The 47th District: Issues, Insight & Interaction
A THANKSGIVING TO PONDER ON: WHAT TYPE OF COMMUNITIES ARE WE BUILDINGNovember 21st, 2011 at Mon, 21st, 2011 at 9:47 pm by lesliehamada
We are in challenging times and have been for some time. Record bail outs, record job loses, record foreclosures, and record cuts to National, State, and local government entities. Record cuts to Human Services. I represented the Covington Human Services Commission and Kent United Methodist Church at a gathering at the Kent Station campus for Green River College on: “The State of Human Services in King County.” It was an assessment of the impacts of what is happening in the community around us. The great recession began in December of 2007, since then the belt tightening measures have grown to the dismantling of the basic infrastructure of human services. These reduction affect our most vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and communities of color. The result of these reductions have forced many of our neighbors in the community to survive without access to food, shelter, jobs and health care. The quality of life in our communities is affected in a big way as people lose access to these necessary services. We are seeing increases in poverty an example of this is in the City of Kent from 1999 to 2010 the number of people listed at the poverty level has increased 80%. We are seeing increases in homelessness in the Kent School District already in 2011 they are up about 100 students listing homelessness issues from 2010 and expect to end the school year around 500 students listed as homeless. Because many have lost their health care benefits emergency rooms are seeing a huge increase in case loads. This will also help release another set of factors that will explode such as : decreases in children’s readiness for school success, graduation rates, workforce preparedness and overall public health. In addition to those most vulnerable which we hear a lot about what we are not hearing about is the growing numbers of people who were stable in the past—middle class individuals or families that have now fallen on hard times. The foreclosures have brought on a middle class population that is now facing homelessness. People who donated to charities now are out of work. Because human services falls in the part of the state and local budgets that is not protected the next round of cuts are not falling under the word cuts, they are now facing total elimination.
Now is a time when we need to be having serious discussions in our households, in our meetings, in our churches, and in our Communities. Is this the way we want our Communities to look like or do we need to have a new sense of urgency to re-group and start building a new foundation that we can all live with but slowly build and protect our neighbors in need and raise our children in our communities where all have a chance to succeed and thrive. Do we not have to have a long look at what our communities are going to look like if we all fail to see what is so clearly happening all around us.
Let’s just take a look at some facts:
* In King County the food bank visits from 2007-2010—have increased by 44%.
* More than one in six Washingtonians currently rely on Basic Food (the state name for the federal food stamp program or SNAP) a more than 80% increase since 2008.
* In 2010 nearly 1 in 4 families with children and 1 in 7 Washington households without children -couldn’t afford enough food during the year.
* More than one-third of Washington students participate in the free or reduced-price lunch program.
* More than 1.5 million Washingtonians visited food banks supported by Emergency Food Assistance.
* 9,000 homeless people were living on the streets, in emergency shelters, or transitional housing at time of the 2010 King County One Night Count.
* Nearly two-thirds of the homeless are people of color though they only account for 28% of the total King County population.
* Up to 21% of all single homeless adults in King County are veterans.
* 10% of the homeless population are between the ages of and 18-25.
* More than 200,000 people are seen in community health centers and public health centers, where the ability to serve them is being eroded
It is also important to realize statistically that locally, public funding supports 90% of our health and human services, while private donations account for only 10%. While many churches and philanthropic and charitable groups have stepped up the giving,w private donations will never replace the loss of public funding. What needs to occur is first for the general public to really understand the magnitude of the problem. Then make suggestions that will help build a foundation how government priorities can help and deliver support services and build healthy communities. Begin discussions how your city and regions in King County can respond to the uniqueness of your community. We all have to participate in these discussions in our communities. We need at the center of everything to build healthy communities. I can think of no better place to begin these discussions than around a beautifully set table, with an abundance of great food, and relatives or friends gathered around it. As we ponder on all we have to be thankful for let us not forget our neighbors around us are suffering and how can we as a community begin to repair these lives, these programs, these needs and begin to include and expand our table so that all are welcome. Let’s begin these discussions soon for the traditions we all celebrate could cease to exist if we do not again gain a sense of community and actively engaging in building the foundation of it. Let’s put our Thanksgiving into action.
Leslie Hamada/currently sits on the Human Services Commission of Covington
currently is the Emergency Assistance Director of Kent United Methodist Church
currently is a Board Member of the InterFaith Task Force to End Homelessness
***the statistics and information base was taken from a United Way Report on Human Services in King County Nov. 15,2011