Travels with Charlize, in search of living alone

Dr. David Gross
Dr. David Gross

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.

  1. Thank you, David for attending the Homelessness Event on 28 Jan and being an advocate for those in need, especially the children. One cannot underestimate the power of presence. Of showing up. I also appreciate the research and background information you provided. I am encouraged our 21st District public servants: Mary Helen Roberts, Lillian Ortiz-Self, and Marko Liias pledged their committment of support.

  2. Thank you so much! Yes., civilized nations take care of their most vulnerable. With the severe cold this week I was constantly reminded of those suffering on the streets and in their cars. A few regulars on Sunset avenue seen frequently. Shamefull in this wealthy country. We need to have another war on poverty. That would be money well spent

  3. How can we as a community advocate the help to homeless families? I’d like to be a part of the solution to the problem ….realize that giving help through my church is a good thing, but only a bandage. If anyone has a way to organize advocacy, let us know! Do we send letters to our representatives? Gather signatures?

  4. I agree that as a community there has to be a way to organize to solve the problem of family homelessness. I was shocked at the number of children that are counted as homeless in the Edmonds School District and who get picked up in school vans everyday from their cars and other camping areas, to be taken to school.. the future cost of not taking care of this problem is huge.
    Seattle says it has dealt with the issue and maybe they have
    some guidance on the solution.

  5. You are to be commended for your support of the homeless families and their needs. Please keep me posted of your activities so I can provide support.

    Our Senators and Representatives at the state and national levels are capable of providing terrific public service to all, so please do not refer to them as public servants.

  6. Dr. Gross,

    Given the importance you place on the HFT and HEN programs, and your description of them as having “absorbed outrageous cuts” and “terribly underfunded,” please tell us what the current funding levels are for each program and how much it each program should receive in order to achieve their tasks. How many people are served by these programs, and how many need their services and are not receiving them? You mentioned some of these figures in your last column, but now that you’re lobbying for more, we need all the details.

    Also, how do you suggest paying for these programs? Should they come out of the General Fund, or should they have dedicated funding resources? What other programs should the state cut in order to fund them? Which taxes be raised? Governments do not have unlimited resources, and must prioritize. Where should this rank in the state’s priorities?

  7. This is something that this small community could really organize around. Many cities across the country are having “sleep outs” to highlight the problem and really get a feeling of the reality of it and to raise money locally. There are also many ideas at Good magazine from young people………Dynamic creative ideas to help solve the issues of homelessness…..That’s what is needed, NEW creative ideas. Recently there have been articles written in regards to having BIG ideas start at the very local, city level, rather than at the top government level first.

  8. Thanks to all for your insightful comments. Charlize and I are back on the road but will return in a few weeks. I’ll be posting about our travels, but the special needs of homeless families will still be with us.

    I’m thinking a lot about this as I drive (with Charlize resting her head on my shoulder) and hope to have some ideas by the time I return. Suffice to say, in the words of Tip O’Neil, “…all politics are local.” As a community Edmonds can raise a voice, advocate, innovate and, maybe, even make a difference.

    As my 11 year old Granddaughter says to find information about any problem, “Google it Zaydee.” You can google “family homelessness in the Seattle area” and find all kinds of statistics, organizations and information about this special problem.

    Thanks again for caring, I’ll be back in touch about this.


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