Youth Homelessness Training @ New Horizons

Youth Homelessness Training @ New Horizons

On the night of July 1st, I attended Ropes, a homeless youth training program run by New Horizons’ staff, Joseph Seia and Tristan Herman.

The training was both intensive and interactive. At first, we were asked to name the various causes and characteristics (both stereotypes and realities) associated with youth homelessness. Then, we were taught to analyze ways in which volunteers can appropriately support these populations to minimize power differentials and transactional relationships. We participated in a role playing exercise, in which we were given identification cards of respective homeless youths, and asked to achieve a set of goals (i.e. SSI, transitional housing, a bed for the night, medical care, etc.) from service organizations played by other training attendees.

I played the character of 25 year-old Sage, an African-American transgendered female, who had recently escaped the confines of an abusive relationship, and had no financial backing. In our role play, Sage was denied SSI from DHHS because her illiteracy prevented her from filling out the right forms, denied transitional housing because of her anxiety during her housing interview, and was sent to jail for not being able to pay two tickets for jaywalking (is that even a real crime?).

Throughout the exercise, the police did little to help Sage and the other youth—rather, they were stifling.  Right before the exercise was over, Sage received a change card, detailing a hate crime incident that left her in the hospital. She could not afford to pay the $1200 medical bill, and she was sent to jail. Again.

The exercise was difficult for everyone involved—service organizers were torn between wanting to do what was humane (denying no one) versus what they were told to do (stick to bureaucratic routines, rules, etc.). The exercise helped me to realize how readily the homeless are dehumanized or victimized by not only the public, but by government and law enforcement officials as well. Playing the role of Sage was especially difficult given her gender identity—in almost every scenario, she had a significantly harder time achieving her goals than did cisgender youths participating in the same exercise.

Joseph stated, “How you receive [trans youths] at the door [of any organization] will determine whether or not they continue to come back,” highlighting the importance of LGBTQ education in his work. As hate crimes increase on the streets, the world becomes infinitely more cruel towards LGBTQ homeless youth. Violence aside, Joseph and Tristan explained how internalized oppression is one of the most lasting and dangerous effects of youth homelessness. Tristan argued that one of the biggest obstacles New Horizons faces is “young folks’ really low self-worth… this unshakable sense of inferiority.” Internalized oppression drastically increases drug and alcohol abuse on the streets, as well, making it even harder to reach out for support.

This training was super helpful (thanks Joseph and Tristan!) and informative. I’d strongly recommend attending—you won’t be the same person when you leave.

This blog post was written by Natalie, a Public Policy major at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Pride 2015

Pride 2015

This weekend, Allen and I attended our first Seattle Pride. On Friday, we attended the TransPride festival in Capitol Hill, and on Sunday, we attended the larger parade in the city’s center.

The Bus has been attending TransPride for two years, and the festival itself has existed for three. It is organized by the Gender Justice League and depends on donations from a number of  organizations, such as the Social Justice Fund Northwest (SJFN) and the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA).

Karter Booher, The Bus’ Fellowship Coordinator, stated that TransPride 2015 seemed to be about twice as large as it was the previous year, highlighting the festival’s substantial growth.

The Bus had four fellows involved in TransPride this year, whose primary responsibility was to register voters and engage people in The Bus’ youth agenda (police accountability, youth employment, housing accessibility, specifically) in regards to issues within and around Seattle’s trans community. Namely, there has been a recent increase in trans related hate crimes and violence, the necessity for protection against discrimination in the workplace, and the need for safe and affordable housing. This past year, Seattle had the third-highest rate of LGBTQ-related hate crimes in the United States.

Karter believes that education around these issues is crucial to lessening tensions. Theo Savini, a 2015 fellow, stated that The Bus’ involvement at TransPride is crucial because it urges people to vote and organize in spite of being made to feel invisible or silenced.

In attending Seattle’s Pride Parade on Sunday, the Bus teamed up with Equal Rights Washington in marching. The march was nearly two miles long, and endless lines of supporters filed along sidewalks. At the end of the parade, we saw the rainbow flag hanging atop the Space Needle, evidencing Seattle’s (and America’s) recent legislative and judicial success and fight for social justice. We’ve undoubtedly come a long way, and  the fact that #LoveWon this weekend is no small feat. However, there is still so much progress to be made, and as young folks, we’re lucky to have both a hand and a say in where we go from here.

This blog post was written by Natalie, a Public Policy major at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Buses. Are. Amazing.

Buses. Are. Amazing.

Buses may seem like an eyesore and a drain on the economy to someone who doesn’t understand their importance, but for those who use them or understand their value, it’s easy to see how much they mean. Buses get people to work. They get people to school. They create independence for seniors and disabled people. They reduce traffic. Buses are hugely important to having a healthy and productive city.

At my first phone bank to fund Seattle’s metro I heard someone say, “The bus is one of the only places that people are together on a daily basis regardless of class, race, and gender.” That idea really means a lot to me. It shows how Metro in Seattle is much more than just a bunch of buses. It’s a force that brings together almost every kind of person that lives and travels in our city.

The awesome #10 Seattle bus goin’ up Pike towards 15th ave.

In the world today there are often very strict barriers between race, class, and gender. These issues are slowly improving but they’re far from over. On the bus everyone sits together . Everyone who takes the bus spends a few minutes of their day in the company of a greatly diverse group of people. There may not be a lot of communication or dialogue but everyone’s still there and together in the same space.

Just being in the same space as others and seeing diverse groups together can help change the way people think about others. I think that just by taking the bus people can become more accepting and understanding of others around them. It may be a small change but even on a very small level this acceptance is critical.

So how should you support this amazingly important cause? By voting yes on Seattle Transportation Prop. 1 on November 4th!

Seattle Transportation Prop. 1 will fund the buses and make them run more smoothly and efficiently. With this measure the bus will be able to reach more people and will better serve our city. Gettin’ people where they need to go. Bringin’ the city together. All good things when it comes to the Seattle buses. And as always, don’t forget to vote.

This blog post was written by Tatum McConnel, sophomore at the Seattle Academy and Communications Coordinator with the 2014 Fall Internship.

Why’s Pre-K Such a Big Deal?

Why’s Pre-K Such a Big Deal?

A battle has raged on between Seattle lawmakers and Seattle unions, AFT Washington and SEIU Local 925, for months now – so what’s it all about? Preschool. Might not be what you were expecting. By November 4th, voters will have to decide between two options on the ballot that both have to do with the child care industry. Here’s the thing, only one can get passed.

Prop 1A, backed by AFT Washington and SEIU 925, aims to improve working conditions by raising wages and creating a new training institute for child-care workers, while also limiting costs of pre-K to 10% of a family’s income.

Prop 1B, proposed by City Council and the Mayor, wants to take a first step towards creating a universal Pre-K by subsidizing Pre-K costs for families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty line.

They say the devil’s in the detail, so what’s the catch?

Currently, the main issue is that no one has any idea how much Prop 1A will cost. Prop 1B aims to serve 2,000 3- to 4-year olds through a $58 million property tax levy over 4 years, but Prop 1A estimates have huge ranges! The Prop 1A campaign says it will cost about $3 million. The Prop 1B campaign says Prop 1A could cost $100 million. That’s a pretty big difference.

So how can there be such a huge difference between the two budgets?? The problem is that no one can really know how much Prop 1A will cost, because no one knows how the wording will be interpreted in court. There’s no way to know if pieces of the measure will be viewed as mandatory or aspirational. (For an in-depth look into the financials of Prop 1A check out Publicola’s recent article on the subject.)

So why is preschool so important? 

The leading study on preschool is currently the Perry Preschool Project. This study took a group of kids from Ypsilanti, Michigan and put half of them in a preschool program and the other half didn’t go to preschool. They did this for groups of kids from 1962-1967. They studied these kids for several decades and found amazing results.

By age 40 the kids who had gone to preschool were 19% less likely to have been arrested 5 or more times, and were 20% more likely to earn and additional $20K. Participants were also 17% more likely to graduate high school.

This all adds up to an amazing public return as shown below.

If you can’t read the small print, that’s $12.90 return per dollar invested!

In summary:

Pros of 1A:

  • Sets a $15 minimum wage for child-care workers (3-year phase-in)
  • Certified training is required for child-care workers
  • Set’s the cost of child-care to a maximum of 10% of family income

Cons of 1A:

  • Budget is completely unknown due to lack of funding mandate
  • Does not currently guarantee any number of additional Pre-K students

Pros of 1B:

  • Subsidizes Pre-K for families earning up 300% of the federal poverty line
  • Aims to guarantee Pre-K for additional 2,000 3- to 4-year-old students
  • Set budget of $58 million over 4 years via Property Tax Levy

Cons of 1B:

  • Serves only 6.7% of Seattle children under 5-years-old.
  • Higher property taxes

No matter what happens the hope is to get more kids into preschool. That would be an awesome step for Seattle to take!

And, as always, don’t forget to VOTE!

This blog post was written by Tatum McConnel, sophomore at the Seattle Academy and Communications Coordinator with the 2014 Fall Internship.

Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day?

Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day?

On October 6th Seattle lawmakers passed a resolution unanimously to change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. But why should it be changed? Couldn’t another holiday just be created instead?

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He set forth on the Pinta, the Nino, and the Santa Maria to discover the new world, trade with the natives, and bridge the gap between Europe and the Americas; is what traditional history would like for you to believe.

The truth is that there is a LOT more to the story.
While Columbus did do those things his voyages also brought death, destruction, and genocide upon the Natives living in the Americas. As the Spaniards colonized America, they brought diseases the Natives had never been exposed to, such as smallpox. There are also many accounts of poor treatment and killings of the Native Americans that can qualify as genocide. (Read more about this here).

Native Americans have been, and still are, oppressed by white Americans and settlers in The Americas. It started with many acts of violence against them from the 1492 onward. Wars broke out frequently and many Native Americans were forced into slavery. In 1821 the U.S. government began formally uprooting from their ancestral land what they called the “Five Civilized Tribes”. This process is now recognized as the Trail of Tears.

This oppression carries today because of the treaties and treatment of Native Americans in the past. Many native tribes have been forced onto reservations without many of the other promises being fulfilled. For example the Nisqually Tribe, whose land was in what is today known as Washington State. Their tribe signed the Treaty of Point Elliot in 1855 and it took 2 million acres of their land, but promised in return the ability to fish in their “usual and accustomed grounds and stations.” When the tribe tried to fish in the Nisqually River they were stopped and arrested.

For about a decade this went on until Judge Boldt declared that the Native Tribes could take up to half of the salmon in their traditional waters. This decision affected any tribes included in the Treaty of Point Elliot. Even with this decision, many tribes, such as the Duwamish, are not federally recognized and can’t receive what the treaty and the Boldt decision promised them. The Duwamish have appealed to the federal government many times to get federal recognition and what was promised to them in their treaty, but it has yet to happen.

The oppression of Native Americans in the past has also led to serious effects today. According to the 2000 census poverty rates in the ten largest reservations average out to about 40% of families affected, as opposed to the 9% national average. This stunningly high rate of poverty is a result of the treatment white Americans have subjugated them to. We can also see oppression in smaller things, such as the name of Washington D.C.’s football team or the normalized cultural appropriation of Native tradition.

I’m extremely lucky to have been able to see and even dance in Kwakwaka’wakw potlatches. I’ve experienced the tradition first hand and I can easily say it’s something worth celebrating. As one supporter of the change said, “we can all celebrate life, instead of genocide.” Seattle has made a great step in the right direction by changing this name. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, more of the U.S. can follow this path.

This blog post was written by Tatum McConnel, sophomore at the Seattle Academy and Communications Coordinator with the 2014 Fall Internship.

How Much are You Willing to Pay?

How Much are You Willing to Pay?

What is college notorious for? We’re not talking crazy parties and stressful finals. We’re talking about something near and dear to everyone’s hearts: tuition costs.

Many students go into college thinking that a bachelors degree will give them access to better paying jobs. Education is also a way for everyone to get access to opportunities which will put them at a level playing field with others. But tuition costs are causing college students mo problems than they signed up for.

Tuition costs are at the highest that they’ve ever been and the amount students need to pay for higher education doesn’t seem to be going down anytime soon. Public universities and colleges are seeing the most dramatic rise in tuition.  Most costs from increasing need for research funding and salaries for staff.

Unfortunately routine budget shortfalls since the beginning of the Great Recession (especially in the state of Washington) have dramatically increased the portion of higher education that students themselves are paying. Where the state used to fund 80 percent (yes, you read that right, eighty!) it is now below 30 percent.

As tuition continues to rise students are beginning to more seriously weigh the costs and benefits of higher education. However, by 2020, around 70% of jobs in Washington will need some kind of post secondary education.

With rising tuition costs dealing with student debt is going to become more difficult for people. What do you think? As a young person, how are you dealing with your student debt?