Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center

Community Organizer and Educator at Tenants Union of Washington State

Context

The mission of the Tenants Union (TU) is to create housing justice through empowerment-based education, outreach, leadership development, organizing, and advocacy. Founded in 1977, the TU carries on a proud legacy of work to create concrete improvements in tenants’ living conditions and challenge and transform unjust housing policies and practices. As a membership organization, the TU’s work is grounded in the strong conviction that tenants must be the leaders of efforts to transform our housing conditions and communities. The TU embraces the values of equality, hope, tenant leadership, respect, direct action, civic courage, racial and economic justice, and self-determination in our work.

Our main programs are Education (a hotline and in-person tenant rights counseling four days a week through which we counsel 200 tenants a month); Organizing (one campaign is the statewide Section 8 Tenant Organizing Project, and our membership is in the process of selecting our second campaign, which will be determined at our October Annual Membership Meeting), Membership (leadership development, community-building, and political education for our members to develop collective power and sustain the organization through dues and fundraising), and Advocacy (legislative advocacy to change policies and

 

Fellowship Position

The Carson Civil Fellow will work primarily as a Community Organizer and Educator.

Community Organizing (approx. 6 hours/week)- work with TU staff and members to door knock in apartment buildings, coordinate and maintain tenant association meetings, support tenants in planning and facilitating meetings, create materials for flyering and outreach, support TU members in advocacy skills such as public speaking, planning a press conference, hosting a media tour of a dilapidated building, writing letters and/or articles, or meeting with an elected official or landlord, and follow up to meet individually with tenant leaders. The Fellow may also conduct research online (policy and/or political research) to help guide the campaign strategy. The Carson Fellow would work with a team of TU organizers and volunteers until the Fellow feels proficient enough to do some of this work independently; the Fellow would receive training and mentorship to learn the art of community organizing. (The topic of the specific organizing campaign the Carson Fellow would spend the majority of their time on is still being determined by the TU Membership and Organizing Committee, a multi-racial group of low-income women who are evaluating options, and will be voted on my our membership in our October Annual Membership Meeting. The campaign would be taking place primarily in Southeast Seattle and/or South King County.)

Leadership Development and Member Engagement (approx. 3 hours/week)- work with TU staff and members to design curriculum relating to housing justice (race and housing, gender and housing, disability and housing, history of public housing), and leadership skills (public speaking, advocacy, media-relations, organizing). The Fellow would design visual aides for training, and coordinate periodic membership leadership development trainings. The Fellow would also do regular follow-up with new members and meet with new members to assess their interest, availability, and leadership potential. As summer approaches, the Fellow would help recruit and prepare members who will go as delegates to Activists Mobilizing for Power, an annual leadership conference for community-based grassroots organizations (and the Fellow can come too if scheduling and budgeting permits). The Carson Fellow would work with a team of TU organizers and members until the Fellow feels proficient enough to do some of this work independently, and would receive ongoing training and mentorship.

Community education (approx. 1 hour/week)- together with TU staff and experienced members, the Fellow would lead presentations and trainings for community partners (for example, at Casa Latina, a Latin@ day-worker Center in Central Seattle), and give tenant rights workshops in apartment buildings and work-release facilitates on tenant rights topics including: repairs and substandard housing, eviction, arrest and conviction records, gentrification, and affordable housing.

 

Ideal candidates for this position will possess the following skills/abilities:

  • We do not expect the Carson Fellow to have community organizing experience (we’ll provide training), but the Fellow does need to love working with people, and must have the courage to talk with new people you have never met.
  • Be able to connect with and recognize the leadership abilities of people from all walks of life, especially people who are very low income, women, people with diverse disabilities, immigrants and refugees. If the Fellow has had a personal or family experience of housing instability or housing injustice, this is a natural bridge to connect with TU members (though it is not necessary to have experienced housing injustice, personally in order to connect).
  • Presentation or facilitation experience; good verbal communication skills. Any art skills and good handwriting are a bonus for creating visual-aides.
  • Be able to research information (such as reading an article about housing history) and summarize that information for a training.
  • Be able to track details in laws and policies and to memorize some basic tenant rights information (such as the difference between a 20 day notice to vacate, and a 30 day notice of a rent increase.)
  • Be committed to finishing projects, and to ask for help or guidance when you need it.
  • To be able to read information independently (some of the training will be in the form of manuals that you will read, and then we will discuss it).
  • Many of our meetings and education are done in Spanish or other languages. If you speak another language, let us know—that’s very helpful but not necessary.