Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Kids Not Cuts": First Place Students Advocate in Olympia

“Kids Not Cuts!” was the Have a Heart for Kids Day theme this year. More than 4,000 people from throughout the state gathered in Olympia on Monday, February 15th to rally for the issues that are most important to Washington’s kids.

Have a Heart for Kids Day is a yearly lobbying day organized by The Children’s Alliance to bring attention to the issues affecting children who often are not able to advocate for themselves.House Bills important to our students and parents right now include:
House Bill 3177 Housing Trust Fund & House Bill 1956 authorizing the housing of homeless people on property owned or controlled by a church.

Early Monday morning students, parents, teachers and volunteers loaded buses at First Place to head to Olympia for the annual Have a Heart for Kids Day rally.
In anticipation of the day, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classes researched bills the House and Senate are considering right now and wrote letters to their legislators telling how they felt about those bills and whether they should pass. Here are a few excerpts from letters written by First Place students:

Dear Representative Pettigrew,
I am writing in regards to HB 3177.

My family and I live in a shelter. If my parents didn’t find shelter we would be homeless. My family now has hope for a better future. I think it is really important to pass this bill because in the future families like mine will need a safe place to live.

Dear Representative Chopp,
I ask for your support for HB 1956, authorizing the housing of homeless people on property owned or controlled by a church.

Recently in my school’s neighborhood, a church hosted tent city. They never messed with anybody and they looked happy and peaceful. I think it’s better that they stay there than under the free way. Please consider this bill.

Dear Representative Orwall,
I am writing in regard to House Bill 2621. I want to pick this bill because it will keep our children current with technology by providing opportunities for specialized learning.

I think this is a good plan because I go to a school that has small classes and personal instruction. We do lots of learning projects like this letter to you. Our school gets lots of support from local businesses and community volunteers. I have gone to my school for 2 years and it has been a good experience and I have learned a lot.

Please vote for this bill so it can help other kids learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math.

Student letters also talked about funds for school nurses, support for animal protection laws, and, of course, more time for recess.
During the day Representative Eric Pettigrew and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp took time to meet with First Place students and their parents, and listen to their letters and stories.

Other exciting parts of the day included marching through the capitol campus up to the steps of the Legislative Building, joining a rally of 4,000 people calling for steps toward a healthy economic future for Washington kids. First Place students made and carried signs with slogans like “Kids Not Cuts!” and “Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation” to support programs that are vital to the health and success of kids.

Most importantly, First Place families saw that their stories and presence do make a difference in how legislators think about and respond to issues and they know that their voice is an important one.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Myths of Homelessness

"As soon as you get camp set up and get into your blankets and fall asleep, it's time to get up and pack up your stuff and start the day." – Connie

Myth #6: Homeless People Sleep All the Time

Huffington Post writer Christine Schanes has been sharing some of the common misperceptions about homeless people. Here’s what a few of them had to say.

"Sleeping is kind of rough. Sleeping on the streets you have to watch other people. You have to be real careful of the weather and other people. You could get kicked in the head. Other people like to mess with the homeless." - Joe

"For the moment, let's just say riding around all night on the bus and trains keeps you out of jail." - Maurice

"Problems I encounter - I have people stalking me for crimes that they have committed against me, including poisoning me, drugging me. So, therefore, I do not have a place to sleep or sleep on a regular place or regular sleep times. So, therefore, I cannot keep appointments or regular life. Sleeping times are hard to get as well as keeping my health correct." - Antonio

"Out of all the years my family and I were homeless, we slept in shelters and got enough sleep. Except for one night when we slept in a car which was a horrible experience." - Barbara

Check out the full article, and the other Myths of Homelessness at

First Place families have told us they faced some of these same stereotypes when faced with homelessness. Here's the links to the first five myths:

Myth #5: Sleepwalking will End Homelessness

Myth #4: There’s Room in the Inn

Myth #3: Unsheltered People Only Count at Night

Myth #2: “They’re All Bums!”

Myth #1: “Get a Job!” also had an interesting article on how families are generally the last line of defense, and one of the strongest, for someone facing homelessness. Families are there to provide loans when everything else falls through or housing until a job situation can stabilize. Find the full article at