Fair Tenant Screening Act Passes in the Senate and Moves to House Judiciary

Solid Ground celebrates a great victory for renters in Washington: On Monday, March 11, 2013, the Washington State Senate moved one step closer to making landlord-tenant laws more fair and just for tenants. The Senate voted on the Fair Tenant Screening Act, and with true bipartisan support they passed SB 5568 with a vote of 46-3. This is a huge step toward making sure that domestic violence survivors are not discriminated against or denied housing based on a protection order or their history of domestic violence.

SenJeanne_Kohl-WellesTo hear senators Hobbs, Kohl-Welles and Frockt’s moving testimony on the Senate floor, visit the TVW website for March 11, 2013 Senate coverage, and scroll to 21:30 minutes to watch the 6 ½-minute video coverage.

But that doesn’t mean our work is done! Please send an email to thank Senator Hobbs (steve.hobbs@leg.wa.gov), Senator Kohl-Welles (Jeanne.Kohl-Welles@leg.wa.gov) and Senator Frockt (David.Frockt@leg.wa.gov) for their ongoing support and leadership for the Fair Tenant Screening Act.

Thanks to everyone who offered their support of this critical bill by writing emails and letters and making calls. Also, special thanks and congratulations to the advocates who stood strong on this issue and made this victory possible: Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, Tenants Union, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Columbia Legal Services and Northwest Justice Project.

The humanity of homelessness

Several Solid Ground staff members participated in the annual One Night Count of homeless people in King County described in this post. Guest contributor Ray Lumpp is a writer for AllTreatment.com, a website devoted to helping individuals and families facing addiction and mental health issues in Washington State.Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness logo

In the early hours of January 25, 2013, over 900 volunteers for the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH) spread out across the city and county, searching for men, women and children sleeping outdoors without shelter. Since 1980, SKCCH and Operation Nightwatch have organized the One Night Count. Today, it remains the largest community-organized count in the United States.

In 2013, at least 2,736 men, women and children were found sleeping in cars, riding late-night buses, or curled up in blankets under bridges or in doorways during the three-hour street count – a 5% increase from last year’s total. This number is always assumed to be an underestimate: It is impossible to count everywhere, and many people take great care not to be visible.

Estimated number of people found on the streets or sleeping in cars in Seattle/King Co., '06-'13 (chart by Ray Lumpp, 2013)

Estimated number of people found on the streets or sleeping in cars in Seattle/King Co., ’06-’13 (chart by Ray Lumpp, ’13)

This year, one group of volunteers, including Councilmember Sally Clark, discovered the dead body of a 60-year-old woman near the terminus of I-90 – a sobering reminder of what’s at stake for homeless individuals.

While the One Night Count provides a basic census for tracing the problem of homelessness in King County, another volunteer-based group assembled by the City of Seattle sought to dig deeper. One evening in April 2009, the Homeless Needs Assessment group surveyed 297 homeless people and recorded demographic information for an additional 89 individuals, providing a crucial glimpse of life on the street.

Think of homelessness as a local problem: Most homeless people in Seattle have been living without shelter for over a year and 23% have been living without shelter for over six years. Nearly two thirds reported living in Seattle, and 19% elsewhere in Washington, when they became homeless. Although 91% of people living on the streets would like to find housing, people often wait two years or more for affordable housing options to open up.

Racial disproportionality of Seattle's homeless population compared to the general population (chart by Ray Lumpp, '13)

Racial disproportionality of Seattle’s homeless population compared to the general population (chart by Ray Lumpp, ’13)

Compared to Seattle’s general population, there was a disproportionate number of African Americans (29%), Hispanic or Latinos (13%), and Native Americans (6%), which is similar to the disproportionate number of people with unmet addiction treatment needs. Limited access to information about homeless services is a continuing problem: 67% learned of available services through word of mouth or on the street, while only 10% reported learning of services from an agency or program. Coordinating an effective outreach effort among food banks, drop-in centers, and shelters may help increase access to services.

Food and hygiene programs are the most common services used by homeless people in Seattle. Seventy percent reported using a food bank in the last six months and 48% used meal programs. About half reported using hygiene centers, but only 37% reported staying in a shelter during the last six months. Most of these programs are run and supported by local volunteers, community groups, and ex-homeless people looking to give back and stay clean.

Another telling statistic is that 60% reported health conditions requiring professional care. Though the conditions may range from diabetes to alcoholism, many homeless people use emergency departments for their health needs instead of primary care physicians – wasting time, energy, and taxpayer dollars. In answer to this, DESC (Downtown Emergency Service Center) focuses on the needs of homeless chronic alcoholics who are the heaviest users of publicly-funded crisis services. Exploring other alternative housing models may also help shelter more people in the future.

Interestingly, people who received medical care accessed services at a higher rate. Respondents with recent hospitalization or mental health treatment made greater use of meal programs, hygiene centers, shelter, and other services than those not receiving medical care.

While homelessness continues to be a growing national problem, there are many ways you can create a positive change in your community. Volunteer with a shelter or housing program. (Solid Ground’s Broadview Shelter and Brettler Family Place at Sand Point Housing both have volunteer opportunities.) Donate clean clothes (especially shoes), books, toys, diapers, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, blankets, old cell phones, or even gift cards to Starbucks or a grocery store. (Broadview Shelter and Sand Point Housing both also have in-kind donation wish lists.)

You can also give money or gift cards to people experiencing homelessness on the street. Do not ignore them. If you have nothing else to give, simply smile and look into his or her eyes and let them know, even just by noticing them, that you recognize their humanity and that you care.

New construction begun at Sand Point Housing

Earlier this month, Solid Ground broke ground on two new sites on our Sand Point Housing campus to begin building 54 new homes for formerly homeless people.

This building will hold 33 homes for single adults and six homes for families.

This building will hold 33 homes for single adults and six homes for families.

The 21 new homes for families and 33 for single adults fulfill the City’s vision of supportive housing for people overcoming homelessness at the former Sand Point Naval Station, which was articulated in the 1997 Reuse Plan.

“Since the initial transitional housing was redeveloped in old Navy buildings and opened in 2000, more than 2,000 people have used the facility as a stepping stone on their journey back to stability and thriving,” said Gordon McHenry, Jr., Solid Ground’s President & CEO. “The program’s ongoing success is based on partnerships among service providers and deep, supportive connections in the local community.”

Future home for 15 formerly homeless families

Future home for 15 formerly homeless families

Site map showing locations of the new buildings

Site map showing locations of the new buildings

View from the south at the site where six family homes and 33 for singles will be constructed

View from the south at the site where six family homes and 33 for singles will be constructed

View from the north at the site where six family homes and 33 for singles will be constructed

View from the north at the site where six family homes and 33 for singles will be constructed

Aerial view looking from the top of Brettler Family Place at the site where 15 family homes will be built

Aerial view looking from the top of Brettler Family Place at the site where 15 family homes will be built

View from the north where 15 family homes will nestle into this wing of Brettler Family Place

View from the north where 15 family homes will nestle into this wing of Brettler Family Place

View from the east where 15 family homes will nestle into this wing of Brettler Family Place

View from the east where 15 family homes will nestle into this wing of Brettler Family Place

Construction banners along Sand Point Way NE

Construction banners along Sand Point Way NE

Adrienne Karls, a resident of Solid Ground’s Santos Place transitional housing on the Magnuson Park campus, said, “We’ve come from being on the street or in our car. We’ve come from homeless shelters. We’ve all come from being in despair. This place has been somewhere I have been able to grow and appreciate things that I haven’t before in life. This community has given me tools and skills to build my future on. I’m confident it will do the same for the people who will move into these new buildings as well.”

Major funding for the project comes from Enterprise Community Partners, The City of Seattle and the Brettler Family Foundation. The project should be completed by late 2013!

Tenant Tip: Evictions in Clean & Sober Housing (Part 1)

recovery-photoThis Tenant Tip addresses RCW 59.18.550 of the Washington State Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA), clarifying the rights and requirements of tenants living in “drug and alcohol free housing,” including their right to due process in an eviction (also known as an Unlawful Detainer Action (UDA) ). Under this section of the law, any tenant who lives in drug and alcohol free housing is entitled to a rental agreement IN WRITING and access to supportive services through recovery programs (i.e. Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous).

In addition, the rental agreement must include the following provisions:

  • The tenant and invited guests may not use any illegal substances, controlled substances or prescription drugs without a prescription on the premises.
  • The tenant can be required to take a urine analysis test for drug and alcohol at the landlord’s discretion and expense.
  • On a quarterly basis (at minimum), the tenant must provide documentation from the recovery program they are participating in to report progress abstaining from drugs and alcohol.

Furthermore, the landlord must provide a drug- and alcohol-free environment for all tenants and an employee who monitors the compliance with program rules.

The following types of entities are considered to be landlords under the RLTA and must provide the specific requirements and services under RCW 59.18.550:

The eviction process is slightly different for tenants living in drug and alcohol free housing. A landlord can terminate tenancy by delivering a three-day notice to the tenant with one day to comply if the tenant uses, possesses or shares alcohol, prescription drugs without a prescription, or illegal substances on the premises. A tenant may be given the three-day notice if their invited guests are participating in such actions as well.

A three-day notice to terminate tenancy with one day to comply gives the tenant one day after receipt of the notice to stop the use of drugs or alcohol and be in compliance. If the tenant complies, the landlord cannot go further with the eviction and the rental agreement does not terminate. If the tenant is not able to comply within one day after receiving the notice – and at the end of the three-day period, if the tenant has not vacated – the landlord can continue with the eviction process by serving a summons for UDA.

Our website lists an eviction timeline, including the court process to physically remove a tenant from the premises. If the tenant violates the same rule within six months of receiving a three-day notice, the landlord can begin the eviction process by issuing another three-day notice without the option for the tenant to comply again. This section provides the same eviction process and timeline during which landlords are allowed to evict a tenant under 59.12 RCW.

Because of the complexity of this information, it will be posted in two parts. The next post will further address some of the barriers that people living in clean and sober housing face – including the problems a faster eviction process would pose – and how these tenants could benefit from additional protections allowing them to remain in stable housing. 

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.

Tenant Tip: Tenant Rights Workshop in South King County, 11/29/12

House for Rent Want to know more about your rights as a renter? Wondering how to get your deposit back or request a repair? Would you like to know how the new changes in the laws impact renters?

Solid Ground Tenant Counselors are hosting a FREE Rent Smart Workshop for the community on Thursday November 29, 5:30-7:30pm, at the Kent City Hall, 1st Fl Chambers (220 4th Ave S, Kent, WA 98032). We’ll provide information about the landlord-tenant laws in Washington State and discuss the laws and ordinances that apply throughout the housing search process, move-in, during tenancy, move-out and eviction. Bring your questions!

Since there is no agency that enforces the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act in our state, it is largely up to tenants to understand the laws and know their rights in order to take appropriate action to effectively enforce them. We’ll talk about some tips and best practices for renters to help you assert your rights and have a successful tenancy – whether you are signing a rental agreement, requesting repairs or have questions about your privacy rights.

Especially with recent changes and additions to the laws, challenging situations can arise for tenants. For example, the laws around landlord entry and privacy rights changed in 2011, requiring landlords to provide written notice before entering a tenant’s unit (see our Tenant Tip from September 2011 for more information). If a tenant is unaware of this law or the changes, their privacy rights could be compromised. There are remedies available to tenants if a landlord is not complying with the laws, but tenants have to know those remedies are available in order to use them. Knowing the laws and what steps to take, tenants can take action to correct the problem.

If you are a tenant or service provider and would like to attend the workshop, please RSVP to our Tenant Services Workshop & Advocacy Line at 206.694.6748 or email tenantwa@solid-ground.org.

We are also available to provide workshops to organizations and groups throughout King County free of charge. Please contact us if you are interested in scheduling a workshop specifically for your agency or community group. For more information, visit our website at www.solid-ground.org/Tenant.

We look forward to seeing you on November 29!

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.

Tenant Tip: Rental applications & tenant screening fees

In June 2012, a new law took effect providing additional regulations around the tenant screening process. Our post from 5/30/12, Fair Tenant Screening Act passed!, describes in detail the new requirements that landlords provide written notice of what information will be accessed in a screening, what information may be used to deny housing, and notification of why a tenant was denied. However, there’s still more advocacy work to be done to improve tenant screening practices.

Rental Application imageHousing barriers
can mean repeated
screening fees
Landlords frequently deny people housing based on marks on their rental history – such as prior evictions, poor credit, criminal background, etc. – forcing tenants to apply elsewhere. Tenants with a history of housing barriers must often apply to multiple places in hopes of finding an affordable unit they will be accepted into. This screening process can become very costly, because every time a tenant applies for a new rental, they must pay a screening fee ($35 to $75+) so that each different landlord can run a background check.

Be wary of portable screening reports
Some screening companies offer the option to purchase a portable report, which allows tenants to pay one fee and take the report to several landlords or have online access to it. In theory, this method prevents tenants from having to pay fees to each landlord that conducts a check on them.

Unfortunately, landlords are NOT required by law to accept reports provided by tenants. Many landlords choose to have their own screenings conducted and require that tenants pay a separate screening fee, even in cases where the same exact screening company is used by both landlord and tenant.

Because of this, paying for a portable report from a screening company can be risky and costly – and can actually cause tenants to spend more on screening fees. While tenant advocates are working to address the issue, to date there are no laws mitigating rental application screening costs.

Your tenant screening rights
Prior to paying for screening, it is important for tenants to remember that landlords must present a list of criteria they will use to determine tenancy eligibility. Some landlords are able to discuss their criteria with tenants in detail, and this can guide a tenant’s decision whether or not to continue with an application process and pay the screening fee. Having a conversation with a prospective landlord prior screening, proactively asking questions, and reviewing criteria for denying housing can sometimes prevent costly screening fees. 

Lastly, everyone is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from the three main credit reporting agencies; you can get yours at AnnualCreditReport.com. Bring your credit report to prospective landlords and ask if they will accept it. While some landlords may choose to conduct additional screening anyway, presenting your credit report may be another way to avoid screening fees. If a landlord refuses to accept the credit report, then you can choose whether or not to continue with the process and pay the screening fee.

For additional information on screening fees and the rental housing application process, visit Tenant Services – Housing Search on Solid Ground’s website.

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.

The New Guy

This post, written by Mitch Cameron, was originally published in the July 2012 issue of the Santos Place Q-Notes, a newsletter written by and published for the residents of Santos Place. Santos Place is Solid Ground’s transitional housing program for single adults at Sand Point Housing.

Self-portrait of Mitch, in his truck on the road to San Diego to see his mom

Self-portrait of Mitch, in his truck on the road to San Diego to see his mom

The New Guy

Today I am the New Guy, I moved into Santos Place two weeks ago.

Tomorrow I may be the Old Guy, who can say.

My past is unimportant, it is behind me; I won’t compete with anyone for the best story.

My future is before me and it may be formed by fate or destiny, I don’t know; I choose to believe I make my own future.

I try to live in the here and the now, this day, this moment; I am still learning.

I am the Slow Guy with a limp, except when I am on a bicycle where I am more free to travel in harmony and with speed.

A volcanic crater in the Pacific NW

A volcanic crater in the Pacific NW

I am no different than most people; I am an imperfect human who wishes to be a part of something to better myself and to be loved and respected.

I am the New Guy and I wish to treat all people the way I wish to be treated; with dignity and respect.

I am the New Guy, if you can, give me helpful advice, I will gladly accept and give back if I can; or a friendly greeting and I will do the same.

I am the New Guy and I have lost my way in this world and my confidence is slow to return.

I am the New Guy and I love the Great Northwest and the outdoors; including fishing and camping.

I am a Veteran of the Vietnam War and I still remember being spit upon while wearing my uniform, but still I remain “The New Guy.”

Recent image of a sunset at Golden Gardens Park where Mitch and friends had a bonfire

Recent image of a sunset at Golden Gardens Park where Mitch and friends had a bonfire

Tenant Tip: Fair Tenant Screening Act passed!

This post was contributed by Solid Ground Tenant Counselor Edlira Kuka.

Credit check imageIn March 2012, the Fair Tenant Screening Act (Senate Bill 6315) passed in the Washington State Legislature, creating new regulations for how landlords and tenant screening companies can screen prospective tenants. A new section of the Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA) reflects the regulations – and two RLTA sections and one Fair Credit Reporting Act section were amended to include the law changes. SB 6315 goes into effect on 6/7/12.

Section 59.18.257 of the RLTA now includes the following new requirements for criteria used in tenant screening:

  • Tenants can only be charged screening report fees if the landlord provides eligibility requirements prior to screening. Before performing a screening or background check on a prospective tenant, landlords must first provide written notice detailing the information they will access to determine if a tenant is accepted or denied housing – as well as what specific criteria can be grounds for denial.
  • If a landlord uses a consumer reporting agency to determine tenant eligibility, they are required to provide tenants the name and address of the agency. Landlords must also inform tenants of their rights to obtain a free copy of the agency’s report and to dispute any errors in the report if they are denied housing or experience other adverse actions.
  • If a landlord does not use a consumer reporting agency and instead screens tenants on their own, they can charge tenants a screening fee – but the fee cannot exceed the standard amount charged by screening companies in the general area.
  • If a landlord denies an applicant or takes any other adverse action against prospective tenants, the landlord is required to provide tenants written notice listing specific information such as: reasons for denial, information used to deny or take adverse action, etc. The notice must include the date, address and signature of the landlord or agent.
  • If a landlord fails to follow the proper steps in conducting a tenant screening, they can be held liable for up to $100 plus court and reasonable attorney fees.

These new requirements provide more organized regulations for tenant screening and allow prospective tenants to know what information will be used to determine their acceptance or denial before paying screening fees. However, reports often contain inaccurate and misleading information, and tenants are not made aware of this until after they have been denied housing and paid fees. (Our November 2011 Tenant Screening blog post describes some housing barriers that unfair, misleading and inaccurate screening reports can create for low-income families, domestic violence survivors and many others.) So despite the new regulations, screening costs and misinformation in screening reports continue to prevent thousands of families from getting into housing.

A group of stakeholders – including tenant advocates, landlord groups and representatives of consumer reporting and screening agencies – will convene to address tenant screening costs and the information included in screening reports. This group will provide recommendations to the legislature by December 1, 2012.

Individuals who have paid multiple screening fees, have been wrongfully denied housing by a screening company or landlord, or face other housing barriers due to tenant screening are encouraged to share their experiences to help influence the recommendations made and increase the regulations to better protect tenants. To find out more about the law changes and how you can share your experiences to make the most beneficial recommendations, contact Solid Ground’s Tenant Advocacy Line at 206.694.6748 or email tenantwa@solid-ground.org.

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767 Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.

On Solid Ground at Sand Point Capital Campaign complete!

This update was contributed by Joan Caine, Capital Campaign Consultant. Scroll down for a slideshow of photos by Arthur Shwab featuring four of the first families to live at Brettler Family Place.

Andrew & his dad Hugo play together on the jungle gym

Andrew & Hugo play together on the jungle gym

The On Solid Ground at Sand Point Capital Campaign reached its fundraising goal in February 2012, marking a new beginning for families and formerly homeless individuals, including veterans. The first 51 families moved in during the spring of 2011, and there is already an active community taking shape. Phase II construction begins in September 2012, and by the fall of 2013, Brettler Family Place and Sand Point Housing will be home to over 100 adults and nearly 200 children.

Sand Point Housing represents a bold new way to utilize defunct military bases for the public good. It speaks to all that is best about our community commitment to end homelessness.

Capital campaigns call upon vision, rigorous planning, and the investment of a wide range of public and private donors. Despite the campaign having launched less than one year before the dramatic economic recession, the community rallied behind the project and ensured its success. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of our campaign donors.

As we look to the future, we know that housing is just the beginning at Sand Point. Our wraparound services are growing to meet the needs of the families and individuals who are now residents. As we address immediate needs through programs that build financial skills, teach cooking and nutrition, connect families to mental health and employment services, and offer a full complement of children’s programs, we know that the long-term goal is to ensure that each resident moves to a place of thriving and stability.

Our intention is to end cycles of generational poverty through the comprehensive approach at Brettler Family Place and Sand Point Housing.

We believe in the future of our residents and the successful completion of the capital campaign is the community’s vote of confidence that better days are ahead for all of the men, women and children who will call Sand Point their home.

In December 2011, photographer Arthur Shwab photographed several families in and around their new homes at Brettler Family Place:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

http://www.arthurshwab.com/ ~ www.arthurshwab.com/blog

 

Two opportunities to run/walk for Solid Ground!

Running and walking enthusiasts: Grab your shoes and your friends, and sign up for two spring 5K events to support Solid Ground – both taking place at Seward Park!

Pound the Ground 5K run/walk logoSunday, April 15, 9:30am: POUND THE GROUND 5K / ERACE POVERTY
Seward Park (5895 Lake Washington Blvd S, Seattle, WA 98118)

Pound the Ground is a 5K run/walk organized by Erace Poverty, a nonprofit that empowers community members to come together and participate in race events to raise money for poverty relief programs and heighten public awareness about poverty. We are honored to be chosen as the sole beneficiary of their race on April 15th at Seward Park!

Erace Poverty logoTyler Brown of Erace Poverty says, “Like Solid Ground, Erace Poverty believes that our community can one day move past poverty. We also believe in how Solid Ground is working to get there, through programs that eliminate the root causes of poverty and support people along a path toward self-sufficiency.”

Solid Ground Board of Directors member Ryan Keyser plans to participate. He says, “Running season is back in full swing, which for me means a time of melting away built up stress and getting back outside after the cold winter months. I look forward to this event and supporting Solid Ground while being active at the same time, and what better place to experience the natural beauty of Seattle than Seward Park!”

The Pound the Ground 5K run/walk benefits our programs that serve homeless children. Beyond providing housing and addressing immediate health and safety needs, your $35 entry fee will help children in King County begin to recover from homelessness and abuse in a safe and nurturing environment, succeed in school, and participate in recreational and educational programs. Don’t wait, because the entry fee increases to $45 on 4/1!

You can also increase your donation by collecting pledges! Ask friends and family to support your race day effort by matching your entry fee with a pledge. A pledge will not only help Solid Ground meet the needs of homeless children, it will also earn you a free PTG T-shirt!   

Pound the Ground race day schedule:
~8 – 9:15am: Registration
~9:30 – 10:10am: 5K run
~9:45 – 10:25am: 5K walk
~10:30 – 10:45am: Awards presentation

 

Good Karma 5K logoSunday, May 27, 9am: GOOD KARMA 5K
Seward Park (5895 Lake Washington Blvd S, Seattle, WA 98118)

Also save the date for the Good Karma 5K, Seattle’s only “choose your own charity” fun run! For the second year in a row, Solid Ground is one of 10 local featured nonprofit organizations that will benefit from the run – and you get to decide where your portion of the proceeds goes. Registration is $25 (online registration ends May 24 at 3pm) or $30 on the day of the race. Teams of 10 or more are eligible for a $5 per person discount. Please email the Race Director to get your team discount code at info@runforgoodracingcompany.com

We’ll have some Solid Ground staffers out there running, so let us know if you will be there so we can say hello! 

Tenant Tip: Financial Fitness Day!

On March 31, 2012 from 10am-2pm, the Seattle-King County Asset Building Collaborative and several community agencies – including Solid Ground – are partnering to provide a day of workshops related to finances, money management and other community resources such as job search, housing, personal budgeting and more. Financial Fitness Day will take place at the Rainier Community Center at 4600 38th Avenue S, Seattle, WA 98118.

The event will feature a series of free workshops as well as one-on-one help with filing income taxes, credit and mortgage counseling, financial advising, and information on receiving public benefits.

This is a great resource fair for renters interested in getting a free credit report, free counseling on debt management, and credit repair tips. It can help renters understand the information that is often listed on screening reports and know what to expect when completing rental housing applications.

It will also be a useful event for homeowners seeking mortgage counseling and resources as well as anyone looking for financial tips, business startup and consumer rights information, and much more. The flyer below provides a list of participating organizations and some of the services that will be offered.Financial Fitness Day, 3/31/12, 10am-2pm

 

She was always by my side / Ella siempre estaba a mi lado

Solid Ground’s February Groundviews newsletter and Big Picture News insert highlight our agency’s Language Access work. The lead article below shows Language Access in action via our HSS (Housing Stabilization Services). To read past issues of Groundviews, please visit our Publications webpage.

Laura Torres in her building lobby with her Case Manager, Pamela Calderón

Laura Torres in her building lobby with her Case Manager, Pamela Calderón

She was always by my side
(Interview interpreted & article translated by Pamela Calderón)

When Laura Torres moved to Seattle from Mexico City, she dreamed of a better life for herself, her baby boy and her husband. But eight years later and now separated from her husband, she desperately needed a stable place to live. “It all started when I lost my job,” Laura says. “I was living with my siblings, but we had a lot of problems – and my son and I needed our own space.”

Through her health clinic, Laura learned about Housing Stabilization Services (HSS), a Solid Ground program that provides financial and housing search support to Seattle-area people who would very likely lose their housing without the assistance. HSS helps people either hold onto housing or find a place to live, and prevents the spiral into homelessness.

HSS also highlights our Language Access efforts in action: Through HSS, Laura connected with a Spanish-speaking case manager, Pamela Calderón, who is originally from Bolivia. Laura says, “I always try to speak a little English, and I always ask questions, because I like it and I want to learn it.” However, when it came to the stressful process of searching for a place to live in a hurry, the opportunity to work with a case manager in her own language was invaluable.

“It is definitely not the same when you are getting help from a Spanish speaker than an English speaker, because working with an English speaker delays the process,” Laura explains. “I don’t understand English very well, and it is much easier to receive help with someone who speaks the same language.”

And beyond shared language, Laura is thankful for the cultural understanding Pamela was able to bring to to her situation. She tells Pamela, “You are Latina – you understand our needs. And being able to talk to you about my problems, you were able to help me.”

Laura says, “Once I was enrolled in the program, Pamela gave me a list of places that I could go and apply. She made sure that everything was fine; she did a good job. She was always by my side, helping me find a place.”

Pamela points out that Laura herself found the apartment she ended up moving into. Laura says,  “I was also doing my own housing search to find an affordable place with a good location so my son can be OK. The most important thing to me is to make sure that my son is fine and safe. So walking around, I found this place, and we really liked it.”

Laura now has a steady job with good hours. Her new housing is located in a brand-new, mixed-income apartment building with community spaces and resources for residents.

She says her 4th grade son is very happy: “We don’t have a computer, so here in the lobby area, he can access the computer. And they have games for him, and there is a gym. So he goes and takes advantage of it.”

Laura Torres in her apartment

Laura Torres in her apartment

Her apartment itself is spotless. “Look around,” she says. “Everything is really clean here and it is nice. I’m just very thankful for the program. It helped me a lot, and you can see the difference. I’m really happy here, but without Pamela, this wouldn’t have been possible.” ●

For more info, visit the HSS (Housing Stabilization Services) webpage, or contact Pamela Calderón at pamelac@solid-ground.org or 206.694.6841. 

Click more to view this article in Spanish!

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Tenant Tip: Help pass the Fair Tenant Screening Act!

Current Washington State Residential Landlord-Tenant Law creates some serious housing barriers for domestic violence (DV) survivors and people living on low incomes – such as a requirement to pay separate screening fees for each new rental application. The Fair Tenant Screening Act (FTSA), going before the WA State Senate Rules & Means Committee next Wednesday, February 14, would eliminate those barriers.

Contact your Senators to let them know that FTSA will help keep families housed and prevent homelessness! Below is a brief overview of FTSA by the Housing Alliance detailing why it is important for these bills to pass in order to address serious barriers to housing. You can follow this link to the Housing Alliance’s website and send an email to your senators to ask them to keep them moving in the Senate. You can also call 1.800.562.6000 and ask your senators to support SSB 6321 and SSB 6315.

Substitute Senate Bill 6315 (SSB 6315) will address the high cost of tenant screening reports by asking a work group of stakeholders, including tenants, landlords and tenant screening companies, to examine how to make a portable report work in Washington, or otherwise drive down the high cost of tenant screening reports. It will also require adverse action notices when a landlord decides to not rent to a tenant and will allow a tenant to know the criteria that will be used to determine whether or not to rent to them.

SB 6321 provides tenants who have prevailed in court and survivors of DV an opportunity to ask the court to seal or redact their record so that their future housing prospects will no longer unfairly be diminished.

Currently, the reports generated to landlords can contain misleading, unfair and inaccurate information. They report merely if a tenant has been named in an eviction lawsuit – not the outcome, not if the tenant was wrongfully named, not if the tenant prevailed, not if the tenant’s eviction was the result of a bank foreclosing on their landlord – but nothing about the circumstances is provided.

No matter the circumstances (even when they’ve won in court), a tenant is treated guilty for years to come and they struggle with a mark on their record that will cause many landlords to reject their application. This creates an extremely chilling effect on a process that ought to be accessible to tenants who want their day in court, and instead many are deterred from arguing their case while they meekly seek new housing to avoid the progression of an eviction lawsuit.

Additionally, domestic violence protection orders can be listed in these reports. It is unthinkable that this information could be considered viable in fairly determining someone as a good tenant.

For more detailed information on the Fair Tenant Screening Act and to ask questions or share your story related to these bills, you can leave a message on Solid Ground Tenant Services Advocacy line at 206.694.6748, or email your story to tenantwa@solid-ground.org.

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767 Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.

On an upward continuum

Our November 2011 Groundviews newsletter features a remarkable young woman who is both one of the first residents in permanent housing at our Brettler Family Place and is giving a year of service through our Washington Reading Corps. To read the entire issue, visit our Publications webpage.

Silhouette of a mother and daughter at a jungle gym

By serving with WA Reading Corps and living at Brettler Family Place, Penni Carter accesses services while giving back.

A year of AmeriCorps service can be challenging for anyone. Members of Solid Ground’s Washington Reading Corps, for instance, tutor children who read below grade level five days a week – and take intensive leadership development, social justice and anti-racism trainings – all while living on a subsistence stipend. For Penni Carter (not her real name), add to that the struggle of landing on her 27-year-old feet, fresh from escaping domestic violence.

“I was with her dad,” she says, pointing to her two-year-old cutie pie in a pink tutu. “And it was not a healthy relationship. I just got to the point where [I felt], ‘I can’t do this anymore and I don’t want my daughter to end up getting hurt.’ So, I packed up a suitcase and a stroller, and I literally just walked away from my life.”

Accessing support while giving back
Solid Ground provides a range of services that meet people at various stops along their life journeys. When Penni was preparing to exit her domestic violence shelter, she connected with a Solid Ground JourneyHome Case Manager who helped her apply for permanent housing in our new Brettler Family Place program. In addition to housing, Brettler provides support services and case management for formerly homeless families. People accepted to live there must have stable jobs or be moving in a positive direction in their work lives.

Penni moved into Brettler last spring. Soon after, she learned of Washington Reading Corps (WRC) through a coworker and became a volunteer in its summer program, Cities of Service. From there she applied for and was accepted to serve a year with WRC. Thus, she became both a program participant and an AmeriCorps Member with Solid Ground.

Opportunities for self-awareness & growth
Like all Solid Ground employees, Penni and her fellow WRC Members were sent to Undoing Institutional Racism (UIR) training, an intensive experience that unpacks the impacts of racism in America.

“I went to the UIR training and that was life changing,” Penni says. “Being white, you have to look at yourself. It is not them that is the problem, it is me, too. And I have mixed kids, so it really hits home. A lot of these things that people of color are expressing, my kids are going to go through, too. I’m a white woman, so it is hard to find that balance: How do I support them and not let them think that being white is bad or being black is bad?”

And Penni says the UIR training helped her learn how to talk to other white neighbors about racial dynamics and make better connections with neighbors of color.

“Talk about being an ally; Brettler is the best place to do it,” Penni says. “It is good to talk to my neighbors about white privilege, and let them know there are people out there that know it is real. It is going on and it is not OK – and you are not crazy for thinking it. It is nice to know that I can be an ally to so many people in my community that live just where I live.”

Building bridges at Brettler
Over the summer, Brettler Family Place turned from a location where 51 formerly homeless families live into a true community. Penni says, “This summer was incredible. A lot of families had just moved in, so they were just trying to get on their feet.”

One night, “Everybody was outside and I just said, ‘I really want to play kickball.’ We ended up having a big kickball game. I think the youngest kid playing was three, all the way up to the parents and everybody in between. People were sitting on the sides even if they didn’t want to play. We had wheelbarrow races and jump rope and handstand contests – just fun stuff. And all the moms got together and everybody watched everybody else’s kids.”

From this stable sense of community, Penni has started to rebuild her life and imagine her new future. “Last year during my internship, I learned so much,” she says. “I definitely want to do my second year in WRC, then I want to go back to school. I want to either be a teacher or work with DV [domestic violence] abusers or inmates, and help them go through treatment, and realize, ‘Just because you did these things, you are not a bad person – but what do we need to do to help you not fall back into that pattern?’ ” 

Raised by a single mom in Section 8 housing, Penni’s experience could have been one of succumbing to generational patterns. But a continuum of Solid Ground programs supported her in finding stable housing, establishing a goal plan, and getting employment training, community service and leadership development that will help her family thrive.

For more information, please visit:
Brettler Family Place
Washington Reading Corps

Help save Magnuson Community Center!

Kids at summer nature programs (from Seattle.gov website)

While you can probably hear a half a dozen languages bubbling up during workshops at the Magnuson Community Center, what rises above them all is the laughter of neighborhood kids and youth having a great time.

Just down the street from Solid Ground’s Brettler Family Place and Sand Point Family Housing, the Center is a vital part of what brings stability and safety to this community.

But unfortunately, according to Magnuson Children’s Garden Committee Co-Chairs Cindy Hazard and Emily Bishton, the City of Seattle’s 2012 budget process has given the Magnuson Community Center a “2b” rating, which will result in “a drastic cutback of Magnuson Community Center’s open hours and staff time, and will make it impossible for it to offer the kind of great programs and special events that we have all come to love.”

The Center has played an important role in the lives of the families living in Solid Ground’s transitional and permanent housing at Sand Point. Currently almost 200 kids live there, and another 40 or so are expected when new units are built next year.

“The Community Center plays a vital role in helping our families break away from the cycle of homelessness. Kids spending time there are supervised, active and learning about social interactions — they are also meeting other kids from the surrounding neighborhood, and vice versa, which helps them recover from any problems being homeless has caused,” said Tamara Brown, Solid Ground’s Deputy Housing Director.

“It’s so important that we give these kids the same chance that our own kids have had — to participate in team sports, to have fun, to be safe — intervening now can prevent a repeat of cycling back into homelessness like their parents.”

Summer activities like the Center’s Rock the Park “truly helped to change the lives of the kids who attended,” said Joanna Tarr, Children’s Case Manager at Brettler Family Place. “It gave them a feeling of belonging to and pride in the park where they live, and something positive to do with their time. The camp gave them the opportunity to experience many different activities … they were able to bond with each other, form positive relationships, and have the staff as wonderful role models. The kids so looked forward to the camp and often told me how much they enjoyed it and the staff.”

Unless the Center’s rating is restored to at least “2a,” these transformational programs will be cut.

But it is not too late.

You can email or call the City Council Parks Chair Sally Bagshaw at sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov or 206.684.8801, and the Mayor’s office at Mike.Mcginn@seattle.gov or  206.684.4000, to tell them how you feel about Magnuson Community Center. Tell them which of their special events and programs you personally have been touched by. And ask them to restore Magnuson Community Center to at least a “2a” rating to help strengthen our community!

Tenant Tip: Changes to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act

Washington State capitol building

Washington State capitol building

Several sections of the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) recently changed and took effect as of July 22, 2011. The changes to these sections of the law came about through a consensus-based process between landlord groups and tenant advocates working with state legislators in passing this bill. Because of the consensus process, there are many more changes that tenant advocates would like to see made to the RLTA, however many of those changes did not take effect during the last legislative session.

The next several tenant tips will discuss these changes, give a brief overview of what they mean for tenants, and describe how they may be different from the laws prior to this bill passing.

Because the tenant tip is not legal advice and cannot be regarded as such, this general information can be used for tenants to learn about the law changes and understand how they may affect someone’s particular situation as well as what steps to take in asserting renters’ rights based on the law.

The law changes include:

  • new sections added to the RLTA .
  • language that was removed or added to existing sections.
  • clarifications to some definitions.

While several tenant tips to follow in the next few months will address each change and give more detailed information, tenants can access the state’s legislature website to read on Substitute House Bill 1266, which includes the changes to the RLTA.

The information contained in these Tenant Tips or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.

Help us make our CoHo Team match for Family Shelter!

The CoHo Team of Windermere Agents LogoThis past weekend, we had an awesome turnout at the Fremont Outdoor Movie! We raised $4,772.10 for our Family Shelter program, which provides vital emergency shelter and support services for homeless families. THANK YOU to all who came, and to the CoHo Team of Windermere Agents, event organizers for the past eight years, who are matching all donations dollar-for-dollar!
 
We are so close to our goal of raising $5,000 that CoHo will match all donations given online through Friday, August 5th! Go to support.solid-ground.org/COHO now to support Family Shelter and help us reach our goal! 
 
A big thank you also goes to Tutta Bella, QFC, Satay, Hawaiian Breeze Island Cuisine and Fainting Goat Gelato for donating gift cards to our raffle!
Fremont Outdoor Movie 2011

Solid Ground group before The Princess Bride screening

Foreclosure Fairness Act: Foreclosure mediation is now the law

The Foreclosure Fairness Act (HB 1362) was signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire on April 14, 2011, creating a foreclosure mediation program in Washington State. Mediation will give struggling homeowners the opportunity to meet with their lender to discuss options before losing their home and most valuable asset. This law will truly make a difference for thousands of homeowners in our state. Foreclosure mediation programs have been shown to be extremely effective in allowing families to save their homes. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Normandy Park) and had overwhelming support in the legislature.

Governor Christine Gregoire signs the Foreclosure Fairness Act

Governor Christine Gregoire signs the Foreclosure Fairness Act

Throughout the housing crisis, homeowners and housing counselors have repeatedly reported that banks and loan servicers do not answer the phone, lose homeowners’ information about loan modifications, and have different staff people from different offices talking to a homeowner. This new law will eliminate the problem of struggling homeowners being unable to get in touch with their lenders as they fight to stay in their homes.

“Approximately 45,000 families will receive notices of foreclosure this year, but we are providing new hope for many of them with a fair process and resources to help them explore every option available and keep their homes whenever possible,” said Rep. Tina Orwall.

Are you facing foreclosure? Unable to get your lender to respond? Want to know your options? Read on…

Washington State has a new law to prevent foreclosures.
As of July 22, 2011 you can now ask for a face-to-face meeting with your lender by requesting foreclosure mediation. To request a meeting with your lender, contact a housing counselor or attorney by calling 1.877.894.HOME (4663).

What is foreclosure mediation?
Foreclosure mediation is a process where a neutral, third-party mediator assists the homeowner and the lender to reach a fair, negotiated agreement.

Why request mediation?
If you have not been able to get in touch with your lender, you can now request a face-to-face meeting to discuss alternatives to foreclosure. During mediation, the lender is required to negotiate with you in good faith.

Who is eligible?
• Homeowners who are in default on their mortgage and have not yet received
   the Notice of Trustee’s Sale are eligible
• Homeowners who live in owner-occupied properties

How can I request mediation?
Foreclosure mediation must be requested by a housing counselor or an attorney on behalf of a homeowner. To find a housing counselor, call 1.877.894.HOME (4663).

How much does it cost?
The homeowner and the lender each pay a $200 fee for the mediation. The fee must be paid prior to the mediation.

Share your Story!
The foreclosure mediation law was passed because struggling homeowners shared their stories with lawmakers. Poverty Action is collecting stories from community members like YOU! Are you facing foreclosure? Having trouble with payday lenders? In danger of losing benefits like TANF or Disability Lifeline? Share your story and help lawmakers understand the issues Washingtonians are facing. For more information contact Poverty Action at 1.866.789.7726 or visit the Statewide Poverty Action Network website.

More information

Tenant Tip: Legislative advocacy

Tenant Services is part of a group of Housing Advocates working to help shape policy and decision making at the city, county and state levels in order to make changes in housing laws impacting thousands of tenants in Washington State. Our biggest focus is to address and eliminate housing barriers that many individuals and families face.

Our legislative agenda priorities are:

  • Change the law to protect individuals who are denied housing due to wrongful and unlawful evictions on their records.
  • Eliminate repeated costly application and screening fees that force tenants with low incomes to choose substandard rentals or prevent them from getting housing.
  • Address an alarming concern that domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault survivors are illegally denied housing based on their status as survivors.

We are happy to discuss these issues in detail with community members who are interested in becoming involved in our advocacy efforts and who want to learn more about how they can share their stories to help change the laws. While our advocacy efforts are strong and we are working directly with state legislators and community advocates, the most influential stories are from individuals who have been and are still being denied housing and want to voice their concerns.

Tenants who are interested in sharing their stories with legislators can contact Solid Ground’s Tenant Services staff directly to learn more about our legislative advocacy work and ask questions about how they can become involved. Our program can help prepare individuals to share their stories and engage legislators in listening to all tenants who face these issues.

Contact our direct advocacy line at 206.694 6748 and leave a brief message with your information and how you have faced barriers to housing. You can also email us at: tenantwa@solid-ground.org to find out more about the different ways to become involved.

You can’t always do it alone

Faustina Robinson, a former participant in Solid Ground’s Seattle Housing Stabilization Services, shared her story with us for our May 2011 Groundviews newsletter. For more information on Seattle Housing Stabilization Services, visit www.solid-ground.org/Programs/Housing/Stabilization-Sea.

Faustina Robinson in the courtyard of her apartment building

Faustina Robinson in the courtyard of her apartment building

During the two years that Faustina Robinson lived in her car with her cat, there were two things that helped her keep perspective. First, she says, “I had some years in social work – as a counselor for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. It put me on the other side, so to speak.” She asked herself, “‘What would I tell that client?’ I also heard their voices; I became the student of the people that at one time I had helped. I was learning from their experiences.”

And secondly, “I’m a filmmaker, so I was engaging my art even when I was living in my car. I took interviews of people, took pictures, I had release forms signed. I transcended into this other personality, and that allowed me to look at a larger picture.”

She says, “Living in your car, it’s very survivable – and so it can become a way of life.” During one stretch, while broken down at a highway rest area for 92 days, she connected with others who were also “camping” there. “Out of that experience developed this little community. We realized we were not alone, and we began to find ways to assist each other.”

A turning point

Thanks to her new friends, Faustina eventually found the strength to face facts: “I had been in complete denial. I kept thinking, ‘You can’t be homeless. You do have a little bit of money coming in. You can stay in a motel if you want to. You have a roof over your head. You’re really intelligent.’ I was rationalizing my way through the experience. But I was still homeless!”

However, navigating out of homelessness wasn’t easy. She says, “I had taken all the necessary steps – contacted all the social services, shelters, transitional housing. There’s always some snafu, strange policies. You have to call at a certain time, twice a day.” And with no reliable phone, it didn’t work for her. Finally, she asked her friends to rope-tow her car and park her right outside a housing agency.

She says, “I only had to do it once. I said, ‘I can’t call you twice every day, so I’m just gonna walk in twice a day and let you know I’m still homeless. And if you want me, I’m right out there on the side street!” Laughing, she says, “That got me a really quick appointment! And that was the turning point that got me off the street.”

As a person living with disabilities, Faustina did qualify for and eventually moved into a Seattle Housing Authority apartment – but her journey to stability wasn’t over. She says that by the time she contacted Solid Ground, “It revealed that I was dealing with a lot of issues I had not acknowledged. I have a history of depression. But when I was homeless for those two years, not one day was I depressed. I couldn’t understand that!

“One doctor said there are personality types that when faced with certain kinds of stress, it releases hormones that almost produce a euphoric feeling. So I had been sucking on that adrenaline rush for two years – and when I got the apartment, the first thing that happened was I crashed. There were days I couldn’t even roll out of bed. It happened so quickly.

“I wasn’t taking care of myself or my day-to-day needs; I wasn’t paying my bills. I got behind in my rent; I needed housing assistance. I was going through a number of challenges, because DSHS [was considering] eliminating GA-U [now called Disability Lifeline]. I filed an appeal, so my benefits didn’t stop – but the psychological and emotional stress of facing eviction and loss of some financial support – it had me in rare form.”

Leave your baggage at the door

After calling Solid Ground but not connecting with resources right away, an attorney at Housing Justice Project contacted our Seattle Housing Stabilization Services on Faustina’s behalf – a program that provides case management and support to people at imminent risk of housing loss. “Within a week,” Faustina says, “Sukanya contacted me.”

Working with Sukanya made a world of difference. “One, she believed in me. And she didn’t patronize me. She valued my input and respected my own experiences and perception in the matter. So I felt like I was making a contribution to my own welfare – and that empowered me.” Faustina also learned it’s OK to seek support. She says, “When I need assistance, I really do need to ask for assistance. You can’t always do it alone. And there’s no shame in that. I had been always the one helping others, and now I needed help.

“I also had to accept that I had made poor choices in some cases. But, you forgive yourself, and then you move on. Leave your baggage at the door. And it’s OK! Extend the same compassion I had for the people I was working with towards my own self so I could heal. And she helped me do that. Solid Ground helped me do that.

“I made a promise to myself: I am so fortunate to have this space, and someone helped me, and I wanted to honor the gift, the assistance. So I volunteer my time. I’ve gotten back into my writing and my filmmaking, and I’ve been working on a number of projects. I do all the media [pro bono] for JusticeWorks. And do you know, I’m doing much better now – I’m in a much better space financially, emotionally, spiritually – than I was! Sometimes when you can’t do it for yourself, it’s OK to do it for others.”

For more information on Seattle Housing Stabilization Services, visit www.solid-ground.org/Programs/Housing/Stabilization-Sea.

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