Saluting a local hero: Len Langford

Housing Advocate to the Stars, Len Langford!

Housing Advocate to the Stars, Len Langford!

Editor’s note: We don’t often take the time to acknowledge people on the frontlines of Solid Ground’s efforts to help people thrive. Last week one of our best and brightest retired, Housing Advocate Len Langford. If you care about ending poverty, helping people access affordable housing, and fighting the good fight, you should read what one of his colleagues and dear friends, Karen Ford, had to say about Len. God bless you, Len. Wherever you go next, we know you will shine!

It was my great honor to sit on Len Langford’s interview committee over 14 years ago. Immediately his intelligence and humor shone through and we were all
enchanted. Len was more than qualified for the housing advocate position with his extensive and worldly experience but he also possessed something more intangible – a rare charm that we sensed both clients and landlords would relate to – and they did.

Len was JourneyHome’s first in-house housing advocate, and through the years he steadily and skillfully housed hundreds of homeless families, many with significant barriers to housing that he would somehow convince even the most wary landlord to take a chance on. So now Len is in theory…retiring… at least from Solid Ground! But he has done this retiring thing before (retired Navy Vietnam veteran ((2 tours of duty)), retired Coast Guard officer, retired long-term care facility director/administrator, retired Seattle Housing Authority manager), so given what Len has already done, I’m looking forward to seeing what amazing thing he will decide to do in the next chapter of his life. Whatever it is, he will do it with the same compassion, wisdom, humor and care that he has so graciously shared with all the clients, landlords and colleagues he has worked with.

Len’s JourneyHome email signature says “Housing Advocate to the Stars,” and he always will say humbly that he “is here to serve” (and he does!), but in truth, it is Len who is a brilliant, unique and shining star. Thank you Len for all you are – I, and so many others, love you dearly!

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:

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12-year-old documentarian tackles homelessness

It’s the morning after the One Night Count of homeless people in our community. I volunteered, along with numerous Solid Ground staff and volunteers, and hundreds of other folks throughout King County. We walked, arguably, every street, investigated every park bench and green space, because we want to get a more realistic picture of who is homeless in our community.

It’s a very adult pursuit, one that is sobering and, frankly, somewhat depressing. For all we are doing in Seattle-King County to end homelessness, and we are doing an amazing job developing new affordable housing and program models, we still have thousands of people living in cars, under bridges, in the lobbies of post offices.

But somehow this little movie gives me a glimmer of hope. It was put together by 12-year-old Leo Pfiefer from Salmon Bay Middle School. Leo developed this project as an entry for C-SPAN’s StudentCam documentary contest, “an annual national video documentary competition that encourages students to think seriously about issues that affect our communities and our nation.”

It gives me hope to think that 12-year olds are looking at the issue of homelessness and asking: What do we need to do to solve this problem?

It gives me hope to think about the 11- to 13-year olds I recently interviewed from our Penny Harvest program who are not just asking good questions, they are raising money and granting it to organizations that are making a difference. Keep an eye out here for more from those amazing young people.

I, for one, hope Leo goes far in this competition. We need more young people asking tough questions to the people in power. And we need them to help us formulate better answers.

still from Leo's video

Skins, interiors & Community Center at Sand Point

All of the buildings on our Sand Point campus are now framed in, including the Community Center. Brick and siding is progressing on the 52 units of affordable housing for formerly homeless families, while interiors are making great progress as well. Some of the townhomes have cabinets installed and are feeling nearly finished! The apartments are still getting wired, insulated and buttoned up with wallboard. It is a real hive of activity, with completion date about four months away! Enjoy the photos…  And if you want to support the project, go to our website and click on the orange donate button! Thanks!

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Composite view of apartments from the west

Progress lagging in 10-year plan

“Midway through the city of Portland and Multnomah County’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, an impressive number of people have been housed through a coordinated, countywide effort,” writes Joanne Zuhl, staff writer on the Street Roots blog.Portland's 10-year plan

“Likewise, however, an impressive number of people have arrived newly homeless to the streets through a national disaster.

“Five years into the plan, which promotes ‘housing first’ with supportive permanent housing programs, more than 7,000 homeless households have moved from the streets into housing (in Portland). At the same time, the engines of recession are driving more people to the streets for the first time in their lives.”

The numbers might not match up exactly, but you could run a search and replace on Zuhl’s piece, substituting Seattle for Portland, and pretty much make the same case: For all the good we are doing as a community creating more housing first and permanent housing opportunities (and we are accomplishing a lot there), there are still more newly homeless folks than our established community services can accomodate. Increasingly, the new homeless are families.

The 10-year plans have been integral to Federal funding of homeless services. But Zuhl reports that the Fed’s approach is changing

“On June 21, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which oversees the 10-year plan program, will unveil the new Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, which in process and policy supplants the 10-year plan concept. The new plan, set on a five-year agenda, will focus on not only ending chronic homelessness, but on a wider population, including veterans, families, youths and children, setting a ‘path to ending all types of homelessness.’ That’s a major expansion, from the federal viewpoint, on the 10-year agenda and one driven by accumulating statistics that the streets are filling up with families.”

Paul Carlson, regional coordinator for the Interagency Council on Homelessness based in Seattle, told Zuhl that he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the report until it was released, and that it was unclear what additional resources would be dedicated to address family and youth homelessness.

Hopefully, more than just shuffling the federal deck, the new plan will not only bring additional resources to bear, but also respond to the increasing number of newly homeless in need of additional emergency services.

Laying the foundation for a better future

Cool: These photos were taken at the construction site of the new Brettler Family Place family housing that Solid Ground is building at Sand Point/Magnuson Park. For more information on the project, or to get involved, go to our Sand Point Capital Campaign webpage.

From the south side of the site looking north by northeast. The green building on the left is Santos Place, housing for single men and women, which is at the north end of the building site. You can also see the new sports fields at Magnuson Park and a sliver of Lake Washington.


This view looks east by southeast over the foundations to the new baseball field and wetlands. The restorative properties of the location are a major feature of the new housing, which will accept people out of emergency shelter and transitional housing, and give them the opportunity to stay even after they graduate from needing service-rich transitional housing.



Sand Point Housing construction update 3-11-10

Cool: Site prep and modest excavation proceeds at Sand Point, where Solid Ground is building 106 new units of affordable housing for formerly homeless folks. Initially, we are building family housing units and a Community Center on the site of the old naval bowling alley. Later, housing for singles and veterans will be constructed closer to Sand Point Way. Enough talking, here’s some pics…

Construction site from balcony of Santos Place singles housing

Construction site from balcony of Santos Place singles housing

Diggin the hillside

Diggin' the hillside

View looking east from the parking bulkhead

View looking east toward Lake Washington from the parking bulkhead

Safety First

Keeping our priorities straight!

Turning homeless people away

Not Cool: Solid Ground has a great track record with the people we serve, supporting them in reaching their goals for stable housing, managing nutrition, and making a better life. But what about the folks we turn away?

In 2009, our Family Shelter program served 108 families (399 individuals) and turned away 5,839 requests for shelter. 804 requests were denied in July 2009 alone!sign in window showing the Shelter is FULL

In 2009, our Broadview Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing program turned away 5,658 requests for shelter from women and their kids, the majority of whom are fleeing from domestic violence.

Our Sand Point Family Housing does not track turnaways, but the other turnaway numbers could be combined to make this general statement:

In 2009, Solid Ground Housing programs were forced to turn away more than 10,000 requests for shelter.

We are careful to phrase this as “requests for shelter” were turned away, because we do not have the ability to verify if the requests are unduplicated. So, while it would not be accurate to say that 10,000 households were turned away, it would certainly be fair to say that however you analyze the number, it reflects WAY TOO MANY people for whom there is no room at the inn.

Solid Ground is just one provider of emergency shelter and transitional housing in our community. You can bet the various programs at the Y, CCS, DESC and everyone else is turning folks away at similar rates.

Clearly our community needs to find a way to do more to respond to the entrenched epidemic that is homelessness.

Prevention trumps shelter and long-term housing

The disagreements between some homeless folks & their organizations (SHARE/WHEEL, Nickelsville and Real Change) and the officials of the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness continue to grow in intensity and fervor. You can read about the “Declaration of a State of Emergency” on the SHARE/WHEEL site, and Judy Lightfoot’s  article in Crosscut covers the debate in succinct terms while offering some fascinating insight on the community organizing efforts in the homeless camp. 


illustration by Rainer Waldman Adkins

But, in all the debate about which is more critically needed, emergency shelter or long-term housing, we have lost track of quiet efforts at preventing homelessness that have been amazingly successful at keeping folks off the streets and out of the system. Continue reading

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