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Young adult interns organize events to advocate for housing

After internships in direct services with abused children and hospice clients, Honah Thompson signed up for the UCC’s Young Adult Service Community and was placed in Seattle because she wanted to learn about advocacy.

young adult interns

Honah Thompson and Hillary Coleman, right, learn about the Emerging Advocates Program in Yakima.

Photo courtesy of Washington Low Income Housing Alliance

She is one of four interns working with the Pacific Northwest Conference’s Justice Leadership Program to serve Seattle agencies and congregations from September 2014 through July 2015.

This is Honah’s gap year between graduating from Chapman University in sociology and religious studies in May.  She plans to begin a master’s in social work.  She grew up in First Congregational UCC in Santa Rosa, Calif., and serves Plymouth in Seattle.

Working with the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, her recent focus has been to promote participation in the Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day on Tuesday, Feb. 17 in Olympia. 

She has helped plan the rally, workshops on pending legislation and opportunities for people to meet with legislators to tell them about the housing issues that concern them. 

About 600 advocates from education, medicine and faith communities usually come to raise concern about the growing numbers of homeless people and the need for safe, affordable housing.

Next she is helping develop and promote a May Conference for Ending Homelessness in Tacoma.  She is recruiting workshop presenters.

In the fall, she participated in a follow-up celebration that was part of the Emerging Advocates Programs (EAP) in Yakima.  It was the third session to empower individuals experiencing homelessness and teach them how to voice their needs and advocate for themselves.

“They shared actions they had taken and reported on progress,” said Honah.

Homelessness is also the focus of YASC intern Hillary Coleman, who works with the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.  She was also at the Yakima event.

Honah realizes from her work on the advocacy day that people do have an impact on legislation and that representatives do listen to their constituents. 

“People have more power than they think they have,” she said, noting that while some may assume legislators have their minds made up, she believes representatives listen to constituents who are passionate about housing or homelessness.

“They care,” Honah said, adding that it’s important for constituents to thank legislators.

Working with homeless individuals has changed her perspectives about homeless people.  She sees the realities of their lives in contrast to stigmas about people who are homeless.

“Most work hard.  They are not lazy, nor do they want to be homeless.  Some live in their cars and go to work because they cannot earn enough to pay for housing,” she said.  “It’s important to understand individual’s stories.

“We need legislation that will increase affordable housing so they can find housing,” Honah said.

As Plymouth’s intern, she is also working to educate people on the Breakfast After the Bell Bill before the legislature this year.  It would assure that eligible children be able to eat breakfast at the start of a school day, even if the bus or their parents cannot bring them to school in time for the breakfast that is served before school.

Hillary, who serves at All Pilgrims Christian Church (UCC/Disciples of Christ), helped the Coalition on Homelessness plan the Homeless Youth Advocacy Summit and a voter registration drive for homeless and unstably housed people. 

She also helped organize the 35th annual King County One Night Count, involving more than 800 volunteers who walked the streets and counted 3,772 homeless individuals between 2 and 5 a.m., Jan. 23. 

Hillary, who said it was a 21 percent increase from 2014, hopes that count will stir people to act.

She said her commitment to social justice comes from growing up at University Congregational UCC in Seattle.

Along with involvement with an agency and a UCC congregation, the four interns participate with others in the UCC in Justice Leadership Program “Faith and Justice Classes.”

The other interns are Amber Dickson, who is working with the Faith Action Network, and Emmanuel Mancilla, who is working with the Church Council of Greater Seattle.

The Winter/Spring sessions are underway.  Classes begin with a potluck at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Classes in January and early February were on “Liberation Theology: A Biblical?Theological Grounding for Justice.”

On Feb. 24, March 3 and 17, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda and Freddie Helmiere will lead an interactive discussion of their book, “Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Economic-Ecologic Vocation,” at The Collaboratory, 5623 Rainier Ave. S.

University UCC pastor Amy Roon will lead the March 24 class on “A Parable’s Lens on Oppression,” at Keystone UCC, 5019 Keystone Pl. N.

April 7, 21, 28 and May 5, Lauren Cannon of Keystone UCC is leading classes on “The Practice of Nonviolence” at The Collaboratory.

On May 19, Cory Maclay leads a class at Keystone UCC on “Skills for Social Change: Changing the World One Meeting at a Time.”

A final class on “New Contextual Theologies” will be May 16 at Keystone.

For information, call 206-320-0432 or visit


Copyright February-March 2015 © Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News


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