From Don Fornoff, Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness:
I recently read a piece written by Steven Lawler, director of the Walker Leadership Institute, which outlined the complexity of dealing with social challenges by faith leaders. He cites the uncertainty and conflict as the purple maze. He seeks to equip faith leaders with ‘effective communication strategies, foster unity within diversity, promote constructive civic engagement.’ When we of the Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness face all the issues that foment increasing numbers of unhoused people, I concede we need to understand the issues more fully. The causes are many, with a lack of affordable housing being the most cited and encompassing. We, as people of the Diocese of Olympia, need to face these issues head-on and with a strong character of leadership. Why?
HUD reported a 12% increase in homelessness country-wide. Washington’s increase was 11% in 2023. And that is likely an undercount. Simply put, people are struggling to make ends meet. According to USICH, in 1970, the affordable housing supply was +300,000 units nationwide. Now, it is only 33 units for extremely low-income renters. Homelessness is the failure of multiple systems.
It is appropriate to present problem-solving and leadership together, as the improvement of people’s lives takes real thought and commitment and often courage, both to deal with situations and courage of conviction. In addition to the main cause, there are many sub-causes and side issues that we can confront. Food, clothing, poor wages, historical injustices, poor community responses, and injustices. It means there are many areas in which our congregations can and need to provide support and assistance.
The concentration for this week is advocacy, especially in Olympia. Contact your representatives to let them know we need to address several concerns. Rent stabilization is one. House Bill (HB) 2114 is particularly well thought out and balanced. It addresses the needs of folks currently housed but at risk of being evicted. SB (Senate Bill) 5961 addresses the same concerns. Both need support from the general population. HB 2276 and SB 6191 address the need for more affordable housing. So do SB 5901 and HB 1998.
With a short 60-day session, it’s time to get on the computer and phone to let our legislators know we support a more balanced system. Be the leaders your faith has helped you become.
Member, Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness