Friday, October 3, 2008

Anitra 'Many Hats' Freeman, WHEEL, and the Women's Funding Alliance

Today was the King County Combined Federal Campaign 2008 Public Sector Employee Campaign and Recognition Kickoff Event.

Say that six times fast.

Like almost everybody else I know, I am a member of several organizations. One of them is WHEEL (Women's Housing, Equality and Enhancement League). (Aren't you glad you don't have to say that six times fast, you can just say "WHEEL"?) WHEEL is a member of the Women's Funding Alliance, a funding and support federation of 21 agencies serving women and girls in the Puget Sound region. As a small grassroots group of homeless and formerly homeless women organizing our own programs with the assistance of one staff member, what we get through WFA is a major part of our funding. Networking with other federation members is also invaluable; a few years ago, we worked together with the King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence to protect the privacy of women in emergency homeless shelters during government data-gathering.

One of our obligations in return for the funding and support we get from WFA is to participate in events like today; staffing the table in a big, big fair and saying approximately 5,000 times fast, "We are homeless and formerly homeless women organizing our own programs. We are a federation member of the Women's Funding Alliance. For small grassroots groups like ours, the funding and support we get from the Women's Funding Alliance is critical."

Good thing I'm almost over that cold.

The doors opened at 11 AM and I had given out all but one of my WHEEL flyers by 1 PM. I kept one; since WHEEL doesn't have a website right now, here's the contents of the current WHEEL flyer:

WHEEL: Women's Housing, Equality and Enhancement League

The Women's Housing, Equality and Enhancement League (WHEEL) is a non-profit and non-hierarchical group of homeless and formerly homeless women working on ending homelessness for women. WHEEL is all about homelessness and action.

WHEEL is the women-only, women-concerned sister organization to SHARE (Seattle Housing and Resource Effort). Both WHEEL and SHARE provide self-managed shelters--including tent cities.

WHEEL works to get women out of the places where they have been hiding, recognize each woman as an individual and involve women in the process of improving programs and creating new programs for their own needs.

WHEEL's goals are to give voice and leadership to homeless women, to organize campaigns around increased services and safety for women, and to develop and support self-managed shelters.

Since 1993, WHEEL has initiated many campaigns that have improved the lives of all women. our efforts have included:

  • Pushing for longer hours at shelters and drop-in centers
  • Moving the entrance to DESC from "Crack Alley" to Third Avenue
  • Holding yearly Homeless Women's Forums, community gatherings, since 1995
  • Establishing new shelters, day programs, meal projects and housing for women... including the County Winter Women's Shetler, Meal of Fortune, and Dorothy Day House
Current Projects:

Women in Black silent witnessing vigils whenever a homeless person dies outside or by violence in King County. We have stood for 34 people so far in 2008.

Homeless Place of Remembrance, a public place to honor homeless people who have died. We have worked with church and community leaders for the past five years, and are now working with designers toward siting this project in Victor Steinbrueck Park.

Tent City3 is a self-managed camp of 100 homeless women, men and couples which rotates among churches/spaces mostly in Seattle.

Tent City4 is a 100-person self-managed camp in suburban Seattle, mostly on the Eastside.

Shelter for Women: This year there has been a severe lack of shelter for homeless women. our current projecgs and campaigns include: WHEEL's Severe Weather Shelter for Women, open during the worst winter weather, and Organizing for Provision of More Shelter for Women.

The Women's Empowerment Center is a self-managed day organizing, arts and education center for women.

The Dorothy Day Group works for more housing, food, dignity and power among homeless women. we currently have two projects: Sandwichmaking and distributing sandwiches at Westlake Park, and producing and distributing our own newsletter, The Occasional Times.

WHEEL Schedule:

Women's Empowerment Center
Sundays, 8:30 AM--1:30 PM
Hammond House (2nd & Stewart)
Trainings, workshops, educational and fun activities and lunch!

The Occasional Times Newsletter
Mondays 10 AM--Noon
Writing and publication meetings rotate between Angeline's and the WHEEL Office.

Weekly Organizing Meeting
Mondays 2 PM, with refreshments, at the WHEEL office (1902 Second Avenue)
Strategizing meetings for WHEEL--everyone has a voice and a vote

Breakfast and Education Project
Thursdays 8:30 AM--11:30 AM
Antioch University (6th & Battery)
A collaborative effort of WHEEL, the Sisters Project and Antioch, this program offers breakfast, workshops, and activities.

Women in Black
Wednesdays noon--1 Pm as needed
Municipal Courthouse, 5th & James
We notify people by phone/email when a death has occurred.

Homeless Women's Forum
Community celebration/platform raising held each November.


Since 1993, WHEEL has been working in partnerhip with other groups and individuals in one of the most unique programs in Seattle, or indeed in the country. All homeless and formerly homeless women are invited to any of our meetings.

Anyone can help in the following ways:
  • Join us at Women in Black vigils when a homeless person dies outside or by violence. Call (206) 956-0334 to join our notification list.
  • Does your church have room to host an indoor shelter or tent City? Do you know of other possible hosts? Call (206) 448-7889.
  • Join our Homeless Place of Remembrance Planning Committee, which meets on the third Wednesday of each month at the Josephinum (1902 2nd Avenue).
  • Our Women's Empowerment Center needs volunteers to help teach various skills classes, and art supplies for our writing and arts programs.
  • Contributions for general operating expenses and for special efforts are always welcome. WHEEL is a tax-deductible 502(c)3 program and a federation memebr agency in the Women's Funding Alliance.
  • Call us to discuss other ways to help!
Mailing Address:
PO Box 2548
Seattle WA 98111-2548

Street Address:
1902 Second Avenue (& Stewart)
2nd Floor, Josephinum

Phone: (206) 956-0334
Fax: (206) 448-2389

I did all that typing down here at the Real Change offices, where I am a member of the Editorial Committee and also teach writing and computer skills to homeless and low-income adults in a workshop format called StreetWrites. StreetWrites hours start at 5:30 PM, and when I checked in here at 2:30 PM, after the Convention Place gig, I didn't expect I could go home, nap, and get back by StreetWrites time. My Official Sweetie, Dr. Wes, observes (often) that I have no conception of the physics of space and time: I attempt to walk through physical objects if I am thinking about anything at all else, and frequently try to schedule three simultaneous events at once, in separate locations. But occasionally, I do get it right. It's now 4:40 PM. I just have time to put my personal hat on, and eat dinner.

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