Allocating Funds for Long Term Solutions

Ashley Kover - November 23rd, 2015

According to a recent vote by the city council, Seattle will spend more than $47 million in 2016 to fight homelessness. Nobody can argue that this funding is unwarranted, given the deaths of at least 45 people on the streets of Seattle in 2015 so far- and winter hasn’t even hit it’s hardest. Just a few weeks ago Seattle mayor Ed Murray declared a state of emergency in order to better deal with this issue, allocating more funds to fight homelessness.

While this is a victory for advocacy groups, this also brings up the question of which services demand the most attention. Between Shelters, Food Services, Health Services, training programs, homelessness prevention and youth programs, there is never enough money to go around. How the funds are allocated is critical to solving this issue. But it can be nearly impossible to determine what needs are more important than others.

It can be easy to think that emergency services and shelters are the most important use of funding, but they only account for current needs and don’t create long lasting solutions for these families and individuals, and offer only temporary fixes to the underlying issues.

Focusing on homelessness prevention and training programs is amazingly effective at getting individuals off the streets for good, but can’t help those in desperate need of shelter. What the city needs to do is find the perfect balance between these needs, as well as funding other areas which are less commonly considered such as youth and health services.

The budget which will be voted on in the coming days does an excellent job of tackling not just short term issues, but long term systematic issues as well.

Here is a rough breakdown of how this budget will look:

$9.8 Million to Shelter Services and a $1.5M increase in shelter staffing

$4.3 Million to provide homeless intervention and prevention

$4 Million for Seattle Conservation Corps “to provide training, counseling, and employment to homeless and unemployed people,”

$2.8 Million for emergency food services

$1.7 Million for homeless health care services

$300,000 to reduce the length of stay in city shelter programs etc.

$200,000 to “to lease property, support camp operations and provide case management and service referrals to encampment residents at up to three different locations.”

This vote represents a huge step in fighting issues of homelessness in Seattle. Funding allows programs to extend their reach and impact more and more lives. With a focus on more than just temporary solutions, this decision should pave the way to a future less troubled by homelessness. 

Homeless Encampment to Open Despite Protests

Ashley Kover - Oct 29, 2015

In the next month or so, a select population of those living in Seattle will move into city sponsored encampments. The city council approved a request to build three of these sites, which can hold up to 100 people. These encampments are permitted for one year, with the opportunity to renew at the end of that period.

These sanctioned tent cities will be safer than the illegal camps which are found across the city, and will offer Seattle homeless population a more permanent place to stay. These plans were proposed in January and have been in the works for the past few months, but have faced many challenges in the community.

These encampments have faced a good deal of protest from the surrounding neighborhood, and will be opening against the support of the community, who claim that the city didn’t take into account their feelings about the matter.

The location which the city had determined would best suited to the project is a Seattle City Light property at 2826 Market St. in Ballard. Ballard residents, however were not supportive of the proposed location and signed an online petition for the city to find a different location, which was ultimately overruled. The reasons why residents disapprove of this location are all across the board, many of which stem from the stereotypes surrounding homelessness. Residents cite the locations proximity to marijuana dispensaries and liquor stores as a main concern.

Furthermore, residents were under the impression that the encampment in Ballard would be exclusive to the homeless population living in Ballard. However, with the relocation of the Nickels Ville homeless population about 15 people will be moving to the new location. Instead of getting the homeless population in their neighborhood off the streets, the shelter will focus on the general population in Seattle, and will therefore not “benefit” the people living in the area.

Stereotypes in the way of Change

For these residents, a homeless encampment is nothing more than an eye sore, a breeding ground for alcoholics and drug abusers. But protesting these encampments based on these stereotypes and judgments not only perpetuates them, but stands in the way of incredible progress. A city sponsored encampment which can offer its residents security and protection is a real step in the right direction for all parties involved.

Seattle residents should think about these encampments as the first step to getting the homeless population off the streets, and help them transition into more permanent homes. Members of the community may feel that it is “their” neighborhood, but the neighborhood belongs to all those who live there, even those who don’t have homes.

Seattle residents need to realize that these “eye sore” encampments represent an incredible opportunity for those living on the streets. They need to put themselves in the shoes of those in need and recognize that this encampment is best for everyone, and their protests are based (for the most part) on stereotypes.

Regardless of these protests, however, the Ballard location will be opening up to residents in the next month or so, and will house about 80 people. Although these protest did not prevent them from being built, it is important to realize the root of the opposition and think about how this can impact the city on a larger scale. If that means giving a small portion of unused land for an “eye sore” encampment then that is a compromise which needs to be made.

Seattle's Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness

Victoria Steed - June 13, 2015

In 2004 Seattle's Ten-Year Plan to End Homeless emerged and was finalized in spring 2005. The plan served as a blueprint for how the region should respond to underlying issues affecting at-risk populations with the end goal to eradicate homelessness within 10 years. Subsequently, in 2010 the CEH Founders Group worked together with King County and Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs to create a King County Five Year Plan to End Veteran Homelessness

With both of these timelines occurring this year, how have these plans helped to end homelessness in Seattle? 

Seattle's homeless population has ballooned in recent years. It's the 23rd largest city in the United States but currently has the fourth largest homeless population; beat out only by New York City, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. The homeless population throughout much of Washington State continues to grow; whereas 31 other states have noted a decline between 2013 and 2014. King County's One Night Count organized during January noted a 21% increase in homelessness, which is widely regarded as an undercount. 

There are many systemic issues still needing to be addressed. Budget cuts have repeatedly cut supportive services; there are disproportionate levels of poverty, income inequality, and rising housing costs. While some believe is unrealistic and idealistic for any city to set out a five or ten year plan aimed at eradicating homeless it is worthy to note than many cities have partially succeeded with eliminating veteran homelessness and are on the path to quickly end general homelessness. Orlando and New Orleans have garnered national coverage in their success stories. 

Eliminating homelessness is achieveable, however current methods in Seattle are not successful in addressing precursors to homelessness. Instead, Seattle must contribute to more sustainable measures that address current homeless populations and at-risk populations to increase transitional housing opportunities.

Twitter's Misguided Approach to Poverty and Homelessness

Sondra Cuban - June 1, 2015

In a misguided notion that homeless people need tech skills to become self-sufficient,  Twitter is doubling with a non-profit that serves 5,000 families (majority single mothers and children), at risk and homeless–to establish a learning center in San Francisco, “The NeighborNest.” Twitter employees will tutor homeless adults, so as to “learn, connect, and grow together”. It just opened. This is happening despite a new Bridge at Main center that opened just this winter nearby at the San Francisco Public Library which has numerous computer literacy opportunities for homeless adults and other groups. The library, a civic engagement institution has a very different approach, seeing learning in multiple modalities, and including different forms of literacy and integrating populations. According to Project Read Director, Randy Weaver, there are over 100 tutors and numerous digital literacy, financial literacy and health literacy projects in this city and county funded program. Yet Twitter is trying to build its reputation as a more effective online ramp for the city’s poor.

Twitter has been pressured since they opened in San Francisco to “give back” to city residents “by contributing to the neighborhood” (only one article needs to be read since most say the same thing aside from Kurt Wagner’s piece—see as an example of puff pieces— written after I sent the Gate this blog) as a deal to compensate for the years of receiving millions in tax breaks from the city. As the Twitter blog promotes, they have a “commitment to San Francisco.” But so does practically every company in San Francisco (for example, real estate firm, Transwestern,) much of this  “relationship marketing” as part of trying to own public spaces. Twitter in fact relies on this notion of “commitment” to ensure that all customers return to tweet, which in turn, is a marketing strategy for all of those users too. This trust branding makes it seem as if Twitter is a public institution serving, what Twitter hopes to showcase as a “force for good.” In other words, public good” that is in Twitter’s private interest.

They have a BFF community benefit agreement that will offer “the nest” a computer lab, classes and resources  “to help them [homeless adults] on their path to a bright hopeful future” and which is considered a type of pilot for wider outreach to youth, school-based groups, and other members of the community. The CEO of Twitter announced: that he is “committed to transforming lives right here in the neighborhood where we work” (SF Gate)—that is, where Twitter was given property rights and passed the burden on to its employees.  These employees, and perhaps other volunteers will be expected to tutor these homeless adults.  Instead of a scenario, like one Business Insider article cited: “San Francisco’s Twitter Employees Must Step Past All These Homeless People To Get To Work” they will have to tutor them. BTW although these employees are said to get catered breakfasts and lunches as well as yoga classes, Twitter has a terrible record on diversity-so bad there is currently a class action law suit. These employees may wonder if their community engagement will lead to promotions. Probably not. Perhaps Twitter expects its women employees to do most of the “service” work—this wouldn’t be surprising….

Since I can’t help but wonder how the mostly entitled male workforce (mostly white) at Twitter — will “buy into”  or be able, with their long hours and unfamiliarity with the population, to tutor the majority women (and persons of color) that the non-profit serves on a long-term basis,  even after it’s been dubbed as a “safe place” for Twitter workers (rather than for the clients).  Twitter’s gentrified presence in the neighborhood will probably not only make it safer, but a more costly area.

Without a full range of comprehensive training, these employees will be late-night operators transmitting mostly technical skills (such as an informational navigation session). Although I have attempted to find out more about Twitter’s program, the Twitter press office has been quiet. This is what they told me: “I can point you to what we’ve said publicly, but we aren’t releasing any details about the programming until we open, since we are still working out the details. ” The questions I asked a few weeks ago were:

  1. Who is in charge of the programming (of the NeighborNest) and can I have their contact information to interview that person(s)?
  2. How will you get volunteers from Twitter to tutor at the Learning Center (what is your recruiting going to be like, if at all) and the requirements for tutoring?
  3. What will be the approach to tutoring/learning and what exactly will tutors and the adults do with one another for example, will it be 1-1 or group learning?
  4. Why isn’t there childcare provided, and just a “play area? (you can see a bias here!)
  5. In what ways will it pose a threat or compliment the community technology type programs existing around the city, including the public library? (Yemila Alvarez, Community Engagement head of the SFPL told me Twitter did check out library programs)
  6. Is there going to be an evaluation of the program?

My sense is that Twitter will be getting the nest programming together by its coat tails at the last minute. Most likely they’ll tweet curriculum, like this nieghbornest “community navigation” PowerPoint for poor families–with the over-repeated informational and technical advice such as “search for thousands of community resources in your neighborhood–get the help you need.”

neighbornest tweet

Wait a minute, don’t libraries do this?  And if Twitter is not totally successful here (after all, homeless families need more than information from privatized sources), the company may change directions depending on the initial outcomes— their accountability is limited, and although there is now a building, it could easily be turned into another Twitter “nest” for employees in the future.

The corporate approach of using computer technical skills for poverty reduction is not wholly dissimilar to government sponsored welfare-to-work programs since the 1990s focused on individual skill improvement through technology to “level the playing field” and foster self-sufficiency. This belief in digital literacy as a magic button that in being pressed will rocket poor people into the new economy and society is omnipresent.

Yet research has proven this perception wrong. Virginia Eubanks, in a case study of low-income women in a non-profit  in her book, Digital Dead-ends, showed that the women already had digital literacy skills but lacked social capital and opportunities to earn much more than the minimum wage. Their low wages, not their skills, prevented them from reaching their potential as they were cycling in survival mode. Likewise in a study by Lorna Rivera, illustrated in, Laboring to Learn, she found that racism and sexism were prevalent as obstacles to the homeless women in her study transitioning into mainstream society than skills alone.

Recent research has shown that what is most effective for homeless people are not these individual skills, but a stable home-see importantly this article. In fact housing the homeless is a better foundation for developing a sense of security and social and economic mobility (see for example, theLow-income Housing Institute in Seattle which offers the homeless homes and social and educational services). While I don’t want to pose solutions or even one solution over another and it’s clear that a multi-pronged

Twitter NeighborNest branding-jpg

 approach is important to homelessness (the Compass Clara House program houses only 13 families for up to 2 years) , it is also clear that asking homeless people what they want and designing opportunities around these needs is essential. Clearly the biggest thing homeless people need is a place to live. In Salt Lake City and in other cities around the country, they are indeed designing housing for the homeless (see Mother Jones).

Therefore Twitter, with city government sponsorship, should consider using its new  3 million dollar project to house the people it has displaced, that is poor families in San Francisco—which to no surprise, would be more expensive than a learning center. Or, they should hire these newly trained poor female clients, at Twitter, at the same salaries as their powerful young white male tutors, so they can actually afford a home in the inflated housing market in SF.

While telecommunication/social media giants are fascinated by how highly mobile and very marginalized populations like homeless adults and teens or migrant workers use technology (for example here here, and here )  as part of finding new markets, the focus should instead be on their stability. Although attempting to develop, what one recent article characterized as a “comfortable” and “homier space” the new learning center is called a “nest” as if people, like birds, are supposed to move in and out, after laying their virtual golden eggs. See for example the branding with the bird house and the twitter bird:

But is this really enough?

Impacted by Mentoring

Alyssa Kuchenreuther​, July 5th, 2014

Christy is friendly and conversation comes easily. She is sixty-three with wavy white hair and a gentle smile. She’s spent most of her life in Mississippi, working at a county courthouse and in the financial aid department of a university; she found both to be interesting jobs. Her whole life was in the South, until she was unable to afford her house payments. She decided to pack up her car and drive out to Seattle with her dog in search of better job prospects.

Christy lives in a Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI) building that at first glance looks like a motel, it was a long time ago, but now it provides homes for individuals who are low-income, homeless, or at risk of homelessness. In Seattle alone 3,123 people were counted in the annual January One Night Count and there are about 9,000 people who are homeless in the whole of King County.

LIHI has been serving Western Washington since 1991. LIHI provides housing to over 4000 individuals, resident services and case management for a number of clients, and supports its mission through advocacy work.

 “Nothing panned out,” Christy says, the cost of living in Seattle was greater than she anticipated. Seattle is the fastest growing U.S. city according to the Census Bureau, has increasing gentrification particularly in nine Seattle neighborhoods e.g. Ballard, South Lake Union, and Beacon Hill, and has the second fastest growth rate in home prices, next to San Francisco according to the Seattle Times. This contributes to the disparity between haves and have-nots, a key part of economic injustice. Christy continued to have difficulty finding affordable housing in Seattle, depleting her savings while searching.

She explains, “I called my bank in Mississippi and they gave me a loan, but it only lasted for a little while. I couldn’t pay my hotel bill.” She tried to call a community resource hotline, “but nobody would really help until they told me about Nickelsville.”

Christy found her best option to be living in a tent in Nickelsville, a homeless camp in downtown Seattle, for almost a month. She let her dog sleep in the car because he didn’t care for the tent. He has since passed away, but she is finding new friends at LIHI. “I picked up an application for housing, I thought I might as well send it in and see what happens. It wasn’t very long before I got a call. I was really surprised, before I knew it, I was here,” she says, referring to the LIHI building that is now her home. She is currently in the process of doing a short sale on her former home in Mississippi.

Over the past twenty years, the median age of single homeless adults in the U.S. has risen from 37 to nearly 50 years old according to the Seniors Housing & Care Journal (Hahn, Kushel, Bangsberg, Riley, & Moss, 2006 and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness 2010). The significance of senior homelessness is illustrated by the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ research, which suggests that the senior homeless population in the US “is projected to increase by 33 percent from 44,172 in 2010 to 58,772 in 2020 and will more than double between 2010 and 2050, when over 95,000 elderly persons are projected to be homeless.”

There are unique challenges that middle-aged and senior homeless individuals face including health issues, fixed incomes, access to training and digital resources. In the 21st century it is necessary to utilize computer skills to find information about community resources and most workplaces require a basic level of computer proficiency. Christy has been a digital have-not e.g. using a phone service instead of an Internet search engine to find information about housing.

Christy is in a one on one mentoring program that is a cooperation of LIHI and Western Washington University (WWU). The program is in its second year serving the residents of LIHI. Every week Christy meets with Suzie, a community mentor who assists Christy with developing digital literacy skills including updating Christy’s resume.

Suzie describes how her perspective has changed since mentoring, “I think that my perspective on homelessness is changing through interactions and tutoring sessions with Christy. Christy is very intelligent and very capable. I would have never guessed that she was homeless and living in low income housing.”

Western Washington University recruits and provides in-person and online training to volunteer mentors in cultural sensitivity, participatory action research, and adult education. Mentors are given support throughout the duration of their volunteering by the LIHI/WWU Mentoring Program team.

The last group of mentors came from an untapped volunteer pool, community college students. LIHI and WWU have relied on the volunteers to offer personalized one-on-on mentoring. Suzie is a community college student and first generation immigrant to the United States and understands the language and financial barriers that hinder individuals from integrating into new communities. Suzie can relate to some of the challenges that Christy has faced in overcoming homelessness and has also benefited from the support of mentors in her own life.

Eleven pairs of mentors and LIHI residents have worked on Participatory Action Research (PAR) projects. PAR is when individuals seek to make the world better while they try to understand current circumstances, in other words research meets social justice. Projects are as diverse as publishing a book to learning how to use the computer to search for employment opportunities.  

Since, Christy has been personally impacted by the mentoring experience, her PAR project has been to start mentoring two other people in her community in digital literacy skills, working with them in her building’s computer lab. Christy is mentoring them in using e-mail, creating and saving typed documents, resume building, and surfing the internet.

It is a learning experience for both Christy and Suzie. Suzie describes her experience, “We both learn a lot from each other, it’s not only computer skills. I’ve never had such a long conversation with someone who has been homeless or in low-income housing. It gives me a story, Christy’s story. She is so resilient, able to overcome any obstacles that come her way.”

Seattle's Increasing Growth Rate, Gentrification and Unintended Consequences

Alyssa Kuchenreuther​, June 5, 2014

Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. and has one of the highest rates of rising housing prices, next to San Francisco. The increasing gentrification of Seattle (especially the CD), in particular has increased and introduced new homeless populations. Among the LIHI 'residents' we work with there, are two profiles emerging: new-to-Seattle immigrant and refugee mothers in their 30s with young children and U.S. born men and women in their 50s-60s who have fallen through the cracks in  the new service economy.

In particular, Seattle, known as a Caucasian city has a very high proportion of African Americans who are homeless and there are a number of older Aftrican American men in this project. The program focuses on LIHI residents learning basic computer skills as well as job skills to support their self-determination, since many were found to lack digital literacy and are considered the 'digital have-nots'. Since access to so many jobs is now online, knowing about, and using digital strategies is critical. This is a volunteer-based 3-month 'feeder' program to get these residents started on skill development and then, through case managers and other advocates, connected to other longer-term agencies for additional supports.

The volunteers are trained as "mentors" and this year are community college students from Seattle Central, South Seattle, and North Seattle community colleges. Many of these mentors are first-time volunteers and are new to the volunteer pool. Most are students of color and are first generation students. They are using community-based education methods (popular education) to support the residents and connect them to additional resources and agencies. They interview them about their social networks, aspirations, and uses of technology, to help them develop skills and then move them onward

Becoming Visible and Finding Your Voice

Alyssa Kuchenreuther, May 15, 2014

Western Washington University (WWU) has expanded its community based mentoring program in partnership with the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) to mobilize local Seattle community college students as mentors for low-income community members, to develop digital literacy skills such as resume writing, e-mail, job search, completion of online applications and other technical abilities.  The project is a $30,000 initiative of WWU’s President, Bruce Shepard, underscoring the University’s commitment to social justice, inclusion, and diversity in education. The program will run for one year.

LIHI provides housing to over 4,000 people, many of whom have been homeless or at risk of homelessness. When an individual becomes homeless, they effectively become invisible, often disregarded by others in the community. The program seeks to assist in restoring visibility and a voice to these individuals, empowering them to become digital citizens. Kathy, a resident of LIHI, said she wants to ‘make an appointment to speak with the mayor’ about homelessness and voice the challenges that people like her have faced.  But the mentors learn too. The community college mentor who is tutoring Kathy is, Cindy; she said, "I think that my perspective on homelessness is changing through interactions and tutoring sessions with my resident.  She came to Seattle where she hoped to live with her son, but instead lived in tents for several months. My resident is very intelligent and very capable. I would have never guessed that she was homeless and living in low-income housing.”

As part of the mentorship experience, residents and mentors co-create a participatory action research project (PAR), which proposes next steps for the resident after their tutoring, which lasts only for three months. For some residents that may be enrolling in further education, seeking unionized work, or doing something else meaningful to their lives, connected to their lifelong aspirations. Individuals enroll in mentoring for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with wanting to have a voice; one resident, Maurice commented, “I published one article recently and I want to revise my book. I plan to work until I’m 99, like Henry David Thoreau or Walt Whitman.” Maurice is eager to develop digital literacy skills and publish all that he can. He joins a long line of authors and as he said, “I may be a late bloomer, like Winston Churchill. I may even make a hit!” Without these digital skills however his story remains hidden.

Maurice and Kathy are seeking to engage the community with their own voices and unique messages. Fostering digital literacy skills assists in setting the base foundation, mentoring adds a strengthening layer, but a resident is the one building their own house. Individuals move from disregard to recognition by employing their own distinguishing voices with their mentors facilitating this development. 

Significant gaps in resources leave many people underserved. Western Washington University and the Low Income Housing Institute train community members to act as resources for the community. Mentors empower those they serve through supporting an individual’s aspirations and co-developing steps in pursuit of a purposeful goal. 

Resident and Mentor

Though Provoking Art at the Columbia City Art Gallery

Alyssa Kuchenreuther​, May 5, 2014

Loss of identity is a recurring theme when looking at homelessness. Individuals become “otherized” and often viewed as simply one more homeless person. Mary is an individual with her own story. View the second picture to find out a bit more about this work of art.

Voices From The Street, Part 1 KPLU Series Seattle 

Alyssa Kuchenreuther, April 4, 2014

Compelling interview with two formerly homeless youth in Seattle, they describe their experiences with homelessness and encourage people who have started their journey not to give up.

By Florangela Davila of KPLU News

LIHI/WWU Mentoring Project Featured in Western Today

March 14, 2014
By Taylor Crebar, Western Today
The sound of a busy intersection outside Julie’s Seattle apartment building leaves no time for any peace and quiet, but is certainly better than the homeless conditions she lived in with her daughter prior to receiving housing.

Julie is one of the many individuals who benefited last year from Western Washington University’s continuing partnership with the Low Income Housing Institute in Seattle, which provides one-on-one mentoring to homeless and low-income adults, most being refugees from African countries. The project is a $30,000 President’s Initiative granted by Western’s President Bruce Shepard.

The program, which began last fall, allows Western’s Woodring College of Education students and alumni to act as mentors to the LIHI residents and to help them gain employment skills, making them more marketable to employers.

Mentors assist in teaching LIHI residents digital-literacy skills; for some residents this is their first time using a computer, and by learning how to email they can send messages home to their families overseas. One-on-one mentoring is provided to LIHI residents for a three-month duration, assisting the residents in trying to reach their specific goals they set for themselves. Mentors are paid a $500 stipend for the training period, but they volunteer their time when tutoring residents.

A new addition to the project this year are its community-college mentors from the Seattle area. They are handling all of the mentoring this year instead of Western students because there is more of an emphasis on community-based education. Some of the program’s community college students have been at risk of homelessness, and half of them are immigrants to the United States. Another addition is mentors will be developing a participatory action research project along with the residents. This plan will help residents with their next steps in life after the mentoring project has completed.

“Community-based education is unique because it uses the gifts and talents of folks in the community to empower their neighbors,” project marketing intern Alyssa Kuchenreuther said.

Along with Kuchenreuther, Western alumni involved in developing the program include Program Director Sondra Cuban and Assistant Coordinators Nicole Harris and Marc Ravaris.

The LIHI orientation and training for mentors began on Friday, Feb. 28 and tutoring has begun this month.

For more information about Western’s LIHI Program, contact Cuban at or call 360-650-2977.


Western Front Highlights the LIHI/WWU Mentoring Project

February 21, 2014 - Caitlyn Jackson 

Western alumni will train selected mentors from Seattle-area community colleges to work with adults living in low-income communities. The Low Income Housing Institute/Western Washington University Mentoring Project will focus on community-based education and social development.

The project is a $30,000 President’s Initiative granted by Western President Bruce Shepard and is the result of a partnership between Western’s Woodring College of Education and LIHI.

Western alumni designed the mentoring project to help community college students teach computer-based skills, job-hunting skills and communication skills to low-income families, the homeless and at-risk residents at LIHI sites and public libraries in the Seattle area.

In addition to their tutoring services, students hope to participate in an action research project to advocate for the homeless and low-income communities in Seattle.

The 12-week paid training will begin Friday, Feb. 28.

Program director Sondra Cuban, assistant coordinators Nicole Harris and Marc Ravaris and project marketing intern Alyssa Kuchenreuther are all Western alumni involved in developing the program.

The four hope to spread the word about the tutoring opportunity by hosting the project through a website in which the mentors will do their online training courses, Cuban said.

Western is involved only in the setup and training courses for this project and has no direct contact to the LIHI residents. The university is involved in the first stages of this course, and hopefully LIHI will take full control of the program and use it to employ tutors in the future, Ravaris said.

Students from South Seattle Community College and Seattle Central Community College will be trained in mentorship, cross-cultural communications, action research and digital literacy, Cuban said.

The mentors will train LIHI residents — helping them create resumes, search for jobs and send emails, Kuchenreuther said.

The project will run for one year, and any of the LIHI residents who show interest in the mentoring program can get involved. For this particular round, 11 LIHI residents interested in the project were chosen, Kuchenreuther said.

“One of the great tools and trends in education, at all levels, is it’s moving into community based education,” Ravaris said. “Often people in transitory and at risk populations have trouble participating in formal education.”

Western is hoping to be the pipeline in the expansion of future advocacy work with its link to LIHI and the local Seattle community colleges. The idea is to get other universities involved with local communities and their educational needs, Cuban said.

“I think it’s essential for Western to be involved in community engagement,” Harris said. “And to allow our community to see Western as a positive influence not just in Bellingham, but in the state as well.”

Outpouring of Support for Homeless Teen, 49ers fan in Seahawks Territory

Alyssa Kuchenreuther​, February 13, 2014


LIHI/WWU Mentoring Project

Alyssa Kuchenreuther​, February 2, 2014

This spring will be the official LIHI/WWU Mentoring Project kickoff! Woodring College of Education is partnering with the Low Income Housing Institute in Seattle for a community based mentoring project. The project is a $30,000 initiative sponsored by Bruce Shepard, President of Western Washington University. It seeks to emphasize Western's support of social justice, inclusion and diversity in education. LIHI residents will be mentored by local community college students in digital literacy and job hunting/soft skills. The goal is to meet residents where they are at, come alongside them, and help them toward their goals through one-on-one tutoring. For some that may be learning how to use e-mail for the first time and sending a message home to their family, for others it may be learning how to fill out an online job application.

Woodring is supporting the project by providing training to mentors in interviewing and participatory action research. Mentors will complete a participatory action research project during the program; will learn about cultural sensitivity, and conducting interviews. Participatory action research according to Wikipedia means “seeking to understand the world by trying to change it.” It’s not an outside observer imposing their answer. It’s the opposite. It’s rolling up your sleeves, jumping in and helping, being active in your serving, whilst still learning. Many of the LIHI residents have come from homelessness or are refugees. Mentors come from diverse backgrounds as well. The pairing of LIHI residents and community college mentors is unique because it utilizes the skills of community members to meet the needs of other people in the community.

Community members mentoring + residents achieving their goals = Community based education

LIHI saw a need for a project like this. There are many amazing organizations that are doing excellent work offering computer classes and resume building workshops. Often times a computer class though may not have enough computers for all the people in the class. Additionally, classes may not be able to offer much one on one support due to underfunding and high demand.

The LIHI/WWU Mentoring Project fills that gap. By working with residents one-on-one, mentors are able to interview them, identify their specific goals, and tailor a plan to help them meet their goals. Mentors will meet with residents once a week for three months. The entire project is one year long including the pre and post research phases. Mentoring at LIHI is a continually ongoing program beyond Woodring College’s yearlong partnership.

The kickoff mentor training is on February 28th where mentors will learn how to conduct interviews from Woodring College faculty member and LIHI/WWU Mentoring Project Director, Dr. Sondra Cuban. After the face to face training, subsequent trainings will be conducted online. Mentors will be paired with residents after the kickoff mentor training. Mentors and residents will have both been interviewed, to make the best mentoring matches. Training in cultural sensitivity is valuable for mentors as there are diverse groups represented by both LIHI residents and mentors.

Mentors will have the opportunity to engage in online discussion groups throughout the duration of the project with other mentors and the LIHI/WWU team. The discussions are aimed at encouraging conversation about self-sufficiency, homelessness, persistence, and mentoring. Providing support to mentors throughout the project will help them reflect and learn more for themselves too. Creating opportunities for reflection allows for adjustments to be made throughout the course of the project. There is an intentional mid-point check-in with mentors and residents to see how things are going and if there are any modifications to make.

The LIHI/WWU team consists of Dr. Sondra Cuban, Marc Ravaris, Nicole Harris, and me. Marc and Nicole are coordinating assistants for the project. They are helping to develop the online training platform including materials, articles, and discussions that will be utilized in the mentor training curriculum. Marc and Nicole each have extensive experience in Adult Education and curriculum development. They bring a lot to our team! I am a first year Masters of Business Administration student and the team marketing intern. I support the project through website development and getting the word out about community based mentoring!

We are excited for the project kickoff! Check back for updates, stories, and photos.

LIHI/WWU Mentoring Team

Left to Right: Alyssa Kuchenreuther - marketing intern, Nicole Harris - coordinating assistant, Dr. Sondra Cuban - project director, Marc Ravaris - coordinating assistant.