First tenants move in at Brettler Family Place

If you listened carefully this morning, you could hear the soft padding of young feet in jammies in the hallways at Brettler Family Place. Tea kettles whistled and warm voices called “wake up,” where once the drone of air compressors and the pop of impact drivers filled the soundscape.

Kelly, our first resident!

For the past year, the sounds and sights of construction have dominated this little hillside on the western edge of Magnuson Park. Now, homemaking has taken over. Because yesterday, the first dozen families moved from shelter and transitional housing facilities across the region into their new, permanent, affordable homes at Brettler Family Place.

“This is the beginning of something great for me,” said Joyce, who called her car ‘home’ not too long ago. She was all smiles as she approached her apartment for the first time, its third floor views extending across Magnuson Park to Lake Washington and the Cascade mountains.

Monday afternoon, six new families received their orientation by staff at Solid Ground, who developed the 52-unit Brettler Family Place, and Mercy Housing, who are managing the property. They went over ground rules and guidelines for making this new community a safe, welcoming, environmentally-friendly one. For some, it was the first permanent housing they have ever had; for others, the first in a long time.

Orientation with staff of Solid Ground and Mercy Housing

The first 12 families got their keys on March 7. Within a few weeks, 51 units will be filled with formerly homeless families. In the context of the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, this represents significant progress: Within a few weeks, homelessness will be over for these 51 families. The supportive services on site will help ensure that they maintain their new position on solid ground.

And all around King County, as these families exit the facilities they have been living in, other families anticipate moving into now-vacant slots at transitional housing programs. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of candidates for those programs.

Throughout the spring, the landscaping at Brettler Family Place will take root – and the yard, which still reminds you of a construction zone, will fill in. The Lowry Community Center will open to host casual get-togethers and formal events. Kids will ride their bikes in the park. And life will start to settle down from the crisis-driven cycle of homelessness to something more even-keeled. From beautiful buildings will come a vibrant community.

Landscapers still working at Brettler Family Place

The process of transforming a formal military airfield, one of the nation’s foremost “swords in ploughshares” conversions, will come a step closer to fulfilling its promise of 200 housing units for formerly homeless folks. Sometime in the next year, Solid Ground hopes to launch the final phase of the development, constructing additional family units as well as housing for veterans and other singles.

When the Naval Station Puget Sound was first listed for base closure in the mid-1990s, there was a tremendous outpouring of ideas about how to best use the remarkable facilities and setting. Throughout a multi-year, city-wide planning process, the Sand Point Liaison Committee – under the leadership of former City Council member Jeannette Williams – helped the city craft a plan that incorporated recreational, cultural, educational and other uses. The notion of housing formerly homeless people on the site was proposed early on in the planning process. While there was some trepidation at first, it was soon roundly accepted by the Committee, which represented most of the community clubs and neighborhood organizations in the NE part of the city, as well as other park stakeholders.

Living in transitional housing is not the best time to collect lots of stuff

I had the privilege of serving as the alternate representative for the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness to the Liaison Committee. In that role I saw how initial fears about locating housing for formerly homeless people in the park transformed into concerns about how we could work together to build the best possible community for these people. Since Spring 2000, when families and singles first moved in to repurposed Navy buildings, neighbors from the surrounding community have invested their time, talent and love in making the Sand Point Community Housing program successful. Individuals and groups from “up the hill” continue to help shape and support this growing community.

But for the families who moved in yesterday, that is all just old business. For parents like Justine, their sights are set on the future.

While Justine thinks about a better future, Analiyah thinks about a nap.

Justine is a 20-year-old single mom, who, along with her young daughter Analiyah, moved into her first real home yesterday. “I’ve never had my own permanent housing before,” Justine said. Kicked out of her family as a teen, she’s had a handful of challenging years. But now, Brettler Family Place is giving her the stability to pursue a nursing career. She’s almost finished with her prerequisites at a local community college. Her sense of hope, and that of her new neighbors, is as powerful as the promise of spring. And like the blooms that will soon overtake the park, new life is shooting up at Brettler Family Place.

Townhomes, views to Lake Washington

New fitness and dance studio holds benefit for Partners in Caring

Fresh Fitness and Dance logoRemember that New Year’s resolution you made to get in shape? To patronize local businesses more? To try Zumba? To support good work in your community?

Fit to Feed is your answer!

Fresh Fitness & Dance is a brand new dance and fitness studio right here in Wallingford, and as a way to welcome our community they are forming a partnership with Solid Ground’s Partners in Caring to benefit food insecure seniors and adults living with disabilities in our community.

Fresh Fitness & Dance is donating to Partners in Caring the proceeds of their 6:30pm Zumba class on Friday, March 4 – as well as 100% of the membership enrollment fees for any new members referred by Solid Ground who sign up during the weekend of March 4–6! What a great opportunity to accomplish your goals while supporting Solid Ground programs.

Where: Fresh Fitness & Dance
4430 Corliss Ave N (behind Kabul restaurant)
Seattle, WA 98103

When: Friday, March 4th at 6:30pm
Why: Because you like to move it, move it!
Cost: Just $10 for the drop-in class! AND – if you sign up as a member, your drop-in class is free!!!

Because classes do fill up, please RSVP by Tuesday, March 1 to Ugochi Alams, Partners in Caring Program Supervisor.

If you can’t make it to the March 4 class, you can still support Partners in Caring by making a donation through their webpage. Thanks!

Families of the incarcerated coming together for change

JustServe AmeriCorps is inspired and supported by many grassroots organizations working for justice and safety in our community. One of those groups is the Black Prisoners’ Caucus, a group of incarcerated men organizing within Washington State Reformatory, Monroe.

“Men of Vision” by Monica Stewart, from the Black Prisoners’ Caucus website

Founded in 1972, the Black Prisoners’ Caucus leads workshops and dialogue inside the prison for personal and community transformation. The BPC also hosts an annual Criminal Justice Summit at Monroe, bringing community leaders into the prison to discuss the root causes of crime and violence, and solutions and alternatives to incarceration and recidivism.

On Saturday, August 14th, 2010 the Black Prisoners Caucus will bring families of the incarcerated together at the Evergreen campus in Tacoma, to connect with each other and with others who are working for social change.

The Families Summit will…

  • Bring loved ones and families of the incarcerated together with community leaders and organizations for available resources, so they can begin to collectively organize and unify as one.
  • Offer a platform for families to address personal issues and experiences with other families, community leaders and organizations in order to raise awareness.
  • Educate families and the community on issues that exist within the criminal justice system that affect the lack of treatment services, rehabilitation programs, proper education and job training availability – all of which contributes to a high recidivism rate among newly released offenders, while connecting families to organizations that provide resources, support and family assistance.
  • Establish an online network (I.C.O.N.) comprised of families, support groups and organizations to assist in their efforts to unite, organize, advocate and collectively work towards a more humane justice system that works for families of the incarcerated and the community as a whole.

Food, childcare and transportation will be provided.

Here are three ways that you can support this work:

1) Spread the word about the Families Summit to your contacts in the community.

2) Get involved in the August 14th organizing committee, helping to get food, drink and other supplies donated for the event.

3) If you have access to a car, sign up to be a volunteer driver helping to transport families to the event.

For more information, please email bpc@blackprisonerscaucus.org, call Cammie Carl at 206.619.4655, or call Sherrell Severe at 206.937.2701.

Local community organizer needs support at Immigration Pardons Hearing on June 10th!

If you haven’t seen this video yet…please take a minute to learn about Giday “Dede” Adhanom, a local community organizer who is facing deportation (based on a conviction that she received when she was a young adult):

Carpools will be going from Seattle to support Dede at her Pardons Hearing in Olympia, on Thursday morning, June 10th.

I have worked very closely with Dede over the past two years, and she is an extremely talented, committed and inspiring woman. She has dedicated years of her life to serving her community, including serving at the Village of Hope from 2008 to present, helping people who are coming out of incarceration to find jobs and housing. Dede has also been a powerful and thoughtful member and leader over the past two years within the JustServe AmeriCorps team. Dede is also the mother of two beautiful and happy little girls, and she is due to have a baby boy in June.

Dede has given so much to our community, and now she needs our support.

If you can come out to support Dede in Olympia on June 10th, please contact JustServe AmeriCorps at 206.957.4779 or the Village of Hope at 206.937.2701.

For more information about the federal legislation impacting Dede and others in our community, see this PBS report.

When the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, we all lose

It turns out that reducing economic inequality can reduce a whole range of social problems, from teenage pregnancy and youth violence, to heart disease and depression.”

This is a quote from a recent article by Seattle Times columnist, Jerry Large. He goes on to say that this intuitively appealing idea is actually backed up by hard data, the research behind which is the subject of a new book, The Spirit Level, written by two British researchers, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

By including this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jerry reminds us that this notion of economic inequality negatively impacting everyone in a society is also not a new idea. I enjoy being reminded of great insights from our nation’s most inspired visionaries. On the other hand, it makes me sad that an idea that seems so obvious, and was articulated so powerfully more than 50 years ago, seems so absent in our day-to-day public discourse and societal priorities.

Thanks, Jerry, for bringing to my attention the research that puts data behind this idea and transforms it from compelling idea to compelling fact. Spread the word! As these British researchers have concluded after evaluating 30 years of research, as well as doing some of their own, we have squeezed all the quality of life improvements we can from pure economic growth. In business speak, we’re beyond the point of diminishing marginal returns. Continue reading

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