Happy Hellos and Hard Goodbyes, 2018 Edition – Part One

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

Team Graduation Party 2017-18 Tess Madison Katie cropped
Tess, Madison and Katie celebrate graduation with SU-themed treats from Cupcake Royale June 12.

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:

  • Co-hosted a major eventIgnite Project Homeless with The Seattle Times, June 7
  • Finished up final edits on the documentary our student team produced for Affordable Housing Week, “Central Division
  • Completed the infographic for the 2018 Count Us In point-in-time count of homelessness, for All Home (the third year in a row our student designer has created this piece)

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 organizationsparticularly 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.

 

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The online ad that Madison designed, which ran in Crosscut; it features her illustration of the two general-election candidates.
Pongo Katie and Madison at training
Katie and Madison learned how to write poetry in the Pongo method, and how to teach others, at the October training.  

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.

Florida Project Screening-Katie Madison reception
Katie and Madison at the Pacific Place screening of “The Florida Project” in October 2017.

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.

Team 2017-18 in January 2018
L-R: Madison, Tess and Katie, taking a break from their “craft project” creating images for their HHAD events.

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.

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The team earns recognition in Sen. Rolfes’ 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.

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In the editing room at SU, home away from home for several weeks: L-R, Madison, Katie and Tess.

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.

 

 

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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.

Ashwin Warrior sharable image
Once a student on our team, now a local expert and important partner: Ashwin Warrior talks about gentrification in the documentary.

 

Overcoming obstacles

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!

Team 2017-18 in January 2018-2

 

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.

“The Uncomfortable Conversation” — Using “Streetwise” as a Tool for Advocacy

Editor’s Note: As part of our ongoing “Streetwise Revisited” work, our student project assistants are blogging about key events. Both Khadija and Shan wrote about the “Streetwise” screening, first Khadija and now Shan.

By Shan Yonamine, Project Assistant, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness

 

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Poster for our campus screening of “Streetwise,” designed by Amy Phung.

 

“It didn’t change anything for us then,” said Erin “Tiny” Blackwell’s daughter Keanna Pickett about the impact of the documentary “Streetwise” on her family. “When people watch it, it’s a movie. You’re able to go about your life after you watch it.” In other words, Keanna was able to remove herself emotionally because the film can elicit powerful emotions that may be uncomfortable to deal with.

However, when “Tiny’s” daughter tells you that “Streetwise” should be used as the catalyst for an “uncomfortable conversation” about family and youth homelessness, you listen. Continue reading

The “Lunch Ladies,” And Other Islands of Calm in a Choppy Sea

 

As First Place School weathers another storm, dedicated staff and volunteers keep things afloat

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

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The very picture of serenity: Wube Worku of First Place School.

Last Friday, five days before school was scheduled to start, the halls of First Place School were fairly quiet.  In the classrooms of this school in Seattle’s Central District, brightly colored new backpacks stuffed with supplies were neatly lined up in the classroom cubbies. Volunteers like me from Seattle University‘s day of service were sprucing up the lunchroom bulletin boards and moving unneeded furniture into storage. In the kitchen, the “lunch lady,” Wube Worku, chopped vegetables and prepped the counters, pots and pans for a busy school year.

It all seemed cheerful and calm; but under the surface there was tension. Only days before, the school’s board had made the “business decision” to cut back from six grades — K-5 — to K-1 only. That decision left most of the school’s 90 homeless and vulnerable children without a school days before they were to start. For children and families in an already unstable situation, that’s a serious blow. Continue reading

“The Story Told Itself” — Catching Up with Tiny

Film about formerly homeless teen is screened at NAEH Conference

By Catherine Hinrichsen, Project Director, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
Erin (who goes by her street name “Tiny”) on Pike Street, Seattle, 1983
Erin (who goes by her street name “Tiny”) on Pike Street, Seattle, 1983. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark, courtesy of Falkland Road Productions.

The revered documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark died months ago, but we felt her presence very strongly as we watched her final work on the night of Feb. 18, 2016. Continue reading

Portraits of Homelessness

Sharing the Depth of the Human Experience: “Portraits of Homelessness” at the 2015 Global Street Paper Summit

By Lindsey Habenicht, Project Assistant, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness

Lindsey with conference passEditor’s Note: Seattle University hosted the International Network of Street Papers (INSP)  Global Street Paper Summit June 24-26, 2015, which welcomed more than 120 journalists from street papers in 22 countries, including Seattle’s Real Change. Our assistant, Lindsey Habenicht (above), is spending the summer as an intern for one of those papers, Street Sense of Washington, D.C. Before she left Seattle, Lindsey attended the Summit as a street paper communicator and volunteer blogger. This is an adapted version of Lindsey’s post for the Summit.

The narrative of what homelessness is and is not is often uninformed, uneducated, and even unknown completely. While many are aware of the issue of homelessness, they remain unaware of the person: the veteran, the child, the musician, the artist, the entrepreneur, and the like.

“Why is that?” asked Rex Hohlbein of Facing Homelessness. “How could [we] be so disconnected from the simple and obvious fact that homelessness involves real people with real suffering?”

Rex

Keynote speaker Rex Holbein started the Facebook page “Homeless in Seattle”’ in March of 2011 to share something beautiful about each person living on the street. Photo courtesy of facinghomelessness.org

Rex was the keynote speaker at the Global Street Paper Summit’s opening night event, “Portraits of Homelessness,” June 24, which told stories through more than 100 works of visual art, films and audio recordings. Continue reading

Firesteel Adds New StoryCorps Section to their Website

***This post is a repost from the Firesteel website

Introducing the New StoryCorps Section of Our Website!

Alexis Gaines and her case manager Tanya Mendenhall Mettlen participated in the StoryCorps "Finding Our Way" project. In a new audio story produced from their interview, Alexis talks about how she tried to create positive memories for her son, even as they experienced homelessness together. Image credit: StoryCorps
Alexis Gaines and her case manager Tanya Mendenhall Mettlen participated in the StoryCorps “Finding Our Way” project. In a new audio story produced from their interview, Alexis talks about how she tried to create positive memories for her son, even as they experienced homelessness together. Image credit: StoryCorps

Written by Denise Miller, Firesteel Advocacy Coordinator

A Tacoma mom remembers being evicted from her home, and looking for a tent for her family of five. A Seattle teenager describes the challenges of doing homework while living in a car. A South King County11-year-old reflects on losing friends when they learned she didn’t have a home. These are just a few of the stories captured by the StoryCorps “Finding Our Way: Puget Sound Stories About Family Homelessness” initiative last summer, and now featured on a new section of our website.

I’ve been talking about the “Finding Our Way” project for almost a year now. Last spring, as we began inviting people to sit down with a loved one and share how homelessness has affected them, I wrote about how personal stories can build bridges between people and drive social change. Over the summer, I shared some of the most moving moments from our recording days. At Thanksgiving, I posted gratitude for the brave men, women and children who participated in the project and gave permission for their stories to be used for advocacy.

Now it’s time to invite you to listen to and share audio clips produced from the recordings. Our new StoryCorps page currently features five short stories that help listeners understand how homelessness affects families in our community, and we’ll continue adding stories over coming months.

Read more at the Firesteel website here.

Learn more about the StoryCorps project. Continue reading

“Goodness, Resilience and Love”: Formerly Homeless Tacoma Family on StoryCorps Friday, 11/28

StoryCorps Gilliard Family-official version

Franklin and Sherry Gilliard, the Tacoma family whose story aired on StoryCorps Nov. 28.

We’re feeling grateful for the bounty of heartfelt stories that Puget Sound families told StoryCorps this summer, and amazingly, a second story from our project has been selected for national broadcast.  The story aired Friday morning, Nov. 28 during StoryCorps’ “National Day of Listening” on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.

The story was recorded as part of our project, “Finding Our Way: Puget Sound Stories About Family Homelessness.” “Finding Our Way,” funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a collaboration between Catholic Community Services of Western Washington (CCS), YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish and Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness.

StoryCorps Tacoma sign on door
The Gilliard family first recorded their story at CCS in July. Here’s the “farewell and thanks” sign that CCS staff posted on their front door that week.

The story, “Once Homeless, Family Feels ‘Blessed To Wake Up Another Day,'” features the Gilliard family of Tacoma, Wash., who first recorded their story at CCS in July. StoryCorps producer Eve Claxton heard their story and invited them back for an additional recording in early November, also at CCS, and from that recording the story was produced. Here’s the official description of the story:

Sherry Gilliard talks with her husband Franklin Gilliard about losing their business and subsequently their home after the economic crash, their experience of becoming homeless and living in a shelter with their three children, and the love and faith that brought them through these hardships. The family is now in transitional housing in Tacoma, Wash.

“Friday is our ‘National Day of Listening,’ and for that broadcast we always try to air pieces that embody goodness, resilience and love,” Eve said. “The Gilliards are a very special family and everyone here is excited to share their story on such a special day.”

Continue reading

“Just A Chapter In My Life”: Tacoma Mom Previews StoryCorps for News-Tribune

Tacoma mom Jordan Kemper says that being homeless with her kids “was a chapter in my life; it doesn’t define me.” She talked to News Tribune columnist Larry LaRue about why she’ll be sharing her experiences with StoryCorps later this month. Read the column below.

To find out how you can share your story in King, Pierce or Snohomish counties this summer, contact findingourway@storycorps.org or call us at 206/398-4457.

Read more about the project here

News Tribune Logo

Larry LaRue: The homeless have their stories — and now they can tell them

Staff writer, Tacoma News Tribune

July 1, 2014

 

Hack to End Homelessness: Tiana’s Take (New Video)

What was the role of Seattle University faculty, students and staff in the Hack to End Homelessness? They were planners, community liaisons, hackers and volunteers.  This awesome new video by our project assistant, Tiana Quitugua, tells the stories of the many folks in red at the Hackathon.

Tiana is one of the stellar Seattle U students graduating this weekend, and this is one of her final projects for us.  Thank you, Tiana, for capturing this experience and telling it from the SU perspective, and for all your great work for us.

For more about the Hackathon, read our recap.

StoryCorps and Gates Foundation Launch “Finding Our Way” Project

NOTE: This blog post is about our StoryCorps project launch. For more recent information, see our StoryCorps page.

StoryCorps Tierra Jackson John Horan
One of the most memorable StoryCorps segments for the family homelessness community is the story of Tierra Jackson, who with her former principal John Horan reflected on what it was like to be homeless in high school. Photo credit: StoryCorps.

Every Friday morning at around 7:30 a.m., millions of people around the country are entranced by a weekly public radio segment in which everyday Americans tell the stories of their lives.  It’s the beloved StoryCorps, and it’s coming to our region in summer 2014 to find stories about families who have experienced homelessness.

While only about 50 of its stories per year make it onto National Public Radio, StoryCorps has actually recorded more than 50,000 stories in its 10 years. The stories are archived in the Library of Congress.

This July and August, people in Western Washington who have experienced family homelessness will be able to tell their own stories as part of the new StoryCorps project, “Finding Our Way: Puget Sound Stories about Family Homelessness.” The project is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who asked our Project on Family Homelessness to serve as the local coordinator.

We’ll be working with local host partners to find stories from among their current and recent clients, and also reaching out to the public to find people who have experienced family homelessness in their past. The stories will also be available for our advocacy efforts to end family homelessness in Washington state.

Find out how service providers can help us find the stories and use them to advocate. Got a story? Click to jump to the details.

Continue reading