Thursday, July 6, 2017

Speaking Up

By Christy Houghton

I signed up for Homeless Advocacy 101, a workshop sponsored by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH), to learn something new about helping the homeless. Geared towards ordinary people like me, who aren’t professional lobbyists and don’t remember much about American Government lessons from high school social studies, this free workshop was informative, interesting, entertaining – and sobering. On any given night in the Seattle area, 10,000 people are homeless, with 4,500 people still outside after shelters close. There is clearly a need for solutions.

Kate Baber, who works for the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance, kicked off the workshop by reviewing some current legislative priorities which could benefit the homeless. But how to get our legislators to listen to our concerns about our neighbors who are without shelter?

That was the focus of Nancy Amidei’s talk. Nancy has influenced public policy for years in both Washigntons before retiring from teaching civics and advocacy at the University of Washington. She gave a short review of how our elected representatives work for us at the state and federal levels and the way that bills are turned into laws.

Nancy’s definition of advocacy is, “Speaking up!” Our government representatives have staff for facts. They need us for personal stories. Stories that are brief and compelling will help influence their colleagues on our behalf. One easy way to speak up is to call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000. It’s a free call to a helpful person who will get your message to the right people. Nancy also advises signing up with a good advocacy group that's tracking the issues you care about and will inform its members about opportunities to act.

Alison Eisinger, SKCCH’s Executive Director, facilitated the workshop. Her goal, she told us, was to have us leave with tools, knowledge, and a sense of empowerment. I left with all of that, plus the conviction that I can make a difference by speaking up to share stories about the homeless with my elected representatives.

Resources:

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Room to Grow

By Christy Houghton
Additional Property for Camp Second Chance

There were only 14 residents at Camp Second Chance before the city added another parcel of land in March, making room to grow. The site can now house up to 70 people in 50 tents or tiny houses. New residents have come from other camps, or from homeless 'sweeps', where people and their things are removed from an unsanctioned location.
By April first, the camp had already doubled in size.

A Model Camp

Camp Second Chance allows adults only, due to the relatively remote industrial area where schools and daycares aren’t very close. Everyone is expected to follow the camp's rules, including a prohibition on having alcohol or drugs in camp. If a rule gets broken once, though, there’s compassion. That person is reminded of the rules and given a second chance to stay. Sometimes, the Second Chance Community isn’t a good fit for someone in their current life situation. There's a large extra tent with three cots, so people can spend the night as guests, even if they decide not to join the community. Camp Second Chance even hires an Uber ride, so the guest has a way to get to a different place the next morning.

Eric Davis, the camp’s Program Director, founded this nonprofit transitional housing community with fifteen others. Davis shared the planned improvements and his vision for Camp Second Chance. “We’ll have electricity in April. Shortly after that, running water will be available.” A mobile shower service arrives every Tuesday now, and will soon come on Saturdays, too. Davis would like to see tiny portable houses replace the tents. Eventually, they’ll build raised garden beds. After a visit, the mayor had said that this is a model camp, and Davis agrees. It’s not all about the services, though.

Run Like a Family

“This camp is run like a family,” claims Davis. Each camper has a voice in making decisions that impact the camp, like how to spend donated money and when to purchase new items. All decisions are put to a vote, and the majority vote wins. Davis feels strongly that everyone needs to be treated with respect, with their opinion heard and valued. And, just like in a family, everyone is expected to help out with the camp's chores. Davis’ philosophy is that "we use you for what you're good at." People are assigned to roles and tasks for the camp, based on what they can do. Responsibilities include security, kitchen coordinators, and maintenance duties. When people arrive with very few personal things, the camp purchases a tent and tarp for the new residents. Camp Second Chance is a place to feel safe, where people can leave their belongings while working or looking for a job. Residents know that their things will be there with their ‘family community’ when they return, even as the family grows this year.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What’s New with GSC?

The Denture Program is back!

In partnership with Husky Health Bridge (HHB), the Greater Seattle Cares’ Denture program is back in the business of changing lives! People who are missing teeth are missing out on a lot: without a confident smile it’s hard to find a job or housing and people adversely judge you. Through GSC’s denture program, Dental Case Managers are able to help camp residents in need of dentures get the care they need.
Can we count on YOU to make a donation – of any size – to help fund this vital program?
  • $300 buys one tooth
  • $525 buys an upper or lower denture
  • $1150 provides an entire set of teeth
  • And any amount helps!
To donate please visit the GSC dental program’s Go Fund Me campaign.

Camp Updates

Tent City 3 is still at the Skyway site on the southeast corner of 129th & Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Because this site is a vacant lot without access to power or running water, the camp needs help with paying for gasoline for their generator. If you stop by, you can fill one or more of their cans at the gas station across the street. Call the camp to discuss at 206-399-0412.
The camp is also in need of batteries of all sizes: AAA, AA, D and C.
TC3 is moving to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill on June 24th, where it will be for the summer months. However, the residents are actively seeking a host for a location after that stay and beyond. The site could be a church or a commercial site waiting for building permits. If you know of any potential host sites, please call SHARE 206/448-7889.

Camp United We Stand moved this month to Haller Lake United Methodist Church at 13055 1st Ave NE in north Seattle. The camp will be at this site until mid-August, when it will move to Richmond Beach Congregational Church of Christ in Shoreline. The camp is almost full, but may accept a few more residents to reach its maximum of 35.

Camp Unity Eastside is currently at the Northshore United Church of Christ in Woodinville at 18900 168th Ave. NE. The camp is down to 16 residents and is actively accepting new intakes.

Camp Second Chance is now fully supported by the City of Seattle through their fiscal agent, Patacara. They finally have electricity and water, and the camp is expanding to grow rapidly.

Program Updates

Our Magnificent Glean Team continues to provide food, toiletries, OTC medications and other sundries to these camps, as well as to a number of different shelters and organizations that help low-income neighbors meet basic needs. Recent donations include six bikes and outdoor furniture that we took to Ryan’s House for Youth, a shelter for homeless teens on Whidbey Island.

Through our gleaning connections, the newest Chipotle Mexican Grill on Lake City Way recently donated their pre-opening prepared food to us. We routed these burritos, bowls, chips, salsa and leftover ingredients to the various camps, to Mary’s Place in Shoreline, and to the feeding ministry at St. Dunstans’s Episcopal Church. Last week’s donation helped generate more than 1,000 meals! Thank you, Chipotle!

If you would like more detail on any of these topics please contact us at Info@GreaterSeattleCares.org

Thank you all for what you do to help those experiencing homelessness. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Denture Program is Back!

Last week you heard from Greater Seattle Cares blogger Christie Houghton about the wonderful new partnership between GSC, Medical Teams International, and the Husky Health Bridge: together we provide dental care to residents of Tent City 3. (And last Saturday the team ran a successful clinic at Camp Second Chance as well.)

But what about those camp residents who can’t take advantage of this incredible service because they have no teeth?

Some of you may remember that in 2012 Greater Seattle Cares initiated a program to help residents of Tent City 3 get dentures. It was a huge success! With our donors’ generous help, 26 camp residents received full or partial dentures - and many of them were able to get work and move back into permanent housing!

With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, GSC suspended the program, since expanded health coverage gave more residents of homeless camps access to dental care and dentures – or so we thought. For the past several years, GSC has been referring folks for dentures, believing that Medicaid would pay. Only recently did we discover, to our dismay, that this is not always the case.

So, the Denture Program is back!

Why dentures? 

What does it mean to not have teeth? It means you can’t eat the meals that generous supporters provide to the encampment. You can eat only things that are very soft. You tend not to smile very much so your lack of teeth doesn’t show. People who meet you make automatic negative judgments. And if you’re living with chronic infections from broken teeth, that can even become life threatening.

Well-fitted dentures change all that and can be literally life-changing. Here are a couple of alumni from our 2012 program, Trudi and Shawn, before and after getting their dentures. Look at those smiles!

Trudi before
Trudi after

Trudi hadn’t had any upper teeth since someone stole her dentures while she was living in a shelter. After getting her new dentures, Trudi found she could eat things she hadn’t tasted in years. Best of all, when Trudi’s daughter got married that summer, Trudi was able to meet her daughter’s in-laws with confidence.

Shawn before
Shawn after

After getting his dentures, Shawn told us, “Last year I was out with some friends and someone made a comment about my bad teeth. It made me feel really bad. I like to smile. Now I can without feeling ashamed. Having the dentures gives a great uplifting feeling. I am able to chew my food, and I am regaining my health with better nutrition. I was one of the first to sign up – I was so excited I actually cried. Bless the people who donated money to make this happen for me.”

But we need your help. 

Clearly, this is an opportunity for us to make a significant difference in the life of a person who is experiencing homelessness – a difference that can lead to improved health, increased self-esteem, and the hope of moving back into the mainstream. GSC has developed a good working relationship with a first-class dentist and a denturist in Seattle who are helping us out with lowered prices. Now we just need the funds. Can you lend a hand?
  • $300 buys one tooth
  • $525 buys an upper or lower denture
  • $1150 provides an entire set of teeth
  • And any amount helps! 

Donating is easy! 

GSC has started a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $10,000 for this program. Click here to add your donation to the effort. And please share this blog post with your friends so we can get our camp residents smiling again!

Springtime is a time of hope. Let’s put some hope into the hearts of these homeless camp residents – and some teeth in their mouths!

Thank you. And God bless you.
The Greater Seattle Cares Board

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dental Care Partners

By Christy Houghton


Who likes to go to the dentist? Nobody I know! But Greater Seattle Cares (GSC) and Medical Teams International (MTI) have a new partner that is helping make that visit to the dentist a little easier for residents of Tent City 3 and other formal homeless encampments.

It’s 8:00 a.m. on March 22nd, and the door of the UW Fisheries Science Building opens, admitting a volunteer who escorts a man walking with a cane. A black Lab with a graying muzzle ambles over for a polite sniff. In the middle of the great hall, a small fluffy white Maltese sits near three reclining dental chairs. Open-mouthed patients lie in the chairs, each tended by a small team of dental students with a faculty advisor. Behind them, a long table is laid out with dental supplies, while on the other side a separate room has been designated for X-rays. Down the hall, other dental students are checking patients in, helping them fill out paperwork, or sitting to chat with them while they wait to be seen. Outside, the big red MTI Mobile Dental Van is parked next to Tent City 3, accommodating two more third-year dental students and another of the dental school’s faculty. This is Husky Health Bridge at work.

The little white dog is mine,” says Brandon Walker, a former U.S. Marine turned dental student. “Earlier this morning, Teddy sat on a patient’s lap during her whole procedure.” Brandon is the “Media and PR guy” for Husky Health Bridge, a nonprofit formed last October by a group of first-year UW dental students who wanted to extend dental services to underserved groups in the area. He and a faculty advisor even brought their dogs today to help ensure the best possible dental experience for people who may be pretty scared after not having seen a dentist in a while.

This is the second time that Husky Health Bridge, MTI and GSC have organized a dental clinic for Tent City 3 while it has been hosted at the UW. Justin, a camp resident, had a molar extracted by this same group just one month earlier. “They were very nice. I was nervous because they were students, but they were very knowledgeable,” he says. Today, they’ve given him fluoride toothpaste and a soft brush to help with the sensitivity in his mouth while the area around the extraction heals.

Greater Seattle Cares has collaborated with MTI for several years, bringing free dental care to the residents of Tent City 3. MTI provides the mobile dental van, which has two dental chairs, onsite x-rays, and some advanced dental equipment. Usually, MTI also finds volunteer dentists to serve on the van. Greater Seattle Cares serves as liaison with the camp and assures a constant flow of patients through the clinic. And this year, Husky Health Bridge (HHB) joined the partnership, bringing enough dental equipment and volunteers to treat another three people at a time. Even more importantly, HHB has committed to “adopting” Tent City 3, providing volunteers to bring the MTI dental van to the camp, wherever it is, on a monthly basis.

For today, however, this dental services partnership is closing up shop. HHB volunteers pack up the mobile dental chairs, the dental equipment, the generator and the extra supplies. The MTI Clinic Manager ties down everything in the Mobile Dental Van with bungee cords and maneuvers the huge red vehicle carefully out of the parking lot, heading back to the MTI headquarters in Redmond. The GSC Dental Program Coordinator secures all the dental charts for storage in a locked filing cabinet in her garage. “All together, the Husky Health Bridge/MTI/GSC team saw 20 patients today, many with complex dental problems,” she reports. “Though the clinic was supposed to close at 2 PM, the volunteers have all stayed until well after 5 PM in order to make sure that every patient could be seen. This kind of commitment really sends a message to people living in homelessness that they are important, that they matter.”

And that can make coming to the dentist not so scary after all.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What’s New with GSC?

Innovations, Dental Clinics, and a Blog. 

Residents at Camp United We Stand are working on a new type of shelter made from Styrofoam insulation material. These shelters, called BOBs (Built On Blessings), are easy to build, relatively inexpensive, and collapsible for moving. Once tarped, they are warmer and drier than a tent, with room to stand up and with a lockable door. The camp is experimenting with these to see if they might replace tents. If you have a chance, stop by camp and ask to see one.

Oh, by the way, CUWS is moving to Haller Lake United Methodist Church on May 13th. They would really appreciate any help with the move, whether it’s a pick-up truck, a delivery of food and water, or strong arms to help load and unload. Put it on your calendar!

Camp Second Chance is now officially sponsored by the City of Seattle, and is growing rapidly. The City has moved the fence back and laid down gravel to give the camp more room to grow. They will soon be hooking up electricity and providing a more stable source of water. Pretty good for the little camp that could!

Tent City 3 has moved to private land at the corner of S 129th St. and Martin Luther King Way. We half-jokingly call this site “Valley Forge,” as there is no water or electricity but lots of mud. Efforts to get some wood chips donated have stalled out. With your financial support, however, we have been able to provide gasoline for the camp generator and water, at least to some degree, as well as the usual food, clothing and toiletry donations.
What this camp really needs is a new host! Think your church might be interested? If so, contact SHARE at shelters@sharewheel.org. There’s no commitment in just learning what’s involved in hosting. You can also read about what a wonderfully unifying experience this can be on our website.
Husky Health Bridge, the student-run UW Dental School non-profit that organized two dental clinics for the camp while it was at UW, has decided to adopt the Tent City 3! They have a clinic planned next at Camp Second Chance on April 29th with Medical Teams International and then will continue to provide services on a monthly basis to Tent City 3 after that.

Camp Unity Eastside is currently at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Redmond. The camp is pretty small right now – just 16 residents – but St. Jude’s is also supporting a “safe parking” program right next door. This program gives people who are living out of their cars a legal place to park them. Never heard of this program? Here’s a really helpful article that explains it.

In other news, Greater Seattle Cares has a new blogger! Christy Houghton is a volunteer in Edmonds who visits the camps every couple of weeks and writes about her experiences. Follow her on our website or on our Facebook page.

Questions? Concerns? Like to ask a question, volunteer, or make a donation? Feel free to check out our website or contact us at info@GreaterSeattleCares.org.

Thank you all for your support and especially your big hearts and generous spirits in doing what you can to help those experiencing homelessness :) 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ordinary people helping others

Recently Greater Seattle Cares volunteer David Baum did a radio interview with Mind over Matters of KEXP 90.3 FM.

David is the founder of his own non-profit called Rumblecrash, and in this article he talks about his work with homeless communities in Seattle.

Take a listen!