Thank you, Rep. Pettigrew!

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Ezra Alem

In my experience, simple things like subtle gestures and the offhand efforts people make are more revealing of a person’s trustworthiness than lofty promises and grand gestures. Representative Eric Pettigrew’s actions as a legislator show his genuine care through his everyday actions. He also showed his commitment to transforming systems throughout his career by sponsoring legislation that addressed housing access, income inequality, education, and race equity.

Alem Pettgrew.adjEven though I only know Representative Eric Pettigrew from a distance, I believe that his lived experience pushes him to fight for those who also have to deal with adversity. For me, it is important to know that people who “talk the talk,” can also “walk the walk”. During his time as a Representative of 37th district, he has done big things for us Washingtonians, and many that are important to us as a community striving to end youth homelessness.

This year, Rep. Pettigrew championed a successful budget request to expand MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™, an innovative model of foster care delivery based on an extended family structure. Brianna Franco’s article in this issue explains how it works and its benefits. In 2015, Rep. Pettigrew was the primary sponsor for House Bill 1674. This bill ensured that young people charged as adults will remain in a juvenile rehabilitation facility, rather than being transferred to an adult facility, as long as they finish their sentences by age 21 (now, age 25). This allows young people to retain access to rehabilitative services. In 2007 and 2009, Rep. Pettigrew helped champion bills that created Washington State’s Independent Youth Housing Program (IYHP) for young people who have experienced foster care. Many of my colleagues at Mockingbird utilize IYHP, which is especially helpful because it allows two additional years of housing support and case management (up to one’s 23rd birthday) after young people age out of Extended Foster Care.

Mockingbird has a special connection with Rep. Pettigrew because our headquarters are in his district. As a young person, I feel he has always taken the time to listen to us, champion the issues we advocate for, and spend time with us. In 2007, he met with Carneisha Grace, a Mockingbird participant, to get to know each other and “walk a mile in each other’s shoes.” They met over coffee and discussed her experience with homelessness in front of City Hall. This is just one example of Rep. Pettigrew listening to the voices of young people.

Since his election to the House of Representatives in 2002, Rep. Eric Pettigrew has been a consistent champion for children, youth, and families through good budget times and bad. I will miss his ability to champion impactful legislation, his great smile, and his welcoming and powerful words at our Youth Advocacy Days. I have yet to see him ever look distant from his work. Much like Jackie Robinson is an inspirational figure to others, Representative Eric Pettigrew’s inspirational figure, Rep. Pettigrew is an inspiration to me. His career inspires me to work hard and believe in myself to keep pushing for what is right.

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