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!

Interfaith Build 2022: We accomplish more when we work together

We were fortunate to have 29 volunteers representing a variety of faith traditions, including Jewish and Christian, as well as representatives already working in the interfaith space (Terry Kyllo of Paths to Understanding and Kirstin Joyner of Bothell United Methodist Church) join us to create more affordable housing during this year’s Interfaith Build.

Additionally, students from Northwest Yeshiva High School contributed over the two-day event.

Each day began with a blessing given by Alan Bunin of the Jewish tradition. Also giving blessings/prayers were Pastor Chad Johnson of Grace Lutheran, Tamar Libicki of Congregation Beth Shalom, Terry Kyllo of Paths to Understanding and Kristin Joyner of BUMC. At lunch, we celebrated many faiths’ roles in building stronger communities.    

These Interfaith Build days were a great example of what we can accomplish when we work together, and all of the participants agreed to keep the momentum going throughout the year by seeking other Interfaith activities to participate in. Joining forces with the work of Paths to Understanding, Faith Action Network and the work of BUMC will provide an avenue for deeper connection in the Interfaith space.     

Next year, the plan is to schedule Interfaith Build closer to Sept. 11, because it was the tragedy surrounding Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that provided the original motivation to begin the Interfaith Build.

$30,000 ADT Donation Provides Energy Efficient Heat Pumps for All 12 Homes in Highland Terrace

SEATTLE (October 18, 2022) ADT is partnering with Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County to build safe, smart and sustainable affordable housing at its West Seattle build site. As part of that partnership, members of the ADT team gathered at Highland Terrace to volunteer their time and build alongside future Habitat homeowners on Oct. 22. Through part of its generous donation of $30,000 to Habitat SKC, ADT made possible the installation of energy-efficient heat pumps in all 12 Highland Terrace homes. Not only are these units more sustainable but will allow the new Habitat homeowners to save on their monthly energy bills.

Habitat SKC will install Mitsubishi Ductless Heat Pumps at Highland Terrace. These 18,000 BTU ductless split systems will provide year-round efficient temperature control, on average saving homeowners 20%-40% on annual heating and cooling bills compared to combustion-based systems. They will provide for a healthy breathing environment with advanced filtration to manage allergens and clean the air as it is pumped into the house.

Using an electric-based system is a more environmentally friendly option compared to combustion-based systems, while also providing protection from rising energy costs, as oil and natural gas-based heating systems saw a 30-50% increase in energy costs in 2021, compared to only a 6% increase for households that heat primarily with electricity. Additionally, the project is being wired for electric vehicle charging. This smart technology will allow each parking spot to be “EV Ready” for any future homeowner to plug in their vehicles onsite.

On the safety front, results of a recent Habitat survey of current Habitat homeowners, 92% reported some, great or a very great level of improvement in feeling safe after purchasing their Habitat home.

Located in the Highland Park neighborhood of Seattle, this community will give 12 families a place to live in an area with high opportunity. This new community is near Habitat’s other newly constructed development, Trenton, and numerous parks, including Roxhill Park, Milo Park, Highland Park Playground, and Westcrest Park, as well as public, charter, and private school options. Quick and easy access to all area amenities, including favorite cafe’s, restaurants, parks and roller rink with White Center & Westwood Village both just minutes away along with express bus lines to Downtown Seattle.

Homeownership Builds Community

Homeownership is about so much more than a simple roof over one’s head. It’s also about community, which means finding a neighborhood that feels like home. 

For Shukri Yusuf, who arrived in the Seattle area from Mombasa, Kenya at 12, West Seattle has been home since 2004. Over the years, Shukri got married there, had a son, and became a single mother in 2020. She remained in West Seattle throughout where she teaches in a neighborhood public school, living with her parents as she saved for a down payment on her own home. 

The more she saved, though, and looked around Seattle for housing, the more she realized she was severely out-priced. She feared she would have to leave West Seattle, or even the state, if she was to find an affordable house for herself and son, Zayn. The idea of leaving her beloved neighborhood for a house she could afford in a place where she knew no one was a poor option and one she dreaded.

Shukri explored any and all possibilities in her search for a way to remain in the community and still have a home of her own. She considered getting a down payment grant for a condo, even though getting a condo anywhere close to her beloved West Seattle neighborhood was impossible. As she searched, she learned about Habitat for Humanity through the King County homeowner assistance website. With help from Habitat, she was able to purchase a newly constructed, three-bedroom home in West Seattle – the first home she’s ever owned.

Shukri and Zayn now live in their own home in the neighborhood they call Home. It’s just five minutes from the school where Shukri teaches. Zayn is growing up in a supportive community where he’ll have maximum opportunities to thrive. For Shukri, this means planting roots and growing herself in a safe place with friends and family to share life’s ups and downs. As she says, Shukri is finally Home.

“When you have a community that you connect with it can offer you support in all of life’s phases. I feel a part of the community that I have called home since 2004 and I feel supported through some of the tough times that I have experienced in the past … I see it as my duty to help and support others that need help in my school community.”

More than a house, a home of one’s own builds Community through a sense of belonging and pride in the neighborhood called Home. It’s a hidden legacy that comes with help from Habitat for Humanity.

AT&T Donates $10,000 to Habitat for Humanity SKC After Completing Monthlong Employee Volunteer Effort

AT&T presented a contribution of $10,000 to Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County on Wednesday, September 28 as 18 local AT&T employee volunteers worked with future residents to build housing at Highland Terrace in the Delridge neighborhood of Seattle. The six permanently affordable homes at Highland Terrace are expected to be ready in the summer of 2023.  The project will offer families earning less than 80% of Area Media Income two and three-bedroom units with easy access to nearby parks, schools, and transit. 

“We are delighted that AT&T has chosen to partner with Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County on its month-long volunteer effort and are very grateful for the donation,” said Brett D’Antonio, CEO, Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties. “It will take private, public, and non-profit sectors coming together to address our region’s housing affordability crisis and AT&T has proven to be a leader in the effort.”

The monthlong employee volunteer effort is a part of the AT&T Believes Washington initiative.  AT&T Believes is a company-wide, localized effort to combine employees’ passions and volunteerism with AT&T’s resources and relationships. 30 area AT&T employees volunteered with Habitat for Humanity of Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties on four different dates and locations in September, including at Highland Terrace, the North Bend Tyler Town construction site, and the Habitat for Humanity Stores in Bellevue and Southcenter. 

“AT&T employees jumped at the chance to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Seattle-King and Kittitas Counties,” said Carl Gipson, State President, AT&T Washington.  “These homes will be a source of security and peace of mind for their owners.  It was uplifting for our volunteers to work side-by-side with families to help build their future home.”

Habitat for Humanity Seattle–King & Kittitas Counties focuses its mission on building, repairing, and preserving permanently affordable housing and believes everyone deserves a decent, safe, and affordable place to live. With a current pipeline of 270+ homes in various phases of planning and construction, Habitat SKC is on track to surpass its ambitious goal of building and selling 1,000 cumulative housing solutions to low-income community members by 2025.

If your company would like to make a contribution and/or is interested in volunteering with Habitat for Humanity SKC, please contact Angela Appleton at angela.appleton@habitatskc.org