Hard Goodbyes 2020 – Final Edition

Mary and Anneke at the HEH Hall of Fame happy hour in February. Photo by Steve Schimmelman.

After more than 10 years of working with students, our project must say goodbye to our final team of project assistants, Anneke Karreman and Mary Lacey. Mary graduated from Seattle University in March 2020 and continued with us as a temporary employee; Anneke, who started working with us two years ago as a rising junior, graduated in June and has been freelancing. We never want to say goodbye to our students; knowing this is the last team is bittersweet, but what a tremendous year of accomplishments it’s been. This, in spite of our team working together from a very long distance as of March. In their words, we share their favorite work on behalf of our partners, and reflect on what they learned.

 

We always ask our student assistants to reflect on what made them proud. Not surprisingly, both Anneke and Mary chose the same activity as their proudest accomplishment as a team member.

What is your proudest accomplishment (personally)? How about as a team member?

Mary: As a team member, my proudest moment was Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD) 2020, hosted by Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, and our Housing Postcard Mosaic. It was rewarding to see our effort to represent Seattle University and ourselves at the state capitol to directly impact legislation. We were able to create a mosaic postcard project to visualize ending homelessness by building affordable housing. We illustrated individual efforts coming together as one to solve homelessness. Through our project, we were able to bring the voices of the Seattle University community to legislators and gather voices at HHAD to impact housing policies within our state. Anneke and I further describe our experience in a blog post that goes into depth about HHAD 2020.

A closer look at some of the postcard designs from the mosaic. From afar, the postcards resemble different apartment buildings.

Anneke: As a Project Assistant, my proudest accomplishment this year was the Postcard Mosaic we brought to the Capitol for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD) in early February. Working for the Project for almost two years now, I am privileged to have gone to two HHAD rallies and have created two installations. What made this one special, besides attending with my wonderful co-workers and vocal supporters, was the feeling of community and unity that the display created. Not only did we gain support from Seattle University, we also set up a table beside the display in Olympia so that people at the rally could voice their support in written form. Some of the lawmakers did not show up to meet with HHAD attendees during their scheduled times; I like to think that by providing an option of written support, the HHAD advocates who wrote and signed postcards were able to have a lasting impact on representatives’ perspectives of the needs of people experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

Here are a couple pictures of the HHAD Mosaic and action in Olympia!

Mary and Anneke proudly present the display in Olympia.
A view of the exhibit from the steps of the Legislative Building, HHAD 2020.
A sea of red scarves on the steps of the Legislative Building in Olympia, HHAD 2020.

Shifting to a different state…When campus closed in mid-March due to the pandemic, Mary — who had just graduated days before — flew home to Wisconsin. There she pondered whether to vote in person for the April primary.

Mary: The proudest moment I felt personally was writing about my experience voting in Wisconsin during the pandemic. At first, I was nervous to write about my experience, but to see the positive messages from my family and friends was assuring that my story came across well. I felt that I brought a unique perspective to the project by sharing my experience in Wisconsin and my family’s influence on my passion for civic engagement.

A voter with a homemade sign waiting in line outside Washington High School, one of Milwaukee’s five polling places open on Election Day. Photo: Patricia McKnight, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

What did you most enjoy working on, if different from above?

Mary: I really enjoyed working on the 2019 Seattle City Council Housing and Homelessness Voters Guide alongside Tech 4 Housing and Resolution to End Homelessness. I got the opportunity to reach out to candidates from each of the seven districts to learn about their proposed solutions to addressing homelessness. Additionally, I became more interested in local politics and the role of city council in passing legislation and allocating resources that affect housing issues in our city. Although I do not vote in King County, because of my involvement in this project I became a better-informed Seattle resident by learning about city council candidates and elections.

Housing Voter Forum in July 2019, moderated by Michael Hobbes. Speakers: Lauren McGowan, Dr. Richard Waters, Colleen Echohawk, Lisa Daugaard.

What skills have you developed/enhanced?

Mary: One of the greatest skills I enhanced at the project was my communication skills. Being able to work with Catherine and other communications professionals increased my writing, social media, and oral presentation skills. Another skill I improved was my creativity in event planning and outreach efforts while working on the project. I learned how to effectively engage an audience in advocacy work which will help me in future career positions in public service.

Mary and Anneke set up a campus board promoting the October Housing Voter Forum.

Anneke: What I feel like I most developed this year was confidence in my work and in my decision-making. I am often the person to be most critical of my work. With the support my peers, colleagues, and partner organizations we’ve worked with, I’ve started to open up to the compliments and take them to heart (without reminiscing about what I should change after a project is over!). I also think my communications skills have improved over the last year by working with our partner organizations and creating specific pieces for them.

Anneke’s poster design for the HEH Hall of Fame in February, which honored SU community members working to solve homelessness.

What have you learned about family homelessness? How have your views changed?

Mary: Although I learned a lot about family homelessness as a project assistant, I continue to learn about the causes, effects, and struggles of those experiencing homelessness. One of the most important aspects of housing and homelessness is the relation to racial justice. While learning about disproportional data among King County residents and Washington students, I learned that Black and Native people experience higher rates of homelessness and housing insecurity. Additionally, understanding the racist policies and practices within the housing and homelessness sector helped me unlearn notions I had about the non-profit sector, American history, and our government’s role in creating and perpetuating institutional racism. As a project assistant, I understood the importance of having culturally appropriate services beyond building affordable housing to meet the needs of those experiencing homelessness. I realized the importance of having those with lived experience at the head of the solutions to ensure effectiveness and accessibility to essential services and resources. [Mary wrote about unlearning the narrative about racism in housing here.]

Anneke: In light of the racial and systemic inequities and injustice exposed by the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black lives cut too short, I am inspired to expand my awareness about homelessness and housing insecurity through many lenses. These include different lived experiences including (but not limited to) race, class, mental health, physical health, accessibility of education, employment, and location. Unfortunately, a combination of these differences can make a person more vulnerable to homelessness. I want to carry this intensified awareness with me so I can be supportive for people in different situations.

One of the infographics Anneke created for our partner Schoolhouse Washington focuses on the racial disparities among students experiencing homelessness.

How would you measure our impact among your family/friends, campus and the community?

Mary: Over the past ten years, the project has been creating helpful content that educates people on campus and among the greater Seattle community about homeless and housing insecurity. The project is able to educate those who may have not been involved with homelessness previously and facilitates an environment to help others be effective advocates for change. My casual conversations about Seattle’s expensive housing market led to important conversations with friends and family about issues within our housing system. Identifying racist policies, practices, and legislation led to discussions about housing and homelessness advocacy. This led to close friends and family taking action on an individual level to do their part, whether it’s saying hello to a person living on the street, building tiny homes through Facing Homelessness’ Block Project, or voting for a candidate who supports the Housing First model.

The popular sticker of Facing Homelessness.

Anneke: The Project definitely has had a profound impact on my family and close friends who are often a part of intense conversations on the topic of homelessness and housing insecurity. The knowledge and awareness I have gained during my time as a project assistant will stick with me as a voting citizen and wherever life takes me. I believe that our presence on the SU campus and within the Seattle community has had a positive impact on community engagement with opportunities for people to voice their support of affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness, as well as educate and congregate people around issues like the ones mentioned above.

Anneke with her dad, Frank, in Olympia. Frank, an architect, helped Anneke design and build the frame, and came to HHAD both 2019 and 2020 to help us set it up. Thank you Frank!

The project benefited from the fact that Anneke and Mary were already friends before working on this project.

How did your friendship affect what you were able to accomplish as a team?

Mary: Overall, I think our friendship improved our work at the project. We were able to have extensive conversations outside of work about how we can improve the work we do that led us to be able to problem-solve more effectively. We felt very comfortable sharing our thoughts with each other, including constructive criticism when necessary. Overall, I think working together improved our friendship, and I have a deeper appreciation for Anneke as I got to know her as a co-worker.

“Working Apart, Together” – An image Anneke created for use by our partners, and an apt description of our final six months together.

Anneke: At first, I was slightly worried that our friendship may have a negative impact on our productivity as Project Assistants, but that was proven wrong pretty quickly! Already having an understanding of each other and ability to talk openly about tough topics improved our productivity and we were able to accomplish a lot in a small amount of time! Even though some of our projects were no longer feasible given COVID-19 status [such as their plans for an Affordable Housing Week event on campus in May], I am super proud of what we did as a team and had fun along the way.

What are your goals and next steps professionally? How will you incorporate what you learned on our project into your career?

Mary: Working on the project opened up my understanding of intersectionality and the role housing has on many social issues that I am interested in, including urban planning, transportation, civic engagement, sustainability, youth incarceration, and so many more! Although I am unsure what the next steps are in my career, I will take a critical lens to our systems and institutions to improve the communities we live in.

Photo of light rail by SounderBruce/WikipediaCommons

Mary also used her interest in transportation to work with Anneke on a 15-second promotional video for Stand Down Seattle, displayed in Metro transit centers where bus drivers could see them.

Anneke: Below is a picture of my, Zephyr — how relaxed I wish to be!

Role model Zephyr. A good dog.

I would ideally apply to jobs that are at the intersection of my interests – art & design, social justice, racial equity, climate justice, and/or sustainability. As you can see I have a lot of interests so I feel like there should be something out there! (Fingers crossed). What I have learned during my experience at the Project is highly valuable as I have worked in a nonprofit, collaborated with partner organizations, engaged the community, and worked on a highly collaborative team. I will also take my expanded perspective from learning about homelessness and vulnerable communities to make sure they are equally represented and considered in my work.

Any final thoughts?

Mary: I am very grateful for this opportunity to work with an amazing team who has positively impacted my experience at Seattle University. Thank you to Catherine, Anneke, IPS faculty and staff, friends, and family for the constant support and encouragement that you had for our work and my personal development as a project assistant. I will carry the lessons and knowledge I gained from this experience into my personal and professional life to advocate for housing security for all people.

At the HEH Hall of Fame in February: Our IPS colleague Lindsay Ohab; Anneke; Mary: SU Social Work adjunct professor David Moser. Photo by Steve Schimmelman.

Anneke: I will definitely miss everyone who I interacted with within the Institute of Public Service. It was such a pleasure and inspiration to be surrounded with people who truly care about the welfare of others and the environment we live in. This passion has become a part of me. Of course I will also miss our tiny but mighty Project team! The wealth of knowledge I have gained from you and experiences I have been privileged to be a part of will stay with me forever! THANK YOU!!!

The team at HHAD 2020 along with Professor Zach Wood, our colleague from SU’s Institute of Public Service, who joined us for the day.

 

Coda: After they wrote this post, Anneke and Mary finished two more projects:

The cover page from Anneke and Mary’s three-part COVID Kit for young people.
  1. A “COVID Kit” Instagram series for young people, produced mid-August to support Public Health – Seattle and King County.
  2. A slide show on our project’s history, highlighting some of our favorite projects and remembering some of our best collaborations. 

Thank you Anneke and Mary! Your contributions to our partners will last long after our project has ended.

Unlearning the False Narrative: The Film “13th,” Racist Housing Policies and Being an Anti-Racist

By Mary Lacey, project assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness

13th logo

Like many others during quarantine, I have turned to film and TV to learn about institutional racism. As a white American, I have benefited from the exploitation and oppression of Black and Indigenous people. It is my responsibility to learn about and dismantle racist systems that I benefit from to help end racial injustice. Although conversations about racism are necessary, they are happening too late. It is a privilege for me to learn about racism instead of experiencing it every day.

A film that sparked my attention was the Emmy Award-winning documentary 13th. Netflix’s 2016 release, directed by Ava DuVernay, highlights the role of the legal system’s intentional role in prisons and policing that disproportionately criminalizes Black Americans. It spurred me to learn more about the impact of racism, especially in housing.

The film’s title refers to the 13th Amendment, known for abolishing slavery in 1865, but resulting in the continuation of forced labor. The amendment states that “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (U.S Const. amend. XIII. Sec. 1). In the years after the Civil War, Black Americans were frequently falsely accused of crimes and imprisoned; and because the amendment does not provide protections against slavery for those convicted of a crime, America’s broken legal system began imprisoning people of color disproportionately. The film argues that America uses the 13th Amendment, through the legal system, to continue slavery.

Ava DuVernay
Ava DuVernay, a Black filmmaker and director of 13th, also directed Netflix’s When They See Us, recreating the true story of five Black teenagers convicted of a crime they did not commit. Photo from IMDb by Steve Granitz – © 2014 Steve Granitz – Image courtesy gettyimages.com

Continue reading

HEH Hall of Fame – A Photo Essay

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!

 

HEH HOF Buttons

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.

HEH HOF Southpaw Outside

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!

Photo Southpaw Barry Lee Catherine
We were delighted to welcome guests like our project founder and original director Barry Mitzman and Journalism Fellow Lee Hochberg. L-R: Diane McDade; Barry; Lee’s guest, Nancy Strohm; Lee; and project director Catherine Hinrichsen.

Photo Lisa Danielle Stephanie
Our friend and “sister project” leader Lisa Gustaveson (SU MNPL), of the Faith & Family Homelessness Project (2011-2016), with Danielle Winslow (SU ’12) and our colleague Stephanie Velasco.

Photo Amy Catherine
The amazing alumni of our project included Amy Phung (SU ’15), here with Catherine.

Photo William Kollin McKenna Catherine Katya
Another alumna of our project, McKenna Haley (SU ’14), center, met up with our project’s senior program officer Kollin Min and his family, William (far left) and Katja Shaye (far right), next to Catherine. Kollin, who leads the Family Homelessness Initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has funded all three of the family homelessness projects at SU; we are so grateful for his partnership the past 10+ years.

Photo Southpaw Armen

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.

 

 

Photo Dean Powers Barry
Our Arts & Sciences Dean David Powers and Barry, showing some SU spirit.

 

Happy hour crowd shot

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.

HEH HOF Food Donations

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.

 

Photo Sally Zach Dean Powers

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.

Photo Paul David W Jennifer Catherine
David Wertheimer (right) was a funder of several projects on family homelessness at SU, including ours, during his time at the Gates Foundation; he now serves as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Theology & Ministry. His husband, Paul Beaudet, left, is an SU MNPL grad. Next to Paul is Catherine’s friend, Jennifer Fisch, a longtime supporter of our project (her son Jacques was one of the kids who came to our “Danny, King of the Basement” premiere).

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.

Anneke Desiree Mary

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 with table guest

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!

 

 

Anneke’s parents, Frank and Jennifer Karreman, came by to support us (below). Frank has been a big contributor to our project, having designed the art installation we’ve displayed at Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day in Olympia the past two years.

 

Photo Anneke and parents

Photo Lindsay Anneke Mary David M
Here’s the mighty team that did a ton of work the day before the event: Lindsay Ohab, our IPS colleague; Anneke and Mary; and David Moser, adjunct faculty member in Social Work.  You are awesome!

Photo Katie Amy McKenna
Four “generations” of Project on Family Homelessness assistants in one photo: L-R Anneke; Katie Bradley (SU ’18); Amy; and McKenna.

The Game Begins!

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!

Game Photo

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.

Halftime Gordon Armen 1

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.

Halftime coming onto court
The HEH Fall of Fame honorees begin coming down onto the court.

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.

Honoress on court

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.

 

Post-game group photo
Post-event joy, L-R: Catherine; Lincoln Vander Veen; Matthew Dick (SU ’16 JD) and his family; Mary; Desiree; Dean Powers; and Armen.

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.

Top 10* Films of the Decade — About Homelessness

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

“Experts on Our Own Experiences” — HHAD 2020 in Olympia

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.

Mary and Anneke at the HHAD rally in Olympia.

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.

Rep. Nicole Macri at the HHAD Call to Action. Macri, probably the most experienced legislator in Washington when it comes to homelessness direct service, represents the district (43) that Seattle U resides in. Macri is also an SU alumnus. Photo courtesy of WLIHA.

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.

Among the many legislators who spoke at the rally: Sen. Joe Nguyen of the 37th District — Seattle U’s Alumnus of the Year for 2020. Photo courtesy of WLIHA.

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.

A team effort: With five of us, it took about 45 minutes to get from start…
…to finish.

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.

A group of people standing in a room

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Anneke and Mary tabling at Cherry Street Market, engaging students in writing postcards to legislators.

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.

Anneke and Mary at the first tabling event, wondering whether they would be able to collect enough postcards to fill the mosaic. They did!

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 and Anneke at the rally, with hundreds of people wearing red scarves behind them.

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.

A sample postcard, filled out by an SU student.

A view from rally attendees as we listen to legislators speak to the crowd next to the mosaic.

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.

Catherine, Mary, Anneke, and Zach in front of the display of postcards before delivering them to Speaker of the House Rep. Laurie Jinkins, Majority Leader Sen. Andy Billig, and Representative Nicole Macri.

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.

Anneke and her dad, Frank, the architect who designed the structure.

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 beautiful Capitol dome at the end of the day. Photo by Anneke.

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!

Equitable Storytelling — Best Practices from the Dec. 3 Workshop

ComNetwork ES Erin photo
Erin Murphy said she comes from a storytelling heritage as an American with Irish and Mexican roots.

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.

Equitable Storytelling Dow photo
This photo of the County Executive meeting with community partners demonstrates equitable visual storytelling. Photo by Erin Murphy.

 

 

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.

ComNetwork ES Jordan

 

“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.

ComNetwork Eric Photo 2_by Kara
Eric Bronson shares tips to ensure wider representation from storytellers. Photo by Kara Palmer.

 

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.

ComNetwork Vy Photo 2 by Kara
Vy Tran describes do’s and avoid’s of terminology in equitable storytelling. Photo by Kara Palmer.

Which of these would you use? Vy’s slides give insights on the impact of words we commonly use.

ComNetwork ES Vy exercise_by Kara
One of the cards from the exercise, with a phrase that should be avoided — do you know which? Photo by Kara Palmer.

 

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.

Handouts

Bonus Materials:

  • Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2020, Aspirational Communication,” by Doug Hattaway of Hattaway Communications (and The Communications Network leader)
  • ComNet19 keynote on Asset Framing by Trabian Shorters, founder of BMe Community

Thank you to our fantastic speakers, to ComNetworkSEATTLE — especially Kara Palmer of Pyramid Communications — for partnering with us, and to all the people who came to our workshop!

 

ComNetwork ES reception_by Kara
As Eric pointed out, food is an important element of a community communication event.

“Communication and Collaboration” — Happy Hellos and Hard Goodbyes, 2019 Edition

By Catherine Hinrichsen, Project Director, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness

Connor Anneke June 2019
Dynamic duo: Project assistants Connor (L) and Anneke, June 2019 at SU’s Tsutakawa Fountain.

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

Changing the Housing Narrative — A Talk with Dr. Tiffany Manuel

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.

Tiffany Manuel snip

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

Affordable Housing Week 2019

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.

RR101 Image

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.