Meet Habitat SKC’s Advocacy Team

With the next Legislative session just around the corner, what better time to introduce you to Habitat for Humanity SKC’s newly expanded Advocacy Team, as well as to share their goals for this coming year, which are to:

  • End Exclusionary Zoning – The use of race-based restrictions and redlining maps keeps Black, Indigenous, and people of color out of neighborhoods across Washington – including across King and Kittitas Counties – limits the affordability of housing and restricts the number of homes available to these marginalized groups.
  • Close the Racial Homeownership Gap – Zillow reports that the percentage of Black families in Seattle who own homes is less than half that of White families; the rate for families of Latin heritage is slightly higher than half the rate for White families. By working to close the gap for Black families, we see that the goal of homeownership becomes achievable for all.
  • Increase Permanently Affordable Homeownership – Everyone deserves access to a safe, affordable, and decent place to live, our goal is to keep it that way indefinitely.

See our full Legislative Agenda here!

Now, please meet our focused and fearless Advocacy Team:

Ryan Donohue – Chief Advocacy Officer

Ryan is head of the Advocacy Team and sees to it that partnerships with united coalitions are established and maintained. He also works with our policy makers to help advance policy that will aid in increasing home ownership in Washington State.

Facts File:

  • Grew up in Las Vegas, NV and worked in 24 different states across the country!
  • Is the oldest of two – has a younger sister (who happens to be deaf).
  • Worked in politics and campaigns for 17 years, did everything from Presidential races (Hillary Clinton 2008) to state and local level races.
  • Has worked for Habitat for the last 3 years helping to advance affordable housing and homeownership policy for all of Washington.
  • Holds a BA in Political Science from The University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a Master of Public Policy from Pepperdine University.

Quick Questions:

Three words to describe you? Idealistic, Persistent, Empathetic.

What’re you currently watching? Viva La Dirt League (YouTube comedy troupe from New Zealand), anything Star Wars/MCU on Disney Plus.

Passions/hobbies/likes? Making cocktails – specifically whiskey cocktails … I make a pretty darn good Manhattan, video games – specifically single player RPG style games and karaoke! – my go to is “Ain’t too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations.

Why does homeownership advocacy matter to you? The short answer is “because there are too many families who are unable to access the stability that homeownership provides.” Homeownership is the key piece of the equation for creating stable homes, stable families, and stable communities. We all struggle for stability and safety. Homeownership is a key way on how to get there.

What does it take to be an advocate? Commitment, persistence, and willingness to want to see a change!

Why should people get involved and become advocates? To me, advocates are the personification of what it means to be an American – even if you aren’t a citizen. Being willing to speak up to help make this country and this world a better place is what being a member of the American community at large is all about. So much so that we enshrined it into our Constitution! We live in an imperfect union. The founders of this country even said as much. The key thing to remember is we must ALWAYS be working to move the ball forward, ALWAYS working to improve our communities. Why should you get involved and become an advocate? Because you live here too and we should all be trying to make the world we live in a better place.

Cliff Cawthon – Advocacy and Policy Manager

Our most recent addition to the team, Cliff comes onboard with a vast understanding of coalition building, community organizing, and the Washington state political environment. As the Advocacy and Policy Manager, Cliff is tasked with building, growing, and maintaining our relationships with like-minded organizations and coalitions while also building relationships at the city and county level of government here in King and Kittitas Counties.

Facts File:

  • Originally from Buffalo, NY and has called the Seattle area home for almost ten years (fun fact: he’s never lived North of the shipping canal).
  • Has a background in advocacy, activism, and policy and in New York, Oregon and Washington.
  • Earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (minor in Philosophy) from Buffalo State College.
  • Earned a Master of Arts in Human Rights and Political Science from the University of Manchester.
  • Was involved in student, immigrant, labor, and police accountability campaigns while in graduate school in Manchester, England.
  • Has worked for labor rights organizations, unions, the Democratic Party, community organizations and think-tanks.
  • Currently lives in Kent, a suburb located South of Seattle (which is one of the most racially diverse places in the US) and he ran for city council there in 2021. 
  • Has been teaching political science part-time for the last five years, in addition to his work at Habitat for Humanity.
  • Believes that housing is a human right and looks forward to seeing that vision recognized!

Quick Questions:

Three words to describe you? Clever, Passionate, Flexible.

What’re you currently watching? She-Hulk, Atlanta, House of Dragons and Andor.

Passions/hobbies/likes? Comic-book collector, bookworm, video/computer-gamer, gym and home design.

Why does homeownership advocacy matter to you? Homeownership is one of the best ways of ensuring housing security and building generational wealth in America as it is now. Our system has been designed by policy-makers historically to undermine oppressed peoples’ efforts to build economic and political power and their efforts for freedom and equality; therefore, homeownership is a critical tool –then and now – to empower people. 

What does it take to be an advocate? A passion for justice and a better world.

Why should people get involved and become advocates? If they don’t become advocates for themselves and their communities then, who will? No one will. We are the change-makers that we wait for.

Tapiwa Jere – Advocacy Organizer

Tapiwa rounds out the team as our Advocacy Organizer. With a desire to make a difference, her role is to be the bridge between homeowners, volunteers & other advocates and the elected officials who make and influence the laws and policies that affect affordable housing.

Facts File:

  • Born in Missouri. Lived and grew up in Kansas, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, and Namibia!
  • Did Honors degree in Philosophy (major) and Political Studies (minor).
  • Oldest of two – has a younger brother.
  • Previously worked in Digital and Performance Marketing.

Quick Questions:

Three words to describe you? Reliable, Open-minded, Thoughtful.

What’re you currently watching? I just finished Money Heist (super late to that party, I know) and right now, I’m watching Wentworth.

Passions/hobbies/likes? Shopping! (online, in-store, window shopping – I could do any of it for hours!), Twizzlers (very specifically, the Cherry pull-aparts) and prison documentaries.

Why does homeownership advocacy matter to you? “A home is not just a roof over your head, but a foundation for your feet” – homeownership is a gateway to stability, financial freedom, self-reliance and so much more. Homeownership only changes lives for the better and everyone deserves that!

What does it take to be an advocate? A commitment and a desire to see and be a part of meaningful change.

Why should people get involved and become advocates? Because it gives you a voice in the decision-making process! You get to create solutions that work for you and your communityof the people, by the people, for the people.

Aren’t they awesome?

We know the lack of affordable housing and affordable homeownership opportunities is one of the biggest challenges facing Washington today and we’re working to make sure that housing choices are both a priority and a reality.

But we can’t do it alone; without the input of citizens like you, laws and other policy decisions might not be made that are in your best interests or those of your community’s future.

Every citizen has the right to advocate. Your voice as a voter has a significant impact on the decisions made by the nation’s leaders.

As an advocate for affordable housing, your voice makes a difference in the lives of low-income families by giving legislators the informational materials they need to make decisions and enact legislation.

So, what’re you waiting for? Get involved!

We can’t wait to see you at the forefront of affordable homeownership advocacy!