Part 46: Lobbying
In my last column, I described some of the major issues involved in the Homelessness Advocacy Day Jan. 28 of this year. Perhaps the most disturbing fact I learned of is that children from homeless families suffer from increased rates of illness and poor school performance. Problems that are directly linked to the lack of a permanent home.
I wrote about the Washington State Housing Trust (HFT) and the essential work it does despite the outrageous cuts the fund has absorbed since 2007. I wrote about the state’s Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program and how terribly underfunded it is. I discussed the essential help provided by the minimal fees assessed by the State of Washington for the recording of certain real estate transactions and that unless action is taken this fund will suffer cuts in funding.
My group of advocates from the 21st Legislative District met with the politicians representing us: Representatives Mary Helen Roberts and newly appointed Lillian Ortiz-Self and our Senator Marko Liias. Mr. Liias formerly represented us in the Washington House of Representatives and was recently appointed to fill the vacant Senate seat resulting from our long-time Senator Shin’s retirement due to illness.
During each of the separate meetings we had with these public servants, we reminded them of the important work done by the HFT, HEN and the real estate recording fee fund. We emphasized the importance of these programs and the need to pass legislation limiting the number of times prospective renters must pay for “tenant screening” reports. We reminded them that there is a bill pending this year that will provide that prospective renters will only have to pay the fee once and the report generated will be available to all prospective landlords for 30 days with no additional charges.
I have great sympathy and empathy for all individuals on the street. However the vast majority of individuals who are homeless and living on the streets or “campgrounds” or overnight shelters are dealing with drug and/or alcohol and/or mental health issues. These folks require a different set of services and solutions compared to families who are, usually through no fault of their own, homeless.
Family homelessness can often be traced to the primary breadwinner having health problems or losing their job. Whole intact families and very commonly single mothers or fathers are trying to cope with minimal wage jobs that cannot provide enough resource to feed, cloth and provide housing. Some families have lost their homes as victims of predatory housing lenders who put the family in housing they could not afford. The children of these families are innocent and many times suffer the most.
Private organizations, individuals and many faith-based organizations have stepped up to try to offset the loss of government funding intended to address the issue of family homelessness. The best efforts of these resources are woefully inadequate. The situation today is worse than it was a year ago and it continues to worsen. Everyone must contribute to solve this disgraceful problem in this, the wealthiest country in the world. The only way to ensure that all pay their fair share in this effort is for our government to do so, even though that will, no doubt, require an increase in taxation.
I am happy to report that the progressive thinking and sympathetic public servants who represent the 21st District warmly received us and were sympathetic to our message. Mary Helen Roberts, Lillian Ortiz-Self and Marko Liias promised to do everything they could to support and grow these programs. All three deserve our thanks and support. Charlize agrees.
– By Dr. David Gross
After his losing his wife of 52 years to cancer, Dr. David Gross has a new dog, Charlize, and is writing about his experiences.