this summer in our region, to hear a Seattle mother and daughter’s story of experiencing homelessness (that recently aired on NPR!), and to find out what you can do!

Erika-and-Kris-StoryCorps

In a StoryCorps conversation that aired on NPR this morning, Erika (left) talks with her mom about attending high school while living in a car. Image from StoryCorps.


Written by Denise Miller, Firesteel Advocacy Coordinator, for Firesteel

More than 30,000 schoolchildren in Washington state are experiencing homelessness.

In a heart-wrenching story that aired on NPR this morning, one of these students, Erika, talks about the challenges of attending high school while living in a car with her family. Listen on the StoryCorps website.

Erika’s story was collected as part of the StoryCorps “Finding Our Way” initiative, which has given more than 150 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties a chance to share in their own words how homelessness has affected their lives.

10411256_10152546606313622_4547776611150686327_n[1]As the YWCA of Seattle | King | Snohomish hosted StoryCorps recordings, I met many of the participating families. All the parents I spoke with have gone to great lengths to protect their children from the stresses of homelessness. Continue reading on Firesteel’s Blog→

Faith and Family Homelessness Uncategorized

A Local Perspective on the 2014 National Conference on Homelessness

Submitted by Mark Putnam, Director, Committee to End Homelessness in King County

MOnumentThis past July, several King County based Committee to End Homelessness staff braved the heat and humidity of a Washington, D.C. summer to attend the 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness.

The annual conference offers more than a thousand people from across the United States and Canada who work to end homelessness an opportunity to learn from each other, discuss effective solutions for ending homelessness with leading experts in the field, and offer their voices in shaping effective strategies and policies to end homelessness in their region.

This year’s conference signaled a new tone and energy in the work of ending homelessness. Attendees celebrated the great strides made in developing and implementing innovative strategies that aim to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time. We know what works and doesn’t work, and there’s a renewed energy to take on the challenge of adjusting current practices and systems to undertake these innovative practices.

Workshop speakers highlighted:

  • Housing first principles for all populations, including rapidly re-housing families and single adults as a viable and effective approach to help move people off the streets and into housing
  • Strategies to prioritize the most vulnerable people into the homeless housing system as the most effective way to target limited homeless resources
  • Utilizing data to inform decision-making, including developing standards to measure program and system-level performance and re-tooling systems to align with more effective and efficient efforts

The good news is that King County is on track, and in some cases even ahead of the game, in these efforts.

This year’s conference didn’t let us down! With 90 workshops over three days; with dynamic keynote speakers like Senator Cory Booker, HUD Secretary Julián Castro’, the new United States Interagency Council on Homelessness Chair, Thomas E. Perez, and Director of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, Becky Kanis Margiotta, we left DC even more committed and energized for the work ahead.

King County was well represented with local stakeholders presenting at conference workshops, including:

  • Emily Harris-Shears, Catholic Community Services (Targeting and Preventing Homelessness)
  • William Hobson, DESC (Person-Centered Options for Persons in Recovery)
  • Melinda Giovengo, YouthCare (Innovative Collaborations in Strengthening Models to End Youth Homelessness)
  • Jim Mayfield, WA DSHS (Research on Rapid Re-Housing)
  • Kollin Min, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Partnering to Support Young Children and their Parents)
  • Jim Theofelis, The Mockingbird Society (Where Does State Policy Fit in Your Advocacy Playbook?)

And, our very own:

  • Mark Putnam, CEHKC (Strategies to Develop and Strengthen Your Continuum of Care)
  • Megan Gibbard, CEHKC (Transatlantic Practice Exchange: Lessons from Across the Pond AND Systemic Responses to Youth Homelessness)


The last day culminated with the key note from The First Lady of the U.S., Michelle Obama. Before the First Lady took the stage, the 1,600 conference participants were shown videos, including Seattle University’s American Refugees four animated short films about family homelessness, and a video from the Mockingbird Society featuring youth advocates.

While our own Michelle Valdez was fortunate enough to get a close-up and handshake from the First Lady, we all agree that the opportunity to hear her speak about the work of ending homelessness among Veterans (of which Seattle/King County is also a part of), was the icing on the cake.

We’ll end our brief update with a message from Michelle Obama:

“Yet, when so many others accept homelessness as a fact of life, you refuse to give up.  When they scoff at your idealism, you show them the data and evidence that prove that we can solve this problem.  And when they still throw up their hands and walk away from this challenge, you roll up your sleeves and get back to work.”

Committee to End Homelessness of King County staff attending included:

  • Mark Putnam, Director
  • Megan Gibbard, Program Manager
  • Michelle Valdez, Program Manager
  • Triina Tennelo, Program Manager

To Learn More:

National Alliance to End Homelessness – 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness

Materials and presentations: http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/2014-national-conference-presentations

First Lady’s key note speech: http://www.endhomelessness.org/blog/entry/heres-first-lady-michelle-obamas-speech-from-our-2014-national-conference

Committee to End Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness Seattle U

Faith in Action at All Saints Parish

A shout out to our partner parish in Puyallup, All Saints, whose advocacy and work with homeless families was just recognized in an article in Northwest Catholic last week! Read the full article below to learn more about how the parishioners are putting their faith into action. (And look for a word from School of Theology & Ministry Dean Mark Markuly!)


Helping homeless families

Puyallup parish works through interfaith project at Seattle University to fight homelessness

By Kim Haub

All Saints Puyallup parishioners at Olympia capitol
Members of Puyallup’s All Saints Parish traveled to Catholic Advocacy Day in Olympia, where they asked legislators to streamline assistance programs and reduce the waiting time for homeless families to receive aid. Photo: Courtesy All Saints Parish

For All Saints parishioner Veronica Kaipainen, helping the homeless is a family affair.

The Kaipainens participate in Faith and Family Homelessness Project events at the Puyallup parish, where they learn ways to help and advocate for the estimated 319 homeless families in their community.

“I am drawn to the idea of faith in action,” said Kaipainen, a public school counselor. “This really seemed to be an activity that I could apply to my professional life as well as my spiritual life.”

All Saints is one of 14 Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations — and the only Catholic one — participating in Seattle University’s Faith and Family Homelessness Project. All Saints received nearly $10,000 in grant money through the program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Action Faith and Family Homelessness Faith-based Advocacy School of Theology & Ministry Social Justice

StoryCorps and Gates Foundation Launch “Finding Our Way” Project

By Catherine Hinrichsen, Program Manager for Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness

Every Friday morning at around 7:30 a.m., millions of people around the country are entranced by a weekly public radio segment in which everyday Americans tell the stories of their lives.  It’s the beloved StoryCorps, and it’s coming to our region this summer to find stories about families who have experienced homelessness. StoryCorps Tierra Jackson John HoranCaption: One of the most memorable StoryCorps segments for the family homelessness community is the story of Tierra Jackson, who with her former principal John Horan reflected on what it was like to be homeless in high school.

While only about 50 of its stories per year make it onto National Public Radio, StoryCorps has actually recorded more than 50,000 stories in its 10 years. The stories are archived in the Library of Congress.

This July and August, people in Western Washington who have experienced family homelessness will be able to tell their own stories as part of the new StoryCorps project, “Finding Our Way: Puget Sound Stories about Family Homelessness.”

The project is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who asked our Project on Family Homelessness to serve as the local coordinator.  We’ll be working with local host partners to find stories from among their current and recent clients, and also reaching out to the public to find people who have experienced family homelessness in their past.

The stories will also be available for our advocacy efforts to end family homelessness in Washington state.  Find out how service providers can help us find the stories and use them to advocate.

How can stories help end family homelessness? Firesteel explains.

Program Kickoff June 3

Nearly 150 community members gathered at the Gates Foundation Visitor Center for the project launch Tuesday night, June 3, to find out how to become part of this new advocacy initiative.

The purpose of “Finding Our Way” is to develop a collection of up to 90 personal stories about families in our community who have experienced homelessness.  StoryCorps will work with local host partners YWCA Seattle ǀ King ǀ Snohomish and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, along with Seattle University, to recruit participants for 40-minute recordings this summer.

In his welcome, senior program officer Kollin Min of the Gates Foundation mentioned a relevant quote from Bill Gates, Sr. on one of the walls of the Visitor Center: Though data drives results reporting, “These numbers are our neighbors.”

“These data points reflect the experiences of people like us through storytelling,” Kollin said.

084june 03, 2014_gatesfoundation_storycorp_hi_res

Caption: Kollin Min, a StoryCorps fan, said the moving stories are known to cause reactions ranging from sniffling to bawling. Some, however, are also good for a laugh.

Guests were able to meet the main project crew from StoryCorps — Michelle Bova, Abby Lesnick and producer Eve Claxton.  On her first visit to the region in late April, Eve began recording at United Way of King County‘s Community Resource Exchange April 30 and will lead the recording process this summer.

StoryCorps Launch SC with CCS

Caption: StoryCorps staff with the CCS team.  L-R: Michelle Bova and Eve Claxton of StoryCorps; Jonathan Ross, Denny Hunthausen, Tanya Mendenhall and Alan Brown of CCS. 

During the overview, Abby said the purpose of StoryCorps is to give voice to the voiceless and that its audio-only format is something that founder David Isay strongly believes in.

Continue reading on the SU Project on Family Homelessness blog→

Art for Social Change Citizen Ending Homelessness Events Faith and Family Homelessness Gates Foundation Homeless Families Homelessness Project on Family Homelessness Seattle U