Now Is The Time

Ending hunger, homelessness, and the cycle of poverty...in heels.

In the United States more than 633,000 people experience homelessness every night.  48.9 million Americans are at risk of hunger - including one in five kids. Nearly 50 million Americans are living in poverty.  Hunger, homelessness, and poverty are devastating for individuals and our communities. This is unacceptable, unjust, and illogical.

We know that effective, commonsense policies like SNAP and EITC lift people out of poverty. We know that Rapid Rehousing and Housing First models reduce homelessness. We know that innovative philanthropic endeavors like Collective Impact and Social Impact Bonds can transform the way government, nonprofits, and local communities work together to tackle our toughest challenges. We know we can band together and create change.

Now Is The Time to get this done.

This site will feature a collection of personal reflections, original ideas, and smart thinking from around the country and the globe on the issues of hunger, homelessness, and poverty.  We'll check in with thought leaders and discuss ways we can create change. We will also highlight ways to leverage two of my favorite things - National Service and the philanthropic sector. 

Seattle City Council Budget Hearing Recap

Community members packed Garfield High School last week for the final Seattle City Council budget hearing. With the City budget in relatively good shape, and an election underway, Mayor McGinn released a budget that provided strong support for just about every interest group. The City Council now has the task of debating the proposed budget during a heated election season. While the hearing lacked fireworks – and some councilors probably could have used some coffee – there are three budget requests I hope they listened to.

Fresh Bucks: $100,000

If you haven’t heard of Seattle’s Fresh Bucks Program – which incentivizes using Food Stamp dollars to purchase fresh produce at area framers markets – check out this hilarious video about the program. I’m in love with this video and the program. Got Green? a local grassroots organization that works to make sure low-income people and communities of color have access to the benefits of the green economy, is advocating for program funding. Mayor Mike McGinn’s budget contains $100,000 to support the program in 2014. 

The Fresh Bucks bonus program provides up to a $10 bonus match (for a minimum of $10 of Food Stamps benefits redeemed) at Farmers Markets. The initiative is hailed for reducing food insecurity in Seattle as well as  boosting Washington’s farmers and farmers markets.

Start Up Seattle: $151,000

On a different note, area entrepreneurs were also out advocating for funding to support Start Up Seattle. They lacked the cute kids and clever signs that other groups had, but seem to have support from Mayor and Council.  According to their website Startup Seattle is a collaborative effort between the City of Seattle and leaders of Seattle’s technology startup community to develop a strategy for supporting early-stage technology companies, expand the number of startups, and firmly establish Seattle as an internationally recognized home for emerging technology companies.

For a modest amount it seems like a worthwhile venture that could prove beneficial for our future economy. 

bill quote.jpg

Family Shelter: $199,613

With strong turnout from advocates, kids, and people experiencing homelessness, the most vocal and powerful testimony came from those seeking additional funding for family shelter. Bill Hallerman, agency director for Catholic Community Services (CCS) King County, passionately told the City Council “don’t get tired – we need your help to end homelessness”. His reference to the fatigue many are showing for work to end homelessness was timely. We are eight years in to the ten-year plan to end homelessness. Despite incredible work that that has housed thousands of people, there are still more than 2,700 people on the streets of king county – 70% of them in Seattle.  New data shows that families with kids are staying in tents, cars, and other places not meant for human habitation. No one thinks that is acceptable but there is a great deal of debate about how to address the problem.

Local nonprofit Mary’s Place & staff from CCS’s Family Housing Connection are advocating for new shelter that would bring 30 Seattle families safe inside each night while they pursue better long-term housing. While this one didn’t make the Mayor’s budget, at least a few City Council members believe it is an important and compassionate response. I couldn’t agree more.

Anyone can become homeless, but no one – especially no child, should be on the streets. City Council could and should step up to support this request.