- James Pogue, Comprehensive Life Resources
- Wes Bailey, Metropolitan Development Council
- Legislative District #25 forum today – candidates for positions 1 and 2 are present.
- Welcome to the candidates
- This meeting is focused on improving the lives of folks experiencing homelessness. We meet in a non-partisan manner to weekly to solve these problems.
Candidate Opening Statements:
- Brian Duthie – For position 2 – 25th state legislative district – I’m unique qualified to speak for and represent the 25th district – I’m a firefighter, and I deal daily with the struggles of homelessness and addiction. We need folks to get access to treatment. At recent discussion with a community member, someone was advocating to “lock these folks up”. But, folks experiencing homelessness are dealing with mental health crisis and chemical dependency. At the root of these folks is a person with a family. My faith tells me that no matter who you are or what circumstances you are in you can be redeemed. With all of your support, we can put together a comprehensive treatment program across the state, addressing mental health, chemical dependency, and transitional housing.
- Jamie Smith – I’ve been an educator and coach - high school teacher. More and more of my students and their families are dealing with homelessness. While doorbelling, I’ve come across renters whose apartments have had their rent raise $300, $400 or even $550 a month. Often they pay $1,500 for a one-bedroom. I have students with families of 6 living in a motel room. Kids are worried that can’t go to the doctor because their families won’t be able to pay the rent. Apartments routinely want an income 3 times the monthly rent – that would be$4,500 per month for a one bedroom apartment. We need multiple solutions and options. We need to help folks with addiction by the river, but the families and the folks with disabilities too. None of us choose to be disabled and it can happen to any of us. We need ways to keep folks in housing, more affordable housing, addiction treatment services – not just 10 days but 90 day treatment. I’ve lost too many of my student to addiction.
- Chris Gildon - Also running for position 2. Thanks for having an interest in solving this problem – you’ve taken on an incredible endeavor. This is one of the most difficult issues we face right now. I’m a retired army office – I’ve been in charge of solving lots of problems and running lots of organizations. The first thing we have to do is clearly define the problem we have. I’m all about solving the problem . We would do ourselves a favor to define our terms a little more clearly. Is homelessness a problem or an outcome? Homelessness is an outcome of a multitude of different problems – if we can solve those problems we can come to a solution – solving the problems of the availability of drugs, treatment for mentally issues, housing. I look forward to listening and learning.
- Ned Witting – This is an opportunity for us to learn from you. I’ve been focused on homelessness for the past year – worked with Larry Seaquist and Cynthia Stewart – helped organize the co-lab and the April event at the Tacoma convention center. I’ve learned a lot about homelessness. It is like an iceberg – some folks experiencing homelessness you can see, and some you can’t see. the 20% you can see are the folks living by the river. The other 80% want to be unseen – families and such. Our solutions need to accommodate both groups. We live in a world where money is a constraint. Our homelessness is increasing. Housing costs are up 50% when wages went up on 5% . Many folks are on the edge of the cliff or going off it. We need to help folks to make housing more affordable. The public sector isn’t the solution. The private sector can deliver if we can figure out how they can make money by eliminating regulations.
- Kelly Chambers – I’m running for position 1, and I am a small business owner – Visiting Angels – which providers care to seniors, folks with disabilities and veterans. A number of factors contribute to homelessness – I’ve experienced a number of those factors myself. My dad was a veteran with an addiction problem went to prison – leaving 4 children at home. I was pregnant in my sophomore year of high school. With pregnant teens only having a 2% chance of graduating from college, I knew the deck was stacked against me. Through education, I was able to change that trajectory – I have 2 degrees from PLU – and taught school before starting my own company. I have a unique set of experience to tackle the issues of homelessness. Homelessness in a huge priority - and community want someone like me there working on homelessness. There are many group in homelessness, - individuals and groups.
Discuss some of the solutions to homelessness. Mention what government can do, and what you will do.
- Jamie Smith- there are so many people here with amazing solutions – and the solutions will come from you, not me. In the Puyallup area we have lots of folks who are angry at the homeless – many blame the alcohol or mental illness. It is more housing costs and income. How do we get the job you need. How do we encourage people to get good paying jobs where they don’t have to live on the streets. It is tough to get in shelters. There are so many invisible homeless. We have so many more that are couch surfing – we need to get services to them. In the legislature – we need to look at business tax credit to get job skills and employment. Need to be housing first – folks need housing to clean up and be stable to work on employment. Need a secure, safe place. Need to look at different options – don’t discriminate against folks using services. I’m shocked that 50% of housing vouchers go unused – that landlords won’t take them. We have laws that require landlords to take the vouchers, but we need some teeth to enforce it. We have several cities working to protect against eviction. Lots of housing is sold to out-of-state companies, who then jack up the rent. Someone was told their rent would increase $525. Need ways to prevent the 20 day evictions. Heard that when someone who is low income, they often need transportation. No transportation where folks need it the most. If folks who are low income can get bus cards, they will be able to get to work and to see family.
- Kelly Chambers – Thank you team for sharing today. Here is what you told me. You are struggling serving folks with multiple barriers to stable housing – convictions, mental illness, long term homelessness . it is difficult to find housing for them. Serving lots of folks with broken family relationships without a support structure around them. Those broken relationships make it tough, too . Need more supportive permanent housing. Looking to address issues of prevention – to prevent folks from becoming homeless. While accessing the single point of access, folks still getting lost in the system. Clients are getting told different things by different parts of the system – is hard to know what to do. It is hard to access services when not married but have a child. There is frustration with the 25th district, that Puyallup is not taking care of its own homeless population. Have had many discussions with . Many folks get released from Western State to homelessness in Pierce County. Some legislation was floated that folks need to be released back into the community they were convicted in. We need more housing – supply and demand forces a lack of housing to drive prices up. It is very difficult for a first time home buyer. As a legislature, we can look at the growth management act – see if we are building hosing in the most efficient locations - near transportation to get to the jobs they have.
- Chris Gildon – thanks again for showing up and caring. My group gave me a good education. Jamie gave a good rundown of the topics that we went over. I was talking to Kevin bates, who runs Helping Hand House, and he said poverty caused homelessness – poverty of money, relationships, of hope. Need to address poverty to get folks on their feet. We focused a lot on root issues – which the legislature needs to work on. It isn’t a party issue. I learned 45% of homelessness is due to cost of living and a lack of housing. To campaign, they tell us we need to knock on doors – so I was over by Michigan Avenue – met a Senior citizen – and I asked about concerns. She said she was concerned about the cost of living. Said she and her husband lived in their house for 40 years. Husband is gone, and is now on a fixed income – she has $50 left at the end of each month. She’s afraid she’ll lose her house to the cost of living. That is one thing we can help in Olympia –roll back the drumbeat of the raising taxes to help folks stay in their houses. Something simple like the availability of transportation, too. You have my contact info – please reach out.
- Ned Witting – thanks for all the work you do in all your capacities. Prevention – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The jail is the most expensive place to do things. That is a great example of how we aren’t proactive about homelessness. Preventing eviction is important. I’ve spoken to lots of folks who own mobile home parks. Many people are living with dignity, but their housing is at risk – need funding earlier. Once folks are out of housing, then the price really goes up. You can lose a lot when you end up homeless – your car, you job, etc. When you are trying to beat an addiction, and then your car breaks down, and you lose your job, and then you’re on the streets and you become addicted again. You often don’t fall one rung down the ladder, but all the way down. Income disparity and poverty is a problem. We have the most regressive tax system in the County – let’s roll those taxes back and put a capital gains tax in. That would help the fixed income folks so the taxes aren’t loaded against them. We talked about rent increases and what landlords can do. Once you’ve lost your house how do you get back in? If you are a veteran exiting the service with PTSD, it can be a real challenge. Women with spousal abuse can have real problems. it is such a big challenge, we have to address each one taking one bite at a time – domestic violence, veterans, mental illness, transportation. I have a lot of ideas, and it is going to take time to digest them. I listen first, get creative second, and work across the aisle third.
- Brian Duthie – thanks everyone once again. This subject touches my heart strings. At my core, I want to protect the most vulnerable. I’m the only one here who has been with you on the streets in the rain trying to revive someone. Our systems are overly taxed or not there. EMS is used as a primary care provider. We need to be smarter with our healthcare dollars. We need to invest in mental health rehabilitation and substance use treatment. Wester State programs are underfunded - we need to provide funding so they can do their work. We have elected folks in our district that haven’t had the boldness to put funding where it belongs. We need someone with experience and passion to boldly speak for the folks who can’t speak for themselves. I’ve heard that children are taken away and spouses broken up because our system can’t accommodate their needs. We need to make a changes as a society. We need to care about and help each other, and we need to elect leaders that can do that.
- Jamie Smith – thank you guys. This is an area that means a lot to me – it is my students, my grandmother experiencing homelessness. We need education for our students to break the cycle of poverty. Folks need good jobs and affordable housing and to eliminate housing discrimination and provide transportation. We need to do lots of things. We need to do band-aids now and also work on long term solutions.
- Kelly Chambers – I want to thank you all – no affordable housing, and Domestic Violence survivors with low income – these are the things the legislature should focus on – more housing will stabilize prices. Domestic Violence – I was a victim of Domestic Violence , and I often wonder what we do so women don’t need to experience that – so they can identify it and not have to experience it. Thanks for the opportunity to be here today.
- Chris Gildon – when you cast your ballot, it should be for someone with proven result. That is me – I did the peace program in Afghanistan – we did problem solving and conflict resolution so the folks in villages can have stability. I ran advocacy and education to prevent harassment and assault. A lot of our homeless female are being assault out of there homes. If you agree with me, vote for me.
- Ned Witting – after those homeless events I participated in, if felt like we weren’t making progress – that was a driver for me to run. Homelessness has been with us for a long time, and I don’t think our political parties are working weel to address this. I think as an independednt, I am well suited to being effective and having credibility, and comeing up with real solutions. The solutions offered by both parties are two-dimensional – we need three-dimensional solutions that will fix the problem permanently.
- Brian Duthie – this conversation doesn’t stop here – I expect to be able to build a relationship with you all. I want to build a state-wide network with partnerships. we need to stop kicking folks from one place to another, and serve them. Thanks.
- Wes Bailey
- This conversation has been informative. When you are elected, I hope you are able to take this information with you when making policy. Thanks
Candidate Information – (from the agenda e-mail –ed.):
Good of the Order
- In Our Backyard community Events - http://www.cityoftacoma.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=169&pageId=152606
- Ronin Chelben, City of Tacoma Artist in Residence, firstname.lastname@example.org
- There were 150 people at the first “In My Backyard” event on Wednesday at the Rescue Mission. At the end of the event, there was a community conversation – the conversation was general, but good. We want a way to make it more productive for action – so we are looking at doing small group discussing what can we do to help folks in our neighborhood be part of our community. We want to have people facilitate these small group at two of the coming events. It will be a bout a 30 minute facilitated conversation. I’m hoping some of you can come and facilitate a small group conversation at one of the two events. We need help August 4th at Blueberry Park and August 12th at the Portland community center. E-mail Roni (email@example.com ) if you’d like to participate in one or both. Short meeting on August 3rd after this meeting to discuss roles.
- Look at the Affordable Housing Report (at http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/cedd/housing/July24.pdf ) from the City of Tacoma – go to your council representative to comment on the plan – make suggestions. The plan has immediate actions and longer term plans. The plan is worth the time to review and for you or your agency to offer comments on.
- National Night out – having one on G street – down from nativity House – inviting the neighborhood, Nativity House clients, emergency services program at Saint Leos, and you. – every year it is more than 100 people – Tuesday, August 7th, Organized around crime prevention. Come on down – 5:30pm right below Nativity House.
- Tacoma Community College - August 13 deadline for SPRUCE program (https://www.tacomacc.edu/costs-admission/financial-aid/spruce ) approacing.
- Human Rights Commission – interested in Charity Care – lots of folks are interested in this
- Amanda, looking for housing and making contacts
- Maureen Howard, Howard Consulting
- Barb Kilmer, CV
- Kenny Moultry, Recovery Foundation
- Marybeth McCarthy, Tacoma Community College
- LaVada Kent-Napier – small business person, Zydco queen food trailer
- Todd McKellips – True Tinyhomes
- William Stinson, Catholic Community Services
- Luis Rivera Zayas – Tacoma Rescue Mission
- Joseph Sanders, Tacoma Rescue Mission
- Pilani Raper, Alliance West Insurance
- David Howeiter, Alliance West Insurance
- Daryl Jones, Recovery Foundation
- Dawna Bryant, Comprehensive Life Resources
- Nathan Blackmer, Comprehensive Life Resources
- Tammy Riles, Comprehensive Life Resources
- Greta Brackman, Comprehensive Life Resources
- Carlos Castanon, Comprehensive Life Resources
- Al Ratcliffe
- Elaine Tuisila, Metropolitan Development Council
- Lynn Jones, Catholic Community Services
- Rosemary Powers, New Connections
- Patricia Menzies, Tent City Tacoma
- Heather Fahsholtz, Comprehensive Life Resources
- Rainey Carlin, Comprehensive Life Resources
- Theresa Power-Drutis, New Connections
- Faatima Lawrence, Catholic Community Services
- Mandy Bjork, comprehensive Life Resources
- Paula Schespie, Comprehensive Life Resources
- Cynthia Stewart, League of Women Voters
- Cynthia Alicea, Coordinated Care
- Charleen Fitzgerald, Coordinated Care
- Maureen Howard, Housing Advocate
- Sarah Bellamy, Comprehensive Life Resources
- Larry Turk, PTSD Foundation
- Glen Kelley, Multicare
- Joseph Denton, Sound Outreach
- Sherri Jensen, Valeo Vocation
- Cynthia Stewart, League of Women Voters
- Effran Davis, Pierce County District Court
- Sarah Appling, Pierce County Human Services
- Roni Chelben, City of Tacoma Artist in Residence
- Kayla Scrivner, Tacoma Pierce County Health Departmetn
- Valorie Crout, Associated Ministries
- Meridee Heimlich, Step By Step
- Barbara Kaelberer, Accountable Communities of Health