By Catherine Hinrichsen, Project Director, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
Saying goodbye to our graduating student assistants each year is always tough. This year, we had only one goodbye — along with one “so glad you’re coming back!” and one hello. Belatedly, here is this year’s edition of our tribute to the fantastic Seattle University student assistants who serve our project, with a spotlight on our 2018-19 team — Connor Crinion (SU ’19) and rising senior Anneke Karreman — and a nod to our incoming student, Mary Lacey.
First, let’s flip the timeline and go right to the “happy hello”: We welcome Mary Lacey, a senior in Public Affairs and Sociology. Mary joined us this summer and has been helping on the City Council candidate questionnaire on housing and homelessness that we’ll publish in October in partnership with Resolution to End Homelessness and Tech 4 Housing. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisc., Mary has been involved in Housing and Residence Life as a Desk Coordinator and plays music as a DJ for KXSU, the university’s radio station. Additionally, she enjoys working with youth at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School. During fall of 2018, she studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, with courses focusing on Czech politics, diplomacy, art, and language. Welcome, Mary!
So Glad You’re Coming Back
Our Digital Design and Public Affairs student Anneke Karreman, a junior last year, returns for the 2019-20 school year, hurray! This is the first time we’ve ever had a student on the project for two consecutive years, and Anneke’s experience — as described below — makes her immensely valuable to us and our partners. Over the summer, Anneke completed a design internship for the Space Needle while also working on an exciting project for our partner Building Changes that you’ll get to see at the end of September. Welcome back, Anneke!
Connor Crinion graduated in June with a double major in Public Affairs and Sociology, and has taken a position as Client Advocate with the Orleans Public Defenders office. Connor, we already miss you! Your contributions were huge and I’m excited to see what great thing you do in your career. Reader, you can learn more about Connor’s tremendous work below.
“It Changed My Mind”: Looking Back on a Spectacular Year
Connor said that his biggest lessons from the year on our project “can be summed up in two words: communication and collaboration.” That’s a great way to describe our project too! While Connor came to us with deep experience in housing and homelessness, he said that he had been more interested in the programmatic side of homelessness and thought that “communication was over there, something that I did not have a particular interest in, even though I viewed it as a critical task. This year changed my mind.”
Connor teamed up with “my amazing colleague” Anneke to create ambitious and high-impact communication and advocacy projects. “Connor was a great teammate to work with,” Anneke said, “because he was already knowledgeable about housing and shared his knowledge with me.”
As a bonus, we had some super assistance from our recent graduate Madison Vucci (SU ’18), who filled in as a freelancer to help with design in summer and fall 2018 as Anneke completed an internship and got up to speed.
Here’s a look at some of their outstanding projects.
Doorway Project Pop-Up Cafe, October 2018
We were honored to be invited to be one of the participating organizations for the University of Washington’s Doorway Project Pop-Up Cafe at the Husky Union Building (HUB) in October 2018. The Pop-Up Cafe is held quarterly in the U District to serve youth experiencing homelessness, and this was the first time the event was hosted on campus; the intent was to draw a larger crowd than usual, including people not connected to homelessness who were curious and came in to see what was going on.
For our booth, Anneke, Connor and Madison produced a “Story Station” featuring some of the stories we’ve collected about youth homelessness, especially those from the StoryCorps project. Anneke described the experience in this post, which features the brochure, promotional materials, slide show and more that they created for the event.
Note: For more about the work of the Doorway Project and its director, Prof. Josephine Ensign, read this Psychology Today article from September 2019. In it, Prof. Ensign talks about the ethics of storytelling and describes our “Streetwise: Revisited” project with The Seattle Public Library, referring readers to the abundant documentation of the project created by our 2016-17 student team. Looking back on that collection by Khadija, Mandy and Shan, I am newly impressed with what they did. Yes, our students are awesome every year.
Eviction Fact Sheets, Winter 2018-19
The nature of our project sometimes leads us to unexpected places, and one of my favorite things about my job is watching students become inspired to create work that serves our partners. When Connor — a volunteer for the Housing Justice Project’s Eviction Clinic — learned that our partners Washington Low Income Housing Alliance would be working on eviction reform in the 2019 legislative session, he asked how we could help.
The result: these two fact sheets on the need for eviction reform that the Alliance used throughout the session. Anneke and Connor wrote and designed these in collaboration with our partner John Stovall at WLIHA.
“The Project has provided a very welcome opportunity to get engaged with the issue of eviction on a policy and communications level,” Connor said. “it was gratifying to see that we were able to play a small role in the massive effort that helped pass new eviction legislation.”
“Most Proud”: Art Installation in Olympia
Sometimes our students propose projects for our partners that are of such massive scale that I’m torn. I want to give them the freedom to pursue their vision without clipping their wings, while at the same time I want them to be realistic — to successfully complete it while keeping up with schoolwork and the rest of life, not getting sick, and so on. And because our team this year was two students instead of our usual three, this meant an even bigger work burden. Always with the gentle mentoring style of my friend and former SU colleague Lisa Gustaveson in mind, I try to get out of their way and let them go for it.
And somehow it always works out. For example — the “Central Division” documentary that our 2017-18 student team of Katie, Madison and Tess produced for Affordable Housing Week.
This year’s version of the visionary project was the art installation Anneke designed for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD) in Olympia, Feb. 28. I still can’t believe how wonderfully it turned out, especially given some unexpected challenges (such as Snowmageddon and the resulting many cancelled days of school and work).
“I enjoyed the amount of creative freedom Connor and I were given and our ability to take a previous team’s idea to the next level,” Anneke said, referring to the HHAD advocacy postcard project by Katie, Madison and Tess. That project itself had been inspired by predecessors Khadija, Mandy and Shan’s “Give a Heart, Get a Heart” advocacy message project for HHAD in 2016.
Anneke and Connor built on the idea of sharing advocacy messages from the SU community by constructing an art installation that we displayed in front of the Legislative Building in Olympia. The installation featured hundreds of advocacy postcards they had collected from the SU community at tabling events in January and February.
At the end of the day, we removed the postcards and delivered them to the chairs of key legislative committees.
Anneke says that while it’s hard to estimate the number of people that our projects reach, we know that 300+ members of the SU community participated in this project and that “I can more clearly say that the impact on my family and friends has been immense.” In fact, Anneke’s father, Frank, who’s an architect, helped her design and build the structure, and met us in Olympia to help us install it.
Anneke and Connor wrote a very thoughtful reflection on their experience in producing this outstanding work; it’s well worth reading for advocates, for future students on our project and future potential employers of these two stellar young professionals.
A spring of plenty
Spring quarter 2019 was a busy blur for our project, just like every spring. While highlights included the “Stories About Home” storytelling event with The Seattle Times and The Seattle Public Library, our students’ efforts were focused on two other events: the “Higher Ed on Homelessness: Collaborating for Change” conference, and the Renters’ Rights 101 Workshop for Affordable Housing Week, both in May.
At the HEH “Collaborating for Change,” Anneke and Connor joined a team of student leaders from Seattle Pacific University and University of Washington to present a workshop on student-driven projects on homelessness. My heart was bursting with pride at their professionalism and accomplishments.
Their capstone was the Renters’ Rights workshop for Affordable Housing Week, again inspired by a previous student team — Khadija, Mandy and Shan. For the May 15 workshop, Anneke designed beautiful collateral materials, including a brochure about the 10 things new renters need to know, similar to the one Mandy designed in 2017. Connor and Anneke worked with Be:Seattle and Tenants Union of Washington to secure them as partners and presenters; handled all the logistics; and helped host a successful workshop for about 30 SU students and community members. In fact, Anneke was able to use what she learned when she entered the private rental market recently. (Anneke and Connor also wrote some thoughtful reflections on lessons learned, which because of the busy spring referred to above did not become a blog post, and I regret that. It would’ve been really good though.)
“Be Open”: Lessons Learned
Because we are a Jesuit university, it’s important for our students to reflect on their learning and pass along their advice to future students.
Anneke’s words of wisdom for the future project assistants, “including my future self as I will be working with the Project through senior year, is to be open to new opportunities because you don’t know what valuable relationships and further opportunities may spring from them. Give yourself time to do a good job and keep on track. It is important to be organized with your component deadlines leading up to the big day. To make the most of a project, communicate clearly with all team members. Make sure you are all on the same page and this way you can divvy up the work in an efficient way. Finally, ask questions and educate yourself on family/chronic homelessness when you can! This will help you feel more confident in the work you do and when you are speaking with partners.”
Connor said that even though our project is externally facing, he wishes more students on campus knew of our work. He’d like to see us “build on the visibility and connections that we have generated on campus.” He continued,
“As a senior moving on from my time at the project and at Seattle University, I write this in a bittersweet moment. However, I am grateful that the lessons I’ve learned in my work here will be coming with me. As I transition into my next role as a Client Advocate with the Orleans Public Defender’s office, I will be thinking of the parallels between the two.
“People facing criminal charges, especially people facing criminal charges who cannot afford their own lawyer, are often stigmatized, just as people experiencing homelessness are. Just as with homelessness services and affordable housing, public defense offices are severely underfunded. While most or all of my work will be in a direct service capacity with clients, the lessons that I’ve learned about communication and coalition will still be important. A central part of my job will be listening to my client’s stories. Beyond listening, I will also be helping our defense team communicate those humanizing stories to judges, juries, parole officers, and sometimes the general public. I am excited for the next chapter, and immensely grateful for all that I am leaving behind.”
I’m immensely grateful too, for all the ways that our student teams have contributed to the success of our nonprofit partners, helped engage the campus community and the larger community around our work and worked to expand the new generation of advocates. Thank you to all the SU students present and past who have graced our project since 2012!