Like many people who are working on homelessness in this region, our project director, Catherine, was outraged when she saw a recent one-hour special on KOMO-TV. After she tweeted about it, the online media site Crosscut asked her to write an op-ed. Read it here.
If you agree, please share and make your comments known on Crosscut, on social media, or by contacting KOMO-TV.
Update: Since this first response, many others have been published, including these:
By Connor Crinion and Anneke Karreman, Project Assistants, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness
Note: Every year our student project assistants create a special event to support Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD) in Olympia, and every year there’s a special twist that reflects the creativity and energy of that team. So when more than 600 advocates from around the state filled the steps of the Legislative Building on Feb. 28, 2019, they saw something new and different: a special art installation created by our project assistants, Anneke and Connor. They reflect on what they’ll take away from this whole experience, which started last fall with the eviction reform fact sheets they created for WLIHA.
What were your expectations before HHAD, and what’s your perspective now after participating?
Anneke: What I thought about HHAD before I got there was chanting on the steps and meeting with legislators about housing and homelessness advocacy, but in reality it turned out to be much more. It was a bonding experience in that everyone was there for the same thing, but with different levels of experience and different lived experiences. It didn’t matter if you had gone before or not; everyone was welcome.
Connor: In some ways, HHAD was similar to the expectations that I had, and in other ways it was quite different. Meeting with legislators and legislative aides felt familiar, as I’ve done that in the past at various lobby days that I’ve attended. However, HHAD also provided a sense of community that I’ve never felt before while engaged in advocacy—meeting advocates and activists throughout the day felt like being welcomed into a broad community. Whether the connection was fleeting, or something that may last more long-term, it felt powerful to connect with others based on our shared values.
What was the postcard project, what was your role, and why did you decide to do it?
Anneke: This project was designed to educate and engage the community at Seattle University to advocate for different policies regarding student homelessness, eviction reform, and affordable housing in Washington state. To expand on the successful advocacy postcard project that Katie, Madison and Tess did last year, we thought up a way for the postcards to be displayed in a way that also alluded to the spirit of support for those who experience housing instability and loss. We decided on a “house”-like structure to symbolize the intrinsic importance of the home and the foundation it provides for a person’s success and well being.
The postcards I designed utilize the human symbol of the hand and connect it to the home through its combination with household belongings.
Connor: My contributions to the display structure and postcard project mainly related to writing the copy for the postcards, legislative research, and handling some of the logistics related to placing the structure on the Capitol campus in Olympia. To help in writing the copy, I was able to draw in knowledge from classes and past work experiences to better inform how we discussed and framed issues of eviction, affordable housing, cost burden for renters, and the challenges faced by students experiencing homelessness.
I am grateful that collecting the advocacy postcards – nearly 200 — provided us with the opportunity to engage the Seattle University community in critical discussion about the tremendous need for housing in our city and state. For me, deciding to display the postcards allowed us to connect our community to the larger statewide movement for housing justice. Even though only Anneke and I were the only SU students to travel down to Olympia, our display was a reminder that we were joined in spirit by many remote advocates, both those from SU and others.
What’s one moment or memory that stands out to you from the day?
Anneke: One of the most compelling parts of HHAD to me was the drumming and prayer led from indigenous members from Chief Seattle Club. A woman from the Lakota tribe led the prayer which she spoke in both her first indigenous language, then in English. Sage was burned during this time and the rich smoke wafted from the parking lot up to the steps. There was something truly special about that moment, to hear the expression of an ancient and endangered language by a native leader. Her speech was also followed by a drumming session by members of the club.
The rhythmic beat of the drum connected everyone there in that moment and made me think about how we all stood on indigenous land of the Duwamish tribe. It was also mentioned how Native Americans have been the top demographic to experience homelessness. In truth, it started a long time ago during the time of Westernization and assimilation and natives were forced from their home spaces.
Connor: One aspect that struck me was the scale and the collective urgency that I felt while participating. Gathering on the steps of the Legislative Building in Olympia with hundreds of other advocates was a moment that reminded me of the stakes of the day, and the potential impact that our advocacy could have on the lives of thousands of Washingtonians.
As WLIHA staff and other HHAD participants led chants with the 600-strong crowd gathered on the steps, I almost felt like I could feel the possibility of a world with more just eviction laws, more affordable housing, and fewer students experiencing homelessness. While obviously our chanting alone did not get us there, I believe the collective power that it represented will help us get a bit closer to that world.
What are you most proud of from your experience at HHAD?
Anneke: I am most proud of the potential ways in which this project inspired people at HHAD, at Seattle University, and lawmakers to have conversations about housing affordability, eviction reform, and student homelessness. I really hope that lawmakers will read each postcard thoroughly.
Possibly, the postcards will influence some of the outcome of some law decisions around housing and eviction reform.
I am also proud of our team of three that enabled this installation to happen. It was a crazy idea to start out, which seemed unattainable at times, but all of our meetings discussing logistics and content paid off. I am honored that I could bring local Seattle voices to the Capitol and support those who need it the most through public art. As a team of only two project assistants, I am very proud of the way Connor and I brought our strengths to the table for this project.
The video below, by Prof. Chordiya, shows a close-up of some of the postcard messages.
Connor: There’s a lot to be proud of. First and foremost, I think Anneke and her dad, Frank, deserve recognition and appreciation for the hard work that they put into creating the structure. Without them, displaying the postcards would not have been possible.
I am also proud of our entire team for the way that we collaborated to get the project done. From Catherine helping us through brainstorming and anticipating challenges, to the way Anneke and I collaborated to integrate the written messaging with the vision for the design of the hand, I think our collaboration and flexibility made this project possible.
Lastly, a short thank you from Anneke and Connor:
In recognition that this project was a collaborative effort, we would like to conclude by thanking many of the people that helped make it possible. Many thanks to the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance for organizing this day, as well as Seattle University’s Facilities Team for their assistance in getting this project down to Olympia.
In particular, thank you to Dimitri Groce of WLIHA for all his support and encouragement throughout the process.
Thank you to our Project Supervisor Catherine for supporting us in every way throughout this project. Thank you Prof. Rashmi Chordiya for your positive presence and technical support at Olympia during the event.
We’d also like to thank Kristina Sawyckyj, the 43rd District legislative lead (and SU student), for her support in our meeting with Speaker Chopp.
Thank you also to Frank Karreman; you made the “house” design come to life.
Finally, we are grateful to all the Seattle University students, faculty, staff, and community members who took the time to write a postcard — thank you for adding your voice to a statewide movement.
All photos by Catherine Hinrichsen unless otherwise noted.
By Catherine Hinrichsen, Project Director, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
This is always one of my least favorite tasks — saying farewell to a student team at the height of its camaraderie and success. This year, it happened in a blur. There was just too much going on at the end of the 2017-18 school year. In the final days leading up to graduation, we:
In the midst of all this, the goodbye to our incredible team of students felt inadequate and hasty.
So it’s time for a more fitting farewell as we post our annual tribute to our graduating students and the incoming team — Happy Hellos and Hard Goodbyes. Part One is the hard goodbye, a look back at some of the incredible work by our student team Katie Bradley, Tess Riski and Madison Vucci.
A staggered but high-powered start
Let’s start with some words from the first student to join the team, Tess.
“When I first started at the Seattle U Project on Family Homelessness, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d gotten myself into. I knew I was hired onto the project to help combat family homelessness in the region, but I wasn’t sure how to go about creating those solutions. And I don’t think I was alone in that feeling. In fact, I believe that many in our region – Seattle, King County, the broader Pacific Northwest – feel a sense of powerlessness at the thought of ending homelessness. How can one person, after all, solve an entire crisis? I see my fellow residents in Seattle internalize this belief. For some, it is expressed through anger at the homeless, guilt within themselves or dismay for the government. (Seattle City Council is a notoriously easy scapegoat, though I think many still struggle to point out what, specifically, our elected officials – who we voted into office – are doing wrong.) It is, after all, a lot easier to blame others for the homelessness crisis than to reflect internally and ask oneself:
1) How have I or the systems from which I benefit exacerbated this crisis?
2) What can I do personally to make a positive impact?
This internal reflection is what I spent the last twelve months doing. And during these twelve months, I learned that, while there are many naysayers out there, there are also dozens of wonderful organizations – particularly our partners – who strive to answer those two aforementioned questions on a daily basis.” — Tess
We got off to an unusual start this year because our team was somewhat patchwork till January 2018, due to summer internships and a study abroad. Till then, individually or in pairs, they produced some great work in summer and fall, including:
The Voter’s Guide on Housing and Homelessness website, a partnership with Solid Ground, Housing Development Consortium and Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness. Tess worked long hours building the site, where we posted responses from 12 of the 21 (!) Seattle mayoral candidates. The site drew more than 3,000 views before the primary.
A Get Out the Vote video that Tess and Madison put together right before the primary, garnering more than 1,200 views in one day.
And then there was The Florida Project— our favorite film about family homelessness! Madison and Katie attended the screening in October, and Katie wrote an insightful review, in which she addressed issues like overcoming the judgments that start to creep in while watching this challenging young mother try to keep her family afloat.
The team comes together just in time for HHAD
It wasn’t till January that Katie, Madison and Tess came together to work as a team — but then they were unstoppable. Here they are in January as they started planning their incredibly successful events in winter and spring 2018.
From the day they first started finger-painting images and slogans about homelessness for postcards, stickers and posters, it was clear this would be an unprecedented campus event for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD). It culminated in a visit to the office of Sen. Christine Rolfes, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, where they presented more than 500 postcards from the SU community urging action on homelessness in Washington. They even got mentioned in Sen. Rolfes’ constituent newsletter.
To document their experience, they created unique reflections; Katie created a flipbook, Madison wrote about the design project and Tess reflected on the “imposter syndrome” she overcame as a first-time advocate. Check out their projects here.
No senioritis: Taking on their biggest project
Our usual capstone event each school year is a campus and community event for Affordable Housing Week. This team decided that their event would be a screening of a documentary about gentrification in the Central District, which they set out to produce themselves. It was a massive task, but they handled it splendidly, interviewing five leaders (including our project alum Ashwin!) and filming throughout the changing Central District.
On May 15, with moments to spare, they finished the film, “Central Division: A documentary exploring gentrification in the Central District,” and screened it for about 50 students, staff and community members. The event included a post-screening conversation with community leaders, which they facilitated. Here’s their recap and reflection on what they learned.
L-R: Madison, Katie and Tess facilitated a discussion with guests Miriam Roskin, Patience Malaba and Sean Abdul.
While most students would then focus on graduating, they decided they wanted to go back in the editing room and polish up the film. It’s now available to watch on YouTube.
All this great work was set against a highly stressful spring marred by tragedy.
Tess, in her role as investigative editor for campus newspaper The Spectator, broke the story of the theft of stacks of our student newspaper because a faculty member deemed the cover inappropriate. It led to some painful campus-wide conversations about inclusivity. (But it also earned The Spectator and its adviser, Prof. Sonora Jha, an award from the regional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for their courage.)
We also lost one of our co-workers, Adrian Mayorga-Altamirano, our department’s student assistant who died unexpectedly in April. Taking time to grieve was important for our team, and we will always feel the loss of Adrian, a business student who we remember for his brilliance and helpfulness.
What’s next for the team
Some parting thoughts from Madison.
“From brainstorms, to crunch-time, to celebrations, to overtime, and all in between, we were the best team of three I could have dreamed to be. Together, we pushed one another to new levels and always inspired the further development of our ideas. We had one another’s backs and always gave equal commitment and partnership, even though we were all full-time students with at least one other job commitment each. I feel honored to have worked with these ladies and wouldn’t change anything about our time together.” — Madison
Clearly, saying goodbye was also bittersweet for these amazing young women, who truly enjoyed and were inspired by each other.
With graduation behind them, our trio joins the pantheon of distinguished project alumni and sets forth into exciting new ventures:
Katie Bradley, Strategic Communications and Public Affairs graduate, will start a job at Amazon in marketing later this summer.
Tess Riski, Journalism graduate, starts grad school at Columbia School of Journalism this fall.
Madison Vucci, Digital Design graduate, will be freelancing as a designer and flinging awesome pies as she plans her next chapter.
Congratulations to all three of them and many, many thanks for their stellar work this year for our advocacy partners, our university and our project!
A Look Ahead from Katie
“The experiences you will gain by working on the Project are seriously impressive. Take note of all that you do and have pride over what you accomplish. I was able to develop so many new skills – like videography and making a flipbook — by working on the Project. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and push beyond your boundaries. You will gain more skills with the challenge and will have way more fun as you learn. I am so excited to see the work that you do and what is ahead for the Project!” — Katie
Coming this fall: Part Two — Happy Hellos, as we welcome the new students to our team.
By Katie Bradley, with Tess Riski and Madison Vucci
Student Project Assistants, 2017-18
Note: For the third year in a row, our student assistants planned a campus event in support of Affordable Housing Weekin King County, May 14 – May 18. This year’s team – Katie Bradley, Tess Riski, and Madison Vucci – decided to make a documentary focused on the gentrification of the Central District and the impact it has on access to affordable housing. On May 15, they hosted the premiere screening of their documentary and led a panel discussion after the film. Afterward, they reflected on what went well, what could be improved, what surprised them, and what they learned.
First, here’s the film on YouTube:
Our purpose for making the documentary, “Central Division,” was to showcase the impact of gentrification in the Central District in relation to affordable housing. As Seattle University students, we recognize how close our school is to the Central District and how many of our peers and students live off campus there. In our four years of attending Seattle University, we have witnessed the changing the Central District and have questioned the impact we have as students individually and as an institution as a whole on the black community in the Central District.
We decided to make a documentary so that it could be passed along to other communities and leave a longer impression as a conversation starter for Affordable Housing Week. Continue reading →
By Katie Bradley, Project Assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
For my Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD) reflection, I decided to create a flipbook describing my experience and what I learned throughout the day. An online flipbook is a new version of the traditional flipbook — a series of pictures that appear to be animated when you flip through them quickly. I felt like HHAD was a lively growth experience for me, and wanted my reflection to be equally dynamic, both visually and physically.
I also wanted to provide insight into what HHAD was like for me and share what future HHAD attendees can expect throughout the day.
By Tess Riski, Project Assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
Up until recently, I had never considered myself to be an “advocate.” The term just didn’t seem to fit quite right. Being an advocate, I had thought to myself, was all about quantity, as if there is an advocacy checklist that looks something like this:
□ Attends multiple rallies each month;
□ Dedicates 40+ hours a week to saving the world;
□ Eats-drinks-breathes their chosen cause.
The more boxes you can tick off, I had thought to myself, the closer you are to being a bona-fide advocate. I didn’t tick many boxes, therefore I felt I simply did not meet the minimum qualifications.
Our new partnership will help bring this training to schools across the state
By Katie Bradley, Project Assistant, with Madison Vucci, Digital Design Project Assistant, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness
“A good day is when you’re proud of what you’ve done. A bad day is when you forget all of what you can do.”
I hadn’t written poetry since I was in fourth grade. But after attending the Pongo Poetry Training in October, I had a subtle sense of accomplishment about what I had shared, and a sense of pride that I’ve been trained in a process that can help so many people.
As I rode back to campus, I had three takeaways from the training repeating in my mind.
Everyone has a story. The world wants to hear your story. Poetry can be about anything.Continue reading →
It’s up to advocates to connect this story of family homelessness to action
By Katie Bradley, project assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
As the credits for The Florida Project rolled, I was floored. This movie made me cry while I sat in the theater, and I didn’t even cry when I saw Titanic for the first time as a child. A movie about a family living in poverty at an Orlando budget motel got to me in the most heart-wrenching way.
I had just seen a raw portrait of family homelessness set in contrast with the happiest place on earth, Disney World. It made me want to do something to help families living like those depicted in the film. But I felt lost with what I could do, and it left me with my head spinning.
Fortunately for me, I work with a bunch of people who think about family homelessness all the time, and we think that we may be able to connect audiences to action, which we will explore later. First, here’s a description of this remarkable film and what it says about family homelessness.
The Florida Project is a breakout movie that depicts the struggles of living in poverty from a childhood perspective, set in a not-so-magical purple budget motel, the Magic Castle. The film depicts the often-unseen struggles of homelessness, which director and co-writer Sean Baker calls the “hidden homeless,” to represent the life of the modern-day “Little Rascals” who live a “life on the margins.”Continue reading →
To help Seattle voters make the important choice of how to vote for our next mayor, we’ve partnered with leading housing and homelessness advocacy organizations and service providers on a 2017 voter education project, with two major components:
Voters’ Guide on Housing and Homelessness
Changing Seattle: Mayoral Candidates Debate Growth, Affordable Housing and Homelessness, Tuesday, Sept. 12 at Seattle University