Letter from Olympia

Senator Hans Zeiger 25th District Letter from Olympia
homeless AP forum

Last week I participated in the Associated Press Legislative Preview. Click above to watch the video.

Letter from Olympia

Dear Neighbor,

Today marks the end of the first week of the 2020 legislative session. While there are many important issues facing the legislature during this 60-day session, my focus will be on homelessness, Initiative 976 (more to come on this issue) and preventing additional tax increases at a time when we have a healthy budget surplus.

 

How a bill becomes a law

Check out my video below on how a bill becomes a law and learn how you can get involved in the legislative process!

bill law

Three things the Legislature can do about homelessness in 2020

I recently published an op-ed in The Seattle Times on what the legislature can do this year to help reduce homelessness. Here is that article:

During the upcoming 2020 legislative session, legislators must address the challenge of adult homelessness with solutions that work. We need to reprioritize how public money is used and how government responds to those struggling with substance abuse or mental illness – because much of what’s being done now isn’t working.

Last year over $1 billion was spent to tackle homelessness in our region. Meanwhile, heroin, fentanyl and other opioids continue destroying lives, and more and more people are living and dying on our streets.

In the face of this crisis, what can state lawmakers do when our annual session begins Jan. 13? Here are three things.

The first is to prioritize the use of the state’s share of revenue from document-recording fees on real estate transactions: aim it toward diverting people out of homelessness. Diversion is a common-sense way to help people with life challenges: paying a month’s rent, assisting with car repairs, or providing transportation to reconnect with a friend or family member. These cost-effective interventions can make a world of difference for those facing homelessness, and in the long run, diversion programs can save taxpayers money by allowing people to get the help they need when they need it, before they end up on the street.

Pierce County is already doing innovative and effective diversion work. With support from Associated Ministries, Catholic Community Services, and United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline, Pierce County considers diversion funding for people who enter its homelessness coordinated entry system. But diversion resources are scarce, and the state should reprioritize existing resources to maximize impact.

Second, let’s create a guardianship (or conservatorship) program to improve care for people struggling with drug addiction and mental illness and increase the likelihood that they will get help. Through such a program, a family member could petition the court for temporary guardianship of a loved one to establish a treatment plan – which could require an assessment or placement in a treatment facility. That’s a resource the Legislature could approve quickly.

Finally, government should create job opportunities for homeless adults who want to work. Some may have a criminal record that prevents them from other employment, while others have found difficulty applying for or holding a job while they are homeless. Supportive employment programs are rising in cities and towns across the county with great success, including here in Washington. Job tasks range from short-term litter cleanup and beautification work to longer-term work in janitorial services. Programs can include skills training with the hope of eventually placing individuals in permanent jobs.

Existing jobs programs include Seattle Jobs Connect, a program that supports homeless adults in gaining employment along with housing and other services. Tacoma is partnering with an employment organization called Valeo Vocation to develop a model that helps people progress toward self-sufficiency. Auburn has a remarkable employment partnership with the Auburn Food Bank to assist those in need. And Vancouver, Washington is working with a nonprofit organization called SHARE on a jobs program made possible through a small state grant pilot. We should make this grant program permanent to encourage other cities to move forward with innovative employment programs.

Our state’s lawmakers have a real opportunity to decrease homelessness this year. As long as we are willing to work together across party lines and across the state, we can make a difference.

Click here to view The Seattle Times article

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Apply now for the Senate Page Program

Do you know someone between the ages of 14 and 16 who would enjoy the opportunity to come to Olympia to serve as a Senate page? The Senate Page Program offers students throughout Washington state the opportunity to participate in the legislative process by distributing amendments and bill books on the Senate floor, delivering messages and mail between offices, and performing the flag ceremony at the start of each day on the floor. I was privileged to participate in this program when I was in junior high school, and it was a big inspiration to me in deciding to pursue service in the legislature. To learn more and fill out an application, click here.

Contact Me

As always, I value hearing directly from you. If you would like to contact me, please call, email and again, stop by if you’re in Olympia.

Email: Hans.Zeiger@leg.wa.gov

Phone: (360) 786-7648

Thanks for the privilege of serving as your state senator.

All the best,

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