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.