Why we changed our name: VSHSL’s Resilient Communities program

The Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) is composed of three programs based on the populations we serve: Veterans, Seniors and Resilient Communities; formerly Vulnerable Populations. Shifting our program name from Vulnerable Populations to Resilient Communities acknowledges communities’ strengths and focuses on communities’ ability to survive and thrive despite oppression and harm.

We are excited to make this name change to better represent the strength and resilience of the communities we serve.

Listening to our community

The VSHSL ordinance and subsequent VSHSL Implementation Plan, which guides levy-funded work, defines Vulnerable Populations as: persons or communities that are susceptible to reduced health, housing, financial or social stability outcomes because of current experience of or historical exposure to trauma, violence, poverty, isolation, bias, racism, stigma, discrimination, disability or chronic illness (you can find the definition on page 37 of VSHSL’s Implementation Plan). While this nomenclature appropriately denotes the result to communities from structural and systemic oppression and discrimination, work funded by VSHSL proceeds and guided by the VSHSL Implementation Plan seeks to support the continued resilience of these impacted communities. For this reason, the name of this work is reimagined in a way that centers community strength in the midst of vulnerability.

Committing to equity and social justice

The Resilient Communities program strives to uphold and further King County’s commitment to equity and social justice in all our work.  While racism and other forms of structural oppression create conditions that make certain communities more susceptible to harm, centering community strength enables a recognition that partnering with impacted communities is based on communities’ knowledge about their own needs and the best ways to meet those needs, both important factors that have resulted in resilience. The term vulnerable communities can have the impact of obscuring the problem; improperly implying that people themselves are vulnerable, individualizing the issue, rather than focusing on the structural conditions that lead to harm.

People are not vulnerable to negatives outcomes due to their race – they are vulnerable to negative outcomes due to racism. People are not vulnerable due to their immigration status – they are vulnerable due to xenophobia. People are not vulnerable due to their gender expression or sexuality – they are vulnerable due to transphobia and homophobia. The risk factor is oppression, not identities. The barriers are systemic, not individual.

Resilient Communities

The name Vulnerable Populations frames communities based on their challenges, Resilient Communities focuses on communties’ ability to survive and thrive despite oppression and harm.

The name Resilient Communities acknowledges that communities have endured trauma and harm and still thrive. Communities of color, immigrant and refugee communities, people with disability communities, LGBTQ communities and other communities who experience structural oppression thrive despite these harms, they remain here, flourish, support each other and continue to grow.

That strength should be named, honored and recognized through our program name. By renaming our program we honor the work that has been done before us and commit to continued growth in our work moving forward.