At ACHD we pride ourselves in being a bit unconventional, a bit scrappy even, as we fight for our community to have positive outcomes that go far beyond what conventionality provides. That means that we have to be willing to try new things and think outside of the box in a way that those who benefit from the status quo don’t have to do. It also means that we have to work with many more moving parts than most organizations, as we are not focused on just one, two, or even three of our community’s needs, but instead trying to find solutions that can help our clients thrive in every aspect of their lives.
That being said, there are a few Key Beliefs that are at the center of ACHD’s mission. These beliefs and the stories behind them are below.
We want to hold ourselves accountable, first and foremost, and only partner with those who share our values.
If we see an injustice anywhere, we will say so!
We have to be able to be flexible and adjust quickly to our community's ever-changing needs. This means that we are always going to have to be ready to try new things or -just as importantly- stop doing things once they are no longer working. This can only be done well if we are as open and honest with our community and the agencies that we work with as we expect them to be with us. Every program that we offer first starts as a Community Cafe meeting, so that we can hear honest feedback from our community members before we get started. We rely on their honesty in everything that we do and we promise to be just as honest with them in return.
A Seat at the Table
ACHD’s Founder and Executive Director Hamdi Abdulle’s journey into activism started with attending various public meetings. At one of the first meetings Hamdi was invited to, she did what she thought was logical and sat down at the first empty chair she saw, next to the people who had invited her. The people at the meeting stared at her with curiosity but didn't comment on her seating choice. Hamdi asked lots of questions and the people she was sitting next to answered all of them politely, even though something seemed a bit off. It wasn’t until much later that Hamdi realized that the seat she had taken at this meeting was at the board members’ table, in the front of the room, while all of the other meeting attendees had taken seats much further away. For a while she felt embarrassed by her mistake. But as it turns out, that awkward meeting was about ending homelessness in King County, a cause that Hamdi has now championed for several years. Hamdi also now sits on several boards herself, and she regularly reminds her colleagues about her funny first meeting and about how she knew so little about the “rules” of the meeting that she didn’t know it wasn’t appropriate for her to sit at the board members' table. But just because she didn’t know the “rules” back then, doesn’t mean that she didn’t have important things to add to the discussion.
Because of this, at ACHD, we make a point to make ALL community members feel comfortable sitting at our table.
Lift As We Climb
Our goal will always be to lift other communities up with us, as we continue to make improvements ourselves. ACHD founders have already done this with the local Native American community, as Hamdi Abdulle has personally lobbied one of the Boards that counts her as a member to create a new, previously nonexistent space for Native representation. As a result her work, that local board group unanimously agreed to change its rules to make additional room for a new position, which was then filled by a Native American community member.That same level of support, solidarity and encouragement will be shown to ALL marginalized communities, without exception.
There are No Silly Questions
A lot of times, people who benefit from the status quo will make others feel a bit foolish for asking questions that are different from what they are used to. The truth about ACHD is that we wouldn't exist were it not for our founders taking the risk of "feeling silly" in order to learn what they needed to learn, get to where they needed to get to and challenge the systems that needed challenging. At the first public meeting that Hamdi ever attended in King County, she had specific concerns that she wanted to bring up. After raising her concerns, she was quickly told that what she wanted to talk about "wasn't on the agenda" for that meeting and, therefore, could not be discussed. Hamdi didn't know what that meant, and when the meeting was over, she asked one of the men in charge, "Excuse me, what is an agenda?" She felt a bit silly for not knowing, but then the man showed her how to submit her proposals for the next meeting's agenda, and not being afraid to ask that simple, basic question is how Hamdi learned how to make public meetings work in her community's favor.
As ACHD has since learned many times over, sometimes in order to change large institutional systems, you must first be willing to risk "looking silly" for asking very simple questions about how things work, even if others seem bothered or annoyed by you doing so. Asking simple, basic questions is also a really good way to notice things that others haven't noticed yet, things that can help yourself and others solve problems in new ways. ACHD will never be afraid to ask questions, no matter how difficult or how simple.
Everything that ACHD does centers from the idea of being "culturally responsive." For us, this means that understanding, respecting, honoring and promoting the cultures that our clients come from is viewed as equally as important as everything else that we do. We want our clients to feel 100% comfortable coming to us with whatever issues they may have. We want to CELEBRATE their unique cultures in such a way that they will always be able to be their most honest selves when meeting with us, even if that means expressing their concerns or frustrations from a place of anger or sadness. They likely wouldn't feel comfortable showing certain emotions if they are in situations where they don't feel 100% comfortable... but a lot of the issues that they have to deal with are hard and often unfair, making even seemingly negative emotions more than valid. We cannot put their wellbeing first without first proving to them that we truly understand where they are coming from and by honoring the fact that their points of view might be different than what is considered "normal" by Western standards. Western standards were not designed with our clients' best interests in mind, therefore those standards are not applicable to what we do.
We will, instead, always start from a place of centering their unique cultures, and allow everything else that we do to be built around what is important to them.