Winter 2015 Groundviews: ‘We never gave up’

Below is the lead story of our Winter 2015 Groundviews newsletter. To read the entire newsletter online, please visit our Groundviews webpage.

Today, Alena Rogers lives happily in permanent housing with her two boys, now 18 and nearly 5 years old, and she recently started a full-time graduate program in Couples & Family Therapy at Seattle’s Antioch University. But just five years ago, she was in a very different place. In her own words, Alena shares her powerful story and her experiences working with JourneyHome Case Manager Victoria Meissner and Housing Advocate Becky Armbruster to get back to housing stability.

Alena Rogers, JourneyHome program participant, with her  two boys, Brian (left) &  Gabriel (center), in 2010

Alena Rogers, JourneyHome program participant, with her two boys, Brian (left) & Gabriel (center), in 2010

In 2009 I entered a court-ordered treatment program after getting into trouble. While there, I came to understand that I could not go back and live with any of the people that I had been living with, or I would not stay sober. So I heard about a shelter in Seattle and was able to get in there. After completing their 14-month program, I went into their transitional housing program. However, they seemed unable to help me with my quest for permanent housing, so I searched for resources on my own and found Solid Ground.

Being homeless is very stressful. In transitional housing, I was grateful for the place I had, but having two children and a clock ticking every day really took a toll on me.

I was constantly stressed out as each day wound down and took me closer to the day I would have to leave, knowing I still didn’t have anywhere to go. I ended up leaving there and moving into a modified garage. And I’m thankful for that. But that also took a toll. I had two boys in a very small space; the only thing to cook with was a hotplate; there was a drafty garage door and cement floor. It was very cold.

I was going to school, working, and trying to hold my home together – and I was struggling. My younger son was having a really hard time with the change and had some behavioral problems. My teen was also in college at the time – doing Running Start. We were both struggling to focus, and I nearly dropped out. But I communicated what was going on to my instructors, received support, and made it through.

It feels great that even when things were so challenging, both myself and my son were able to complete our degrees, and we never gave up.

Solid Ground/JourneyHome was different than the transitional housing program, because they actually had resources. The other program said housing was not priority – living in Christian community was. That’s all fine, but when time is up and a person that has been experiencing homelessness is still left without permanent housing – what good is that?

Victoria had a plan for me laid out the day we met – doing budgets, getting credit reports, working on repairing and improving credit. All of those things, combined with actual resources for not only temporary funding but also landlords that will rent to people like me – with criminal backgrounds and not so great credit – it’s what I needed.

One thing I really liked about Victoria is she always treated me as an equal. She was really encouraging. She let me know that my criminal record wasn’t as bad as I thought. Sometimes people will look at you – you’re a recovering addict, you’re homeless, you’ve got kids, and you’ve got a criminal history – and they speak down to you or like you’re not intelligent. Victoria was never like that. I always felt like she respected me.

There were two main barriers I faced: One, my criminal history. And two, having enough cash for move-in. What I learned from Victoria was that private landlords are more likely to rent to people with histories like mine, and screening companies at corporately-run apartment complexes will automatically deny us.

So I spent time on Craigslist sending emails to private landlords, telling them my history up front so I wasn’t wasting time and money doing applications that would be denied. I was able to use the tools I learned from Solid Ground to find an apartment on my own. Once I did that, Becky was able to help me with the first and last months’ rent and deposit, and subsidized my rent for several months through a partnering agency, so that I could get stable.

Alena at home

Alena at home

Moving into my own place – it was like a huge weight off my shoulders. Being somewhere that is mine, and I don’t have to worry about time running out – I can just say that I am a lot happier now.

I’ve been doing drug and alcohol case management work for about three years now. Having come from a place of being an addict, being homeless – it helps in my work. People feel that I can understand where they are and what they are experiencing.

I also volunteer, doing something I call “Operation Help the Homeless.” I gather items from people: clothing, blankets, food, etc. and go out into the streets and give to people sleeping rough. I find this important, because homelessness isn’t going away – and often people on the streets are pretty much ignored most of the year outside of the holidays.

So I love to get out there and let people know that we care.

My main piece of advice to people experiencing homelessness is: Be persistent and resourceful, and don’t be afraid to share your struggle with others. It’s okay to ask for help. And be patient – it’s so hard! Some of these housing lists take years, but the right thing is out there. Be your own best advocate!

Visit the JourneyHome webpage for more info on the program.

Northwest Children’s Fund & Solid Ground aim to help children in need

Next year, Northwest Children’s Fund (NWCF) celebrates three decades of helping at-risk youth, healing abused children, and strengthening fragile families. In 1985, the organization started with two goals: helping children in need and growing social service philanthropy in the community. In the 30 years since, NWCF has evolved into one of the Northwest’s premier grant-making organizations, igniting the philanthropic spirit and granting nearly 14 million donor dollars to effective agencies who share its mission of ending child abuse and neglect.NWCF 30th Anniv Partner seal

Their pursuit to end violence against children includes finding and investing in the most effective prevention and intervention programs in the Northwest. They also seek out organizations that impact different points in the complex cycle of abuse and neglect and give them the resources they need to keep children safe.

As part of their milestone celebration, NWCF has designated 30 past grant recipients as “NWCF Anniversary Partners.” Solid Ground is one of those agencies, selected for its longstanding partnership with NWCF in the fight for better lives for all of our community’s children.

What does it take to be selected as an Anniversary Partner? “First and foremost, we looked for agencies with whom we have had long, consistent and significant relationships as grant recipients. Collectively, these 30 agencies had received over 300 NWCF grants, representing approximately one-third of the funds we have distributed to date,” says NWCF’s Catherine Beard. “It is important to us that we can say with confidence that the designated organizations are current partners with NWCF in the fight against child abuse and neglect.” Many of the other partners are long-time collaborators with Solid Ground, including:

NWCF has granted over $175,000 to Solid Ground since 1993, primarily supporting programs that help families navigate through homelessness and back to stability. Since 2002, they have focused on the Broadview Shelter & Transitional Housing program. The Broadview Shelter provides a safe haven for homeless women and children in a secure, confidential facility. Most Broadview residents are domestic violence survivors, and two-thirds are children. To help restore a sense of safety, normalcy and structure, Broadview offers specialized services for children including health screenings, school enrollment, computer access, homework groups, tutors, recreational outings and age-appropriate social groups.

“Since this program addresses the special needs of children who have experienced homelessness and domestic violence, we feel this really fits in with our mission – to end the cycle of child abuse and neglect,” says Catherine. Broadview’s commitment to provide safe housing and help families surviving domestic violence cope with the trauma of displacement and abuse is part of why NWCF has continuously supported this vital program over the years – because every child deserves to be safe, healthy and loved.

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! 

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