By Anneke Karreman, Digital Design Assistant, and Mary Lacey, Project Assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
Note: Anneke and Mary put together this photo essay featuring some of our favorite memories of the HEH Hall of Fame event. For more, including the video and list of Hall of Fame honorees, see the event page. All photos are by Steve Schimmelman.
Thanks to all who came out Saturday, Feb. 22 for the first Higher Ed on Homelessness (HEH) Hall of Fame event!
The Hall of Fame honored many of the SU students, staff, faculty, and alumni who work to solve homelessness, at the Men’s Basketball Hall of Fame Game against CSU-Bakersfield. We gave Hall of Famers honorary buttons (above), designed by Anneke, to acknowledge their efforts to fight homelessness, and invited them on court for recognition from the SU community at halftime.
The night started off at Southpaw Pizza across from the SU campus, where Hall of Famers attended a happy hour event, to eat, drink, mingle and reminisce on their SU memories. We consumed delicious pizza and salad over fruitful conversation. Thank you, Southpaw, for kicking off the night with a great start!
Our co-emcee, Armen Papyan (right), grabbed some pizza before heading to the Redhawk Center for the big event. Armen works in SU’s Albers School and is a grad student in the MPA program.
Honorees met each other to discuss their work on homelessness at their different organizations and make connections to collaborate in the future. Some of the many organizations represented included All Home, DESC, United Way King County, the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, Wellspring Family Services and YouthCare.
We asked attendees to bring a non-perishable food item for the SU Food Pantry, located in the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), which provides free food to the SU community along with other helpful resources. Donations support OMA’s Food Security Initiative that fights food insecurity on campus. We collected a tub full of food; thank you everyone who donated!
Click here for more information on OMA’s Food Security Initiative.
Prof. Zach Wood (center) of our department, the Institute of Public Service, gets an assist from Dean Powers as he checks in honoree Sally Hogan, budget manager for the College of Arts & Sciences.
With all this great company, the time flew by and soon it was time to head over to the Redhawk Center to get set up for our Action Table.
Project Assistants Anneke and Mary, alongside Desiree from the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), hosted an information and action table at the game. Hundreds came by to get action tips, grab stickers, and make buttons. They could also check out some of our students’ work, like Anneke’s infographics on K-12 student homelessness for Schoolhouse Washington, which were on display to highlight our community’s efforts in addressing homelessness. Many thanks to Desiree for volunteering at our table that night and to CCE for supporting our event.
Mary talking to game attendees about student homelessness and SU efforts to combat housing insecurity. Check out our website to learn about ways to act today, tomorrow and this year!
The game started out with the Redhawks behind on the board, but we were lucky to see them surge back for an exciting first half and eventual victory!
The positive energy from the court carried over into the HEH Hall of Fame halftime event, emceed by the new President & CEO of United Way and SU alum Gordon McHenry Jr. Accompanying him was Armen Papyan, SU staff member in the Albers School, masters student in Public Administration and active housing advocate since his days as a student leader at UW-Tacoma.
Addressing the halftime crowd, Gordon and Armen underscored the importance of taking action on homelessness advocacy. Gordon emphasized that every person can make a difference and talked about the power of people working together; the Seattle U community has made an impact on solving homelessness in many ways. We are thankful to Armen, who shared some personal insights into his experience with homelessness and his constant fight for others. Safe and stable housing is a fundamental human right.
We realize not everyone could be there for the event; but as Gordon said, hundreds, if not thousands of members of the Seattle U community have been working on solving homelessness and making a difference. Thank you to all who came out to symbolize our supportive community around people experiencing homelessness.
The surprise was that all the people asked to come onto the court were “inducted” into the Hall of Fame, meaning that roughly 100 people are part of the inaugural group. As we gathered on the court, the monitor displayed a video montage of all of the Seattle U Hall of Fame honorees and their contributions to solving homelessness. You can find the video on the HEH Hall of Fame home page.
Thank you so much to everyone who came out and also to those who couldn’t make it to the event. We want you to know how appreciative we are of your work! All of our individual actions add up, no matter what size, to address homelessness in our community.
For more background on this evening, see the Event Page.
By Mary Lacey, Project Assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
Introduction: In the midst of a pandemic and great controversy, Wisconsin held its primary election April 7. Though the governor wanted to delay the election till June, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the election to proceed and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all absentee ballots – including those newly requested as a way to safely vote — were due by Election Day. The situation was chaotic for our new grad, Wisconsin native Mary Lacey, who had flown back home after finals week, about two weeks earlier.
Seattle University’s winter quarter was ending right as our campus was closing March 20; and many students had returned home to quarantine with their families, and/or to take their spring quarter classes from home. Voting might have been the last thing on the minds of many. But for Mary, who comes from a family devoted to civic engagement, whether – and how — to vote became a complicated and critical decision. I asked her to share her experience. – Catherine Hinrichsen, project director
Have you voted absentee your whole time as a student at Seattle U? Why did you want to vote in Wisconsin elections instead of Washington?
I’ve voted absentee my entire college career, and I vote in my home state of Wisconsin because I feel a greater draw towards Wisconsin elections. I even voted absentee from Prague, Czech Republic, where I was studying abroad.
I intended to vote absentee for this election too. But that fell apart due to circumstances around COVID-19 and the battle over voting in person that made the Wisconsin election so controversial.
Wisconsin is a swing state where results vary between two parties, versus Washington where one party tends to hold the majority consistently. Voter suppression is an issue in Wisconsin; state law requires a valid Wisconsin ID to vote, prohibiting those without access to an ID from exercising their right to vote. Additionally, gerrymandering and limiting early voting has actively deterred people from voting.
Because my family has lived and worked in Wisconsin for generations, I feel a connection to the issues this state faces and hold onto my identity as a Wisconsin resident
Does your family have a strong commitment to voting? If so, why?
My family does have a strong commitment to voting, which has influenced my attitudes towards voting and politics. My family has always been passionate about political issues on a national and local level as we strongly believe in civic engagement. My grandfather was a factory worker who was active in his union. He passed along his political participation to his children, who then passed it onto the current generation. Many of my family members continuously contact their local representatives to get their voices heard, attend rallies, and vote in every election. Additionally, several of my family members work for the government and witness the importance of political participation.
My family knows that it is a great privilege to vote, and we do not take it for granted.
When did you first start voting? Do you remember any candidate or issue that you voted for then?
I first voted in person for the presidential primary in April 2016 as a senior in high school (exactly four years ago this month!). It was exciting to vote in person alongside my family, who have been influential in my interest in politics. I remember being passionate about the presidential candidate I voted for because I had attended their rallies and was active in their campaign. I also remember voting for a State Supreme Court justice race as well, because I have in interest in the court system’s role in our government. Although it is exciting to vote in a national election, I felt equal excitement voting for local positions – the “down-ballot” races. It was special to finally demonstrate my political power through the important act of voting.
What were some of the significant issues and candidates on the Wisconsin ballot?
The most important issue for me was voting in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race. There was a lot of attention around this position due to involvement of the state and U.S. Supreme Court in allowing the election to happen.
The day before the election, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled the Governor’s executive order to cancel the election despite being in the midst of a pandemic. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled a federal judge’s ruling to allow absentee ballots to be turned in by April 13, instead of Election Day, April 7. Thus, all absentee ballots were due by Election Day, and these decisions were made the night before Election Day, creating confusion among voters.
Two other important races for me were the Milwaukee County Executive position and mayoral race. Additionally, there were two referendums on the ballot including Marsy’s Law, legislation being proposed in many states regarding victims’ rights [Washington is not one of the states]; and a Milwaukee County referendum to have a non-partisan party draw legislative districts. Although it was a presidential primary, I felt more compelled to vote by the local issues at play.
Your absentee ballot had been sent to Seattle, and you couldn’t get another. When did you realize you would have to vote in person? What were your concerns?
I realized I had to vote in person the day before the election, when I didn’t receive my absentee ballot in time to be counted for the election. I had thought at least if it came the day before, I could go drop it off at City Hall, instead of going in to vote or sending it by mail (which would have been too late per the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling when absentee ballots were due).
I was concerned about my health and the health of those I live with, as my parents are at-risk. Mostly, I was concerned for the poll workers who had to be at the polls all day, especially since a large percentage of Wisconsin’s poll workers are elderly. Even though the news said they would have PPE and take precautionary measures, I still felt uneasy about going to vote.
Did you consider not voting? What made you decide to go ahead with voting?
Yes, I did consider not voting. Because of my commitment to voting and a desire to vote out the people who allowed this election to happen, I felt compelled to vote. Fortunately, the rest of my family received their absentee ballots in time, so they were able to vote without going in person and were supportive of my decision to go in to vote.
The night before Election Day, we still didn’t know if the election would go forward. When the Supreme Court ruled that it should, I still wasn’t sure if I was going to go vote. But I set an early alarm, so if I did decide to vote, I would go right when the polls opened.
Describe the morning of voting. What was it like waiting in line? What safety measures were in place?
The morning of, I decided to go vote in person, as I felt it was the right decision based on the circumstances. I felt anxious to leave my house during the pandemic. I hadn’t voted in person since 2016, so I was nervous about the process; my polling place had changed since I first voted, and I didn’t have my family members with me who knew the process well. Although I tried to prepare by reading information online and asking my family member how the process worked, so that I could minimize my amount of time in the polling place and my contacts with others, I still was confused and worried when I arrived at my polling place.
Even though I was one of the first people to arrive at my polling site, more people were there than I expected. Because many districts vote at my polling place, there was a significant number of people waiting at 7 a.m. when the polls opened. I was lucky that I did not have to wait outside, but I did wait about 15 minutes inside. As I was leaving, there was a line forming outside.
In the city of Milwaukee, there were only five polling locations available for a city of over 500,000 people (there are usually 180 sites open). At some locations, voters reported waiting outside for three hours to vote. The Milwaukee Election Commission reported that over 18,000 people in the city voted in person on Election Day. Milwaukee faced the most confusion and frustration from a shortage of poll workers, which limited the amount of polling locations available in the city and significantly impacted the Latinx and African American communities. Although over one million absentee ballots were requested, thousands of people reported never receiving theirs, and had to make the decision to not vote or risk their health by voting in person.
As I waited, I tried to keep my distance from others. I had to ask polling staff which room my district was in, because there were multiple places within the building that were split up by wards without proper signage indicating where to go. I eventually found my room, which included two other wards in addition to mine. There were a lot of people for the size of the room, which I was surprised to see. Every poll worker was wearing a mask and gloves, along with some other voters who decided to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). However, it was very difficult to keep a safe six-foot distance from others.
At my ward’s check-in table, there was Plexiglass between the two workers behind the glass and me. I had to show them my ID by placing it up against the glass so they could read my name and address. At first, they were confused because on their records it showed I had requested an absentee ballot, so they were unsure if they were allowed to give me a ballot. I explained that I never received my ballot, and they had to confirm with another poll worker and eventually decided that it was ok to give me a ballot.
I brought my own pen to fill out my ballot at the booth; however, the booths were not six feet apart, again leaving it impossible to keep a safe distance from others. Additionally, the room only had a small entryway, so those entering and leaving could not keep their distance.
There were National Guard members helping people in line and trying to keep people safe by distributing hand sanitizer and cleaning surfaces. Wisconsin is a state that allows same-day voter registration [as does Washington], so there was still a designated room for non-registered people to go vote in; this room was way bigger and emptier than the room I voted in.
Overall, I felt uneasy about the experience as I was worried I had exposed myself to others, and them to me. When I got home, I took a long shower to try to feel better and contemplate what had just happened.
What do you recommend to policymakers about voting policy now?
I recommend that policymakers adopt universal mail-in voting. From what I see in Washington state, which has adopted this policy, it makes the most sense in terms of public safety (as the coronavirus continues to impact the world) and from an equity standpoint. For those not able to take off work to vote, have a disability restricting them to vote, or not being able to get to polling places, mail-in voting shows to increase voter turnout by eliminating barriers for people to vote. Additionally, I urge policymakers to have compassion during these troubling times by prioritizing public health and helping struggling residents be able to live and stay healthy.
Do you think people your age are as committed to voting as you are?
Although historically young people have the lowest rates for voter turnout, I think there is an increasing interest in politics among youth. I think especially during this public health crisis, young people are seeing the importance of our elected officials from a federal to local level. Additionally, with the rise of social media in the engagement of candidates to young people and display of social issues has encouraged youth civic engagement. Despite feelings of distrust in our institutions, I think now is a crucial moment in our history to pay attention to the actions of our government.
Are you glad you voted?
Yes, I am glad I voted, but I do feel some guilt that I went in person to vote. Although I tried to vote safely by wearing a mask, bringing hand sanitizer, and trying to keep my distance, I feel guilty that I potentially put my family, other voters, and poll workers at risk. Although I feel a great responsibility to vote, I also feel a great responsibility to contain the coronavirus.
I am not alone in this feeling, as thousands of other Wisconsinites had to make a decision between demonstrating democracy and protecting public health. This responsibility is on our elected officials who did not protect peoples’ health or right to vote by allowing the election to happen.
Hopefully, this will inspire voters who were not motivated to vote in local elections to vote for positions including court justices, mayors, county executives, school board members and other important roles that are often overlooked. Although the circumstances of this election did not protect the safety of Wisconsinites, I hope the situation sparked interest in voters to pay attention to local politics and participate in civic engagement.
What You Can Do:
Register to vote. In Washington: here. Nationwide: here.
Look into organizations that are working to protect voting rights.
By Mary Lacey, Project Assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
Editor’s Note: On the Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019 edition of 60 Minutes on CBS, correspondent Anderson Cooper reported on homelessness in Seattle in a piece called “’The Rent Is Obscene Here’: The Issues Forcing People in Seattle Onto the Street*.” It was the culmination of several months of reporting by 60 Minutes producers, capped off by a visit by the veteran journalist himself. But how did the show handle this sensitive topic? Our project assistant Mary completed this review in winter 2020 as one of her last projects before graduating. The pandemic delayed our posting it.
*The piece is viewable at the link above for those with a CBS All Access account. CBS, we wish you’d make it available to all.
Cities like Seattle have a growing concern as they face increasing housing costs. As Seattle continues to fight homelessness by building affordable housing, providing emergency services, and setting up a regional authority, national audiences look to us to learn how we are dealing with housing insecurity.
A Dec. 1 60 Minutes segment, hosted by Anderson Cooper, looked at Seattle’s homeless population, focusing on those who are unsheltered – living outside in situations such as in a tent or in a car, rather than in a shelter. The 15-minute segment highlights three different stories of unsheltered homelessness in this city known for economic growth and tremendous wealth: Postal worker Emilee; the parents of a young child, Josiah and Tricia; and Jeff, an employee of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
At the beginning of the piece, I was impressed with Cooper’s ability to define sheltered versus unsheltered homelessness, which can be confusing. Despite this strong start, the segment’s weaknesses quickly became clear.
I began to feel uncomfortable about the portrayal of peoples’ drug use and the negative stereotypes associated with them which was shown throughout the piece. Unfortunately, our perceptions around those who use drugs can affect policy decisions that exclude those needing housing. This ideology perpetuates negative “undeserving poor” narratives of those experiencing homelessness. Judgmental media depictions of our homeless neighbors can further spread these negative images, especially toward those who use substances. Continue reading →
By Catherine Hinrichsen, Project Director, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
A film about homelessness was named among the top 10 best films of the entire decade. That’s something we couldn’t have foreseen when we first hosted a film screening in 2011, in the anxious moments when we wondered whether anyone would want to come and watch a movie about homelessness.
Then came a stream of memorable characters, stories and performances, as well as creative ways to frame a story about homelessness and ground-breaking access to the people experiencing it.
As the decade’s Top 10 lists began popping up everywhere, and as our project celebrates our 10th anniversary, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the many excellent films made in the 2010s that deal profoundly and sensitively with homelessness. Continue reading →
By Anneke Karreman and Mary Lacey, edited by Catherine Hinrichsen
Our project assistants traditionally create an event to support Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD) in Olympia during the legislative session. For the second year, our student team, Anneke Karreman and Mary Lacey, chose to host an advocacy postcard project that would culminate in an art installation in front of the Legislative Building (aka “The Capitol”) in Olympia. Anneke had participated last year; Mary was a newcomer to HHAD.
Another tradition is their reflection on the day. Here they talk about how they conceived of this project, what they learned, and what they advise for future students working on the project.
What were your expectations before HHAD, and what’s your perspective now after participating?
Mary: At first, I was intimidated by HHAD, but excited for my first time at the Washington state capitol to be advocating for housing and homelessness. I was hesitant about meeting with legislators due to power dynamics between elected officials and their constituents; however, the feeling of uncertainty was overtaken by excitement after the Morning Call to Action where 43rd District Rep. Nicole Macri [who represents the district SU is within] ensured advocates that we are experts on our own experiences, and those experiences are extremely valuable to motivating lawmakers to act. Upon reflection, I realized the power of showing up for important causes and participating in the legislative process. All of the organizers from WLIHA, workers at the capitol, and attendees were inclusive and welcoming, and that encouraged a welcoming, comfortable, and safe environment to engage in. I am grateful that I got to be a part of a state-wide alliance of solidarity that sparked inspiration, engagement, and advocacy.
Anneke: Since I was lucky enough to participate in my first HHAD last year (2019), I felt like I had a sense of what it was going to be like a second time around. Even with its similarities, there were many with a slightly different twist. The “morning call to action” was hosted at the Washington Center for Performing Arts because the sign-up had grown from the year before, which was a good sign! [WLIHA moved the event from the longtime United Churches gathering place because, with 700 registrants, we had outgrown it.] It included a good luck and unifying prayer by a Chief Seattle Club Elder in her native tongue, and drumming performance by other club members. This was different from the year before because the prayer and drumming was only done at the rally itself. I really appreciated how the organizers of HHAD had a stronger focus on Indigenous Washington residents this year. At the rally, leader Colleen Echohawk from the Chief Seattle Club underscored the Indigenous People’s original success in housing before colonization and current fight to reclaim it and their culture. Symbolically, Rep. Debora Lekanoff of the 40th legislative district also spoke at the rally and excited the crowd as the first Native American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.
What was the postcard project, what was your role, and why did you decide to do it?
Anneke: This year, we continued the legacy of the postcard project within the SU and Washington state community. We also used last year’s installation display of the house to display the cards down at the Capitol. However, the concept was different this year. We decided to use the display as a vehicle for a mosaic of the postcards themselves. I designed 11 different variations of postcards to help construct and illustrate “beautiful multi-family housing,” as Colleen Echohawk mentioned in her speech. Each piece represents a “building block” for affordable housing, as they each were a voice from a different advocate. As a whole, they combine as the collective voice for the support of affordable housing. Side by side on the panels, the bright colors of the installation managed to attract advocates at the rally and we were able to gather more postcards for legislators! Thanks to my dad who agreed to come along for his second HHAD experience; also, he was able to staff the table when we had to race off to go to a legislative meeting with a Senator.
Mary: The postcard project was an attempt to gather different voices, perspectives, and stories of those who could not attend HHAD but still have their messages heard by legislators. Anneke and I wanted to elevate the project from last year by having the structure serve as a mosaic installation for the postcards. We wanted the mosaic to represent each individual voice who helps to build affordable housing which completed a bigger image of multi-family housing. To accomplish our goal of 200 postcards, we tabled in the Student Center on four different days to encourage students, faculty, and staff to share their messages on housing and homelessness to their elected officials.
Additionally, we reminded them that they are a part of the larger image of helping to build affordable homes by filling out a postcard and adding it to the mosaic. At the HHAD rally, the mosaic was on display for advocates to read and participate in, to further demonstrate support for legislative action to address homelessness and housing insecurity. While advocates and legislators were encouraging the crowd, the image of the mosaic could be seen from the Legislative Building steps, further illustrating support for the construction and preservation of affordable housing.
Anneke and Mary had determined that the structure would need at least 140 different postcards to create the mosaic. They hosted four tabling events at SU in January to collect the postcards. Each postcard featured key messages about housing legislation, with space for advocates to write their own personal messages.
What worked well with the tabling events, and what would you change if you did it again?
Mary: At the tabling events, it was helpful to have part of the structure physically there to show the community where the postcards were being displayed. Having the visual imagery helped participants engage and get excited about their contribution to the project. Next year, it would be helpful to know who the postcards were going to beforehand, so we could encourage the community to personalize their message to certain legislators. [Each year, we need to address the postcards to two or three key legislators just before HHAD, depending where the bilks have moved by that point in the session.] Additionally, it might be helpful to have an additional location for tabling, to reach different audiences such as residence halls and other academic buildings.
Anneke: In terms of collecting enough postcards for the installation (140), we were able to do so with the four student tabling sessions at the Student Center. The first tabling session was lunchtime on a Friday, which I think helped us get more postcards than on the other days since students were excited for the weekend and had some extra time. At both lunchtime sessions, we were able to get more student engagement than at dinnertime, so if I were to schedule the tabling times again, it would be for all lunchtime. I also noticed that it worked to ask individuals, rather than to aim for groups of people. If someone is on their own, they may have more time to talk than if they were already socializing with friends. Over the days, I definitely learned to underscore how short of a time it would take to do the activity since many of the excuses not to participate was that they were busy.
On HHAD morning, we met near SU and set out for Olympia. We attended the Morning Call and our district meetings. Then we walked over to the capitol campus to install the structure. With our five-person team of Anneke, Mary and Catherine plus Prof. Wood and Anneke’s dad, Frank, it took about 45 minutes; we were ready for the noontime rally.
What’s one moment or memory that stands out to you from the day in Olympia?
Anneke: One memory that stands out to me from HHAD 2020 was the engagement that we were able to get at the actual rally itself. I think it may have to do with the way we decided to display the postcards this time around. Instead of having the illustrations alternate on the exterior of the display [every other card was flipped], we inverted them so the illustrations faced the rally itself. This way, you didn’t have to walk around the display to see the most engaging part of the postcard. During the rally, we were able to gather about 30 more postcards and that way be more representative of advocates and different regions.
Mary: The most memorable moment for me was at the rally on the steps in front of the Legislative Building. From helping attendees fill out postcards at the bottom of the steps and looking up to see hundreds of red scarves showing support for housing and homelessness advocacy was a special moment. Additionally, the presence of the Indigenous community brought an essential component of housing and homelessness, as Colleen Echohawk from the Chief Seattle Club acknowledged that “there is no justice on stolen land.” Another meaningful aspect of the rally was having the support and voices of legislators from a variety of districts as they spoke about the work being done in the house and senate to address homelessness and housing insecurity. HHAD highlighted the collaborative efforts between advocates and legislatures that advance positive change throughout the state.
What are you most proud of from your experience at HHAD?
Anneke: I am most proud of the ability to represent voices at the state government level that would otherwise not be heard. Civic engagement often has many barriers to participation, especially if you are a busy student, staff or faculty on campus. Also, the Capitol is an hour or so away from campus, which can be a limiting factor if you do not a have a convenient form of transportation available. I am also very proud of the complicated design we were able to pull off in such a short timeframe! Especially, during a busy time of school. Overall, it went rather smoothly in terms of time management and flexibility of schedules to accommodate what we needed to accomplish.
Mary: I am most proud of our ability to bring our creative vision to life in a short amount of time. Through effective collaboration and organization, we managed to deliver over 200 postcards with 11 different designs and ensure the mosaic would be complete. I am incredibly lucky to work with intelligent, hardworking, and dedicated people who continue to impress me with their ability to create engaging and meaningful projects.
Would you do this again if you had the choice? What would you tell future project assistants about this experience to make it easier for them?
Anneke: I would do this event again given the chance. I think it is super important for civic engagement of students on campus with issues like housing affordability and homelessness. By engaging and educating about the subject there is an opportunity to change perspective and future action, which is priceless! To make this project easier for project assistants in the future, I would advise them to plan ahead. [This year’s HHAD was much earlier than in 2019 because of the shorter legislative session, 60 days in even years.] As soon as you get the main idea, work on a schedule to lay out deadlines and anything else you think is necessary for the project to be successful. Communication is key. Make sure to have be able to clearly communicate your idea with others and its feasibility.
Mary: I would absolutely participate in HHAD again. It created a unique opportunity to gather like-minded individuals and collaborate to make a difference through civic engagement. HHAD opened my eyes to the importance of organizing and demonstrating the power of the people. It’s essential to keeping our democracy alive and our elected officials accountable. Although I didn’t get to meet all of the legislators from my district this year, I would love to meet them next year to continue an important dialogue about housing affordability and security. For future project assistants, I would encourage them to step outside their comfort zone to make connections and start an important conversation about housing and homelessness within their communities. Further, I would encourage them to tap into their creativity to contribute innovative messaging and advocacy projects that engage different audiences. HHAD encouraged me to bring my advocacy into the different spaces in my life to generate greater support to create change.
Lastly, who would you thank and why?
Anneke: I would like to thank my fellow team members, Catherine and Mary, who each uniquely filled in the gaps of my wildly unorganized creative brain for their attention to detail, sensibility, and planning skills. We each had an important role to play in the outcome of this project being a success, down to the very small details. I also want to thank Prof. Zachary Wood for his company and moral support at the Capitol, it was such a pleasure to have your presence and expertise! Also thank you to WLIHA for the coordination and providing a means to get our installation down to the actual event; we couldn’t have had the same impact if you weren’t willing to help us with this element.
HHAD is something that I will remember for the rest of my life because it was the first real frontline advocacy work I’ve done and toward such prevalent issues in Washington State.
Mary: I would like to thank the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance for hosting and organizing this important day. I would like to commend my fellow project assistant, Anneke, who spent long hours designing 11 different postcards in a short amount of time while also being a hardworking student. Additionally, Anneke and I could not have done this without our Project Director, Catherine, who supported our vision for the postcard project and ensured its success. Also, special thanks to Prof. Zachary Wood and Frank Karreman for attending the event with and helping us set up the art installation. Lastly, we could not have done this project without the engagement of the community who took the time to fill out postcards, the mosaic would not be complete without you!
Our thanks to the staff at WLIHA, especially Caroline Lopez and John Stovall, for their help securing the approval for us to install the mosaic in front of the Legislative Building and for moving the pieces of the structure to and from Olympia. Thanks also to our Facilities Department at SU for yet again helping us move pieces of an art installation in the Puget Sound region!
By Catherine Hinrichsen, project director, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
Communications work that is strengths- and values-based — in which racial equity is prioritized — was the theme of the recent “Equitable Storytelling” workshop, Tuesday, Dec. 3 at Seattle University. Our project co-hosted the workshop with ComNetworkSEATTLE.
About 70 communications professionals, mostly from human services and social justice organizations, attended. It was the largest workshop of this type we’ve ever held, and perhaps the largest ComNetworkSEATTLE meeting ever — a testament not only to the importance of partnering, but to the deep interest in this topic.
Fortunately for all of us, the three speakers were incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge, some of which I will attempt to impart here as time allows.
First, an introduction to the three terrific speakers, all professionals whose commitment to equitable storytelling is baked into their organizational values:
Eric Bronson, Digital Advocacy & Engagement Manager, YWCA Seattle King Snohomish
Erin Murphy, Communications Specialist, King County Department of Public Health/Best Starts for Kids
Vy Tran, Prenatal to Five Workforce Development Lead, Best Starts for Kids Initiative, King County Developmental Disabilities and Early Childhood Supports Division
Erin, Eric and Vy shared strategies to:
Champion the power of the storyteller and accommodate their needs.
Adapt to the challenges of the review and approval processes.
Protect the privacy of storytellers, while presenting a compelling human connection.
Recognize the importance of equitable *visual* communications.
A recurring theme: the emphasis on strength-based communications, which you also may have heard described as “asset framing” or “aspirational communication” — more on that below, at the end. These are becoming crucial frameworks for communications professionals.
Values as “North Star”
At Best Starts for Kids, Erin Murphy explained, there is agency-wide agreement on their values: equity, transparency, relationships and community-oriented. These values, built in from the initiative’s beginnings, are the “North Star” for communications decisions.
She pointed out that it’s important to consider not only who you represent, but how. As part of King County government, she’s frequently taking photos of County Executive Dow Constantine in the community. The typical communications person impulse (or pressure) is to focus on the boss, but at Best Starts, the community relationships take priority.
As an example, Erin showed this photo of the County Executive meeting with community partners. She had shot the photo from over his shoulder because the partner relationship is the key element of this scene.
Erin shared the Best Starts values and equity statements by asking for help reading them out loud. Here, filmmaker Jordan Iverson reads one of the statements.
“The Story Belongs to the Storyteller”
Eric Bronson then shared principles of ethical storytelling, and said “there is no ethical storytelling without equitable storytelling.” Eric had written about this last year in “The Ethics of Storytelling: A How-To Guide.” Among his advice is tips for ensuring you are making accommodations that enable more people to be included in storytelling, such as providing help with transportation, childcare and scheduling, as well as an often overlooked element: food.
The 60 Minutes story on homelessness had aired only two days before, and Eric used that as a case study in how *not* to do equitable storytelling. He noted two major flaws: first, that the story ignored that people of color disproportionately experience homelessness, and second, that the producers only interviewed white people — among all the providers, officials, researchers and people experiencing homelessness they talked to.
Eric said that periodically YWCA does a Racial Equity Blog Audit to make sure they’re meeting their goals for who is being represented, and how.
“Positive, warm, relational…”
Vy Tran showed us how Best Starts incorporates the values of positive, warm, relational and genuine into its work, not only by exemplifying those qualities as a speaker but by walking us through some exercises. Vy had hidden some index cards around the room, with sample phrases that that are commonly used to describe people and situations in social services.
Which of these would you use? Vy’s slides give insights on the impact of words we commonly use.
Unfortunately it’s time to bring this post to an end, but before I go, here’s what you came here for: The speakers were kind enough to share their presentation slides.
In addition, here are the handouts you might have missed, and a couple bonus items.
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.Continue reading →
By Catherine Hinrichsen, project director, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
An emotional video about a blind man begging — “Change Your Words, Change Your World,” with 27 million views on YouTube — is one example of powerful messaging that Dr. Tiffany Manuel shared at a convening of housing communicators July 24 at Seattle University.
The video tells the story of a blind man unsuccessfully begging for change, until a passerby intervenes and shifts his story. “DrT,” as she prefers to be called, asked for our observations on the before/after scenario in the film: What was different about the message that didn’t work, and the one that changed everything ? Our discussion uncovered some of the key elements of successful messaging: A positive approach. Shared experiences. Evoking empathy rather than sympathy. A call to action.
But too often, says DrT, our messages about housing and homelessness backfire. “Our single biggest failure is that we treat it like it’s a technical problem – like we only need more housing,” when in fact there are systemic and adaptive challenges, she said.
Forty-five communicators representing 37 different local housing and homelessness providers, advocacy organizations and funders attended the convening to hear this national expert on building inclusive communities. We also thank Philanthropy Northwest for their partnership on this and recruiting their members. While we hold smaller quarterly convenings with our advocacy partners, we were able to offer this expanded experience through the generosity of Katie Hong of the Raikes Foundation, who had invited DrT to Seattle for a foundation gathering. Continue reading →
We invite Seattle U students — undergrad and grad — to apply for a position on our team for the 2019-20 school year. Positions begin as early as this summer, but we can wait till fall for students who already have commitments this summer. The deadline to apply is May 23, 2019. Applicants will need to complete a writing test in addition to an interview. Check out the job description!
Seattle University joins three other area universities in proclaiming May 13-17, 2019 as Affordable Housing Week on their campuses. Father Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J., president of SU, has signed a proclamation affirming the need for safe, healthy, affordable housing in our communities. SU is joined by Highline College, Seattle Pacific University and University of Washington, and is the only university who has participated since the establishment in 2016. Read SU’s version of the joint university announcement here.
SU’s activities to observe Affordable Housing Week are:
Higher Ed on Homelessness: Collaborating for Change, May 10, a first-time conference for faculty, staff and students at area universities and colleges who work on homelessness research, education, community engagement, service and advocacy. SU is one of the three organizers, along with Seattle Pacific University and University of Washington. The conference is by invitation only.
Renters’ Rights 101, a free workshop on what young renters need to know, hosted by SU’s Project on Family Homelessness. At this Wednesday, May 15 workshop, 6:30 p.m on campus, Be:Seattle and Tenant’s Union of Washington will share tips on everything from move-in to move-out. Register here.
Affordable Housing Week has been hosted since 2016 by Housing Development Consortium. King County and 25 cities within it are participating this year. Check out the dozens of events around King County here.