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From Don Fornoff, Member of the Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness:

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” And I trust that we all say “I will, with God’s help.”

As our Baptismal Covenant is our guide, I could not resist starting off this e-news piece with such an important part of outreach.

The Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness has, since it’s inception, trained it’s eye on Olympia to help instigate and follow-through on legislation which could have a positive impact on this scourge of our day. This year, as in the past two years, we have concentrated on specific bills which have been introduced and need comment and support from constituents. For those who are concerned and motivated, the Task Force members invite you to participate in the policy-making process. Be a citizen!

Start by finding out which Legislative District you belong in. Each district has two representatives and one senator. Find their websites and ask to be a recipient of periodic e-mails. Their resumes will also tell you what their concentration of interest is and on which committees they sit. Standing counts, so pay attention to these details. Go to Bill Tracker Washington State on-line, and find bills which are of importance for the benefit of the unhoused. Groups such as Faith Action Network and Washington Low Income Housing Alliance are excellent resources, and who welcome your interest and participation. Review the basics of each bill, and for the ones you care about send letters of support AND feedback to your legislators. Believe me, constituent participation is what they live for. And it feels good to do that.

The bills that we have discussed and considered to be worthy of attention in this session are listed below. This session is now in the third week of a 90 day session, so there is time to become familiar with the bills and the process.

HB 1388. Protecting tenants by prohibiting predatory residential rent practices (in part). There are 31 sponsors for this bill, so it appears to have substantial support.

HB 1389. Concerns residential rent increases. Also 31 sponsors, and there is a companion Senate Bill SB5435.

Both 1388 and 1389 relate to applying the consumer protection act to the landlord-tenant act, and the manufactured/mobile home landlord-tenant act.

HB 1124. Protecting tenants from excessive rent and related fees by providing at least 6 months notice for rent increases (and other aspects). Also has strong support.

HB1149. Reducing homelessness in Washington State through capital expenditures for programs that address housing insecurity. Companion bill SB5202.

HB1110. Increasing middle housing in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing.

HB1238. Providing free school meals for all. Requested by the Superintendent of Public Instruction. This bill has the support of 32 sponsors. Companion bill is SB5339.

HB1329. Preventing utility shutoffs for nonpayment during extreme heat. Companion bill SB5366. This bill has strong support.

There are other bills which the Task Force did not discuss but which merit attention.

HB1111. Concerning housing benefit districts.

HB1075. Expanding eligibility for the working families’ tax credit to everyone age 18 and older. Companion SB5249.

HB1045. Creating the evergreen basic income pilot program.

Please keep in mind that homelessness in Washington State has increased 11% since 2020. On top of that, it has been estimated that one million new residential units will be needed by the year 2044. It should be noted that one-half of those units will need to be affordable.

As we have found out, serving the unhoused, the downtrodden, and the down-and-out is no easy matter. For our Episcopal parishes and indeed for other churches, our outreach folks can’t take a day off or a year off. Paying attention to what goes on locally and in the state means doing something each and every year, because 2044 will be here more quickly than we can imagine.

May God guide us to be just, kind, and humble.

Don Fornoff

Advocacy for the Homeless

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