A journey to permanent housing

JourneyHome Case Manager Katie Showalter shared this story of a family’s successful journey in Solid Ground’s staff newsletter. We’re reprinting here with her permission.

I have a young lady on my caseload who has weathered a tremendous amount of trauma, DV (domestic violence) and barriers to housing. She has a degenerative bone disease that will not get better and is greatly impacted by that; she is unable to work due to her physical challenges. She has worked hard to try to access TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and Social Security benefits and has come up against denials again and again.

Anthony, Katie and the motel by Anthony

Anthony, Katie and the motel
by Anthony

JourneyHome (Solid Ground’s rapid rehousing and case management program) was recently able to afford her a hotel stay for herself and her young son. Prior to this stay, they were living in their car, which was then stolen; this left them on the street. When I visited them at the hotel, I brought a Project Cool backpack and school supplies for her son, Anthony. The 6-year-old first grader was eager to organize his supplies and talked about how excited he was to be attending the same school as his cousin.

I gave him a thank you card to write on or draw a picture for the folks that organized Project Cool school supplies. He drew a picture that I thought was of him and his cousin outside of his new school. But no; it turns out that he drew a picture of him and me outside of his new home, the motel. These moments remind me of why we do this work.

Affording his family the hotel stay stabilized them. Anthony’s mom was able to enroll him in school. For now, the hotel is his home until we can assist them in finding a landlord and new apartment.


Good news: Since this was written, Solid Ground Benefits Attorney Sara Robbins recently let me know the family’s TANF appeal went through and our client now has a cash grant! Thanks to Sara for her good work! And even more good news: Anthony and his family have moved into permanent housing!

Advertisements

Housing justice through housing search

Below is the Big Picture News insert from our Winter 2015 Groundviews newsletter. To read the entire newsletter or past issues, please visit our Groundviews webpage.

Stacey Marron, JourneyHome program Housing Advocate

Stacey Marron, JourneyHome program Housing Advocate

Solid Ground’s Housing Case Managers work with families like Alena Rogers’ – featured in our Groundviews main story –  helping them develop goals to overcome barriers to their housing stability. Meanwhile, our Housing Advocates act as liaisons between clients and potential landlords to get people into housing.

It’s a job made ever-more difficult by skyrocketing rents in the region. In Seattle, the average cost of a 1-bedroom unit is $1,412.

Over 60% of very low-income households (less than $26,250 annual income) in Seattle are “cost burdened” or pay more than 30% of their income to housing costs, the traditional measure of housing affordability.

“Most of what we do is try to get people back into market-rate housing, and we pay their move-in costs and short-term subsidies,” says Housing Advocate Stacey Marron, who has been with Solid Ground’s JourneyHome program for 11 years. “The hardest part about my job is that rent prices are really high and vacancy rates are really low, so landlords say, ‘why do I want to rent to your client – who barely makes any money and has a felony and an eviction – when somebody’s standing here in front of me with a checkbook ready to pay their deposit?’ It’s gotten much worse lately.”

In addition to rising costs, the homeless and low-income housing systems are all but overloaded.

With such high demand and limited resources for affordable housing, there can be long waits to access low-income housing programs.

Stacey says, “It’s much harder to get into any housing now – even shelter. A lot of times, people have been on waitlists for a really long time, and then they finally come to me. They hear of some housing program, and when they meet me they think I’m going to be showing them some place to live. They’ve been waiting for so long, so they’re very disappointed that our program is just the beginning of looking for housing. That’s hard, because I like to be the “Santa Claus” person. I want to give people things – and I hate being the bearer of bad news – and frequently, I am.”

With such a tight rental market, race and class issues come into play, particularly the intersection of race and involvement in the criminal justice system.

“I think it’s hard for many landlords to understand that you’re more likely to have had a brush with the law if you are African American or Latino, because people of color are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system. And then there’s a lot of discrimination against people with Section 8s [federally-funded vouchers that pay landlords to help subsidize renters],” Stacey says.

“I’ve been told: ‘Oh, I’ve rented to people with Section 8 before; they trashed my place.’ They think anyone who’s poor is going to be a crappy renter. It’s ironic because a lot of our clients are real neat freaks. I think it’s a coping mechanism: When people don’t have a lot of control of their situation, that’s one thing they can control.”

Housing Advocates face a myriad of challenges, but there is deep meaning in every success.

“Recently, I found housing for a wheelchair-bound client. What I love about Jamie [not his real name] is he’s just really the most positive person ever. Every time I saw him, he made me laugh,” Stacey recalls.

Even in the worst-case scenarios, he would see some silver lining.

“Finally, after being in a hotel for months, he got a place not far from Boeing Field. He loves that it has a view. He’s like, ‘I never told anybody this, but I really love watching airplanes.’ It’s funny: After so many months of homelessness, just watching the planes land makes him so happy.”

Visit the JourneyHome webpage for more info on the program.

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.

40 years of healthy food & food justice

Food Bank waiting 1993

Customers in line at the Fremont Food Bank, circa 1987; the Food Bank was transferred to FamilyWorks in 1999.

For more than 40 years, Solid Ground and its predecessor, the Fremont Public Association, have been feeding a hungry community and promoting food justice.

In 1974, our Fremont Food Bank was one of the first in Seattle’s north end. But it takes more than distributing food to fully address hunger.

So we started working with food banks, educators, chefs and businesses to help families develop skills to improve their food security and build lifelong healthy eating habits.

Solid Ground's Food Resources transports produce to local food banks throughout Seattle.

Solid Ground’s Food Resources transports produce to local food banks throughout Seattle.

In 1979, we partnered with the City of Seattle to create Food Resources, which developed into the backbone of the Seattle food bank system, providing administrative and technical support and transportation.

In the late 1980s we organized Lettuce Link to support P-Patch community gardeners and other backyard gardeners to grow produce for local food banks, and to provide seeds and vegetable starts for families who patronized food banks, supporting them in growing their own food – but the need for fresh produce was far greater.

Solid Ground now operates farms in the South Park neighborhood and at the Rainier Vista housing community.

Solid Ground now operates farms in the South Park neighborhood and at the Rainier Vista housing community.

So in the mid-1990s we partnered with community groups and spearheaded the Marra Farm Coalition to steward one of two remaining original farmland sites in Seattle at Marra Farm. There, hundreds of volunteers a year tend our Giving Garden to grow organic produce for people with limited access to nutritious produce, and we engage people in organic gardening, food justice and environmental stewardship. The Giving Garden produces about 25,000 pounds of fresh organic produce each year. In 2011, we opened a second urban growing operation adjacent to the Rainier Vista housing development, Seattle Community Farm, which provides education and inspiration while engaging the local community in growing fresh produce to support food security in Southeast Seattle.

Cooking Matters builds community through hands-on nutrition education.

Cooking Matters builds community through hands-on nutrition education.

During the mid-1990s we also launched a partnership with the national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength to bring Operation Frontline (now Cooking Matters) classes into our community. These six-week courses are presented at community-based partner organizations throughout Western Washington. They utilize volunteer chefs and nutritionists to support healthy cooking skills, nutrition education and food budgeting. Share Our Strength was also our partner in turning the Fremont Food Bank into the region’s first Super Pantry, which married emergency food and a full array of family support services. The Super Pantry eventually spun off as a stand-alone nonprofit, FamilyWorks.

In 2005, our nutrition education and skill-building efforts expanded into local schools through the Apple Corps, which uses national service teams to address the root causes of hunger and other health inequities in low-income communities.

Apple Corps Market Night at a local elementary school.

Apple Corps Market Night at a local elementary school.

The Giving Garden at Marra is our outdoor classroom. Students from Concord International Elementary School and other partner organizations learn about environmental issues in their community as they also learn to garden and prepare nutritious food. Our work in schools and with other community organizations is an important aspect of a growing movement towards a sustainable food system that is equitable for all.

We believe that ending hunger and creating equitable access to healthy food starts with breaking bread together. It draws on the experience and expertise of many organizations, community groups and individuals. And over 40 years, the education and access supported by Solid Ground helps empower people to achieve food justice.

For more information about this work and how you or your group can get involved, contact Gerald Wright, Hunger & Food Resources Director.

Cooking matters vol 2013

 

November 2012 Groundviews: “Thank you for all of your help along this journey”

Groundviews is Solid Ground’s quarterly newsletter for our friends and supporters. Below is our November 2012 lead story; visit our website to read the entire issue online.

November 2012 Groundviews cover image

November 2012 Groundviews cover

The impact of Solid Ground’s work is no more powerfully expressed than through the words of gratitude from the people who access our services. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we have collected here a tiny sampling of thank you notes passed on to program staff by people who have come to Solid Ground for a wide variety of reasons, and who were moved to let us know how their lives have positively changed through their experiences here.

To Family Shelter staff:
     “I would like to start off by thanking you for always treating me with the utmost respect, for always returning my phone calls, for the advocacy you provided for me when my voice wasn’t that strong, for going above and beyond, for researching other resources and options when I felt like I had nothing left. I could only imagine if there were more individuals such as yourself how much greater it would be. You’ve helped me, so that I can be able to help my son in life. Thank you.”
~ Family Shelter mom

To Apple Corps ‘Eat Better, Feel Better’ nutritionists:
     “My favorite food we cooked was the Frittata because it was very tasty and has a lot of veggies. I learned a lot about different foods in the world like tofu and sushi. At first I was nervous to taste it but when I did it was good. Don’t be afraid to try anything from another culture! Thanks ‘Eat Better, Feel Better’!”
~ Seattle Public Schools 5th grader

To Washington Reading Corps (WRC) staff:
     “I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my heart. My year with WRC Solid Ground prepared me beautifully for what I would encounter later in my MIT program at Evergreen. We have been having beautiful discussions related to race and privilege and our role as teachers to be inclusive. I feel I would have not been prepared if I did not go through all the trainings and workshops you and the team leaders arranged for us. This is why I just wanted to thank you and Solid Ground for doing such a great job making people reflect on assumptions and biases related to race.”
 ~ Graduate student & former Washington Reading Corps Member

To JourneyHome staff:
     “I am grateful to you for comforting me and my family during the unexpected domestic violence incident and the overall follow up. It was one of my luckiest days that I came to know and work with you. Running away from the threatening and hostile Ethiopian political scenario, [our] family has experienced several ups and downs. But, human beings could be tested in various scales, and it would be rewarding and educational to pass through challenges and be able to stand on both legs safely. I remember a note below a picture of a very big woody-stemmed plant with branches saying that, ‘Like a tree, we each must find a place to grow and branch out.’ Yes, in our case, it reads as we need freedom to use our maximum potential to educate our offsprings. All is to say ‘Thank you’ for your exceptional multitude of help.”
~ JourneyHome family from Ethiopia

Thank you art for Lettuce Link staff by kids at Concord Elementary School

Thank you art for Lettuce Link staff by kids at Concord Elementary School

To Lettuce Link staff:
     “Thank you for helping me with my vegetables. Also giving me my own garden. Also help my mom save a few dollars. P.S. Thank you”
 ~ Concord Elementary School 3rd grader

To RSVP Knit-It-Alls volunteers:
     “Two years ago I was homeless and living in a garage during the winter season, and gifts of socks and hats kept me warm and able to go on. It was not only the material goods but the thought behind the gift which was important. I was given a gift of an especially warm blanket to keep me warm and it not only warmed me but warmed my soul.”
 ~ DESC (Downtown Emergency Service Center) shelter resident

To Housing Stabilization Services (HSS) staff:
     “Thank you for all of your help along this journey. If it wasn’t for you and the help that Solid Ground has given me, I wouldn’t be where I am at today. Hell, I may have still been on the streets somewhere and that isn’t a good place to be. But you were able to give me the tools to move forward. Now I also know that it was a hard road getting here, and I had to put in a lot of the work myself. But the support that you gave me along the way is what really got me moving forward.

     “When you look over the sound, there seems to be no way to the other side without taking some kind of boat. Well Solid Ground was able to give me the tools, and a lot of little stepping stones, to slowly move across the bay to get to where I will need to be in life. Thanks to all of you there, even the ones that don’t know me. For it is the ones in the background that really do the work to keep things moving so that you can do the job that is set before you every day.”
 ~ Housing Stabilization Services participant

To Community Voice Mail (CVM) staff:
     “Community Voice Mail has literally been a life saver. I’m presently an outpatient cancer person. And the phone to contact with my pharmacy and with my doctor, as well as my primary doctor that referred me, was absolutely necessary. Without your phone assistance, I couldn’t have done it I don’t think. And also, a safe place to live – I found this place. So anyway, thanks a lot. I sure appreciate it.”
 ~ Community Voice Mail participant

To Broadview Shelter staff:
     “I still believe that there is power in gentleness, that there is more to us than flesh and bone, that life will bring more happiness if lived for peace and not possessions. I still believe people of gentleness and faith can change the world – one unseen, unsung, unrewarded kindness at a time – and nothing in this world can make me stop. Thank you for proving me right.”
 ~ Broadview Shelter mom

Financial Fitness staff:
     “Thank you for getting the pay day loans off my back! I really am feeling blessed for finally reaching out for help. Thanks to your phone calls, the pressure is off and I have a manageable payment schedule.”
 ~ Financial Fitness Boot Camp participant

Housing Stability Program staff:
     “Solid Ground, thank you so very much for helping me and my two autistic twin sons remain in our home. Were it not for your generosity we would be in a very dire situation. I am so thankful to everyone at Solid Ground who works so diligently to keep this project going. It was such a HUGE relief when I received that grant. I had not slept in days from worry which was making me ill and since I have Multiple Sclerosis and I work, I need to get sleep to remain healthy and mentally alert. You are my earthbound Angels – Thank You!”
 ~ Housing Stability participant

Thank You! children's art

It’s okay to ask for help

Lisa and Rusty

Editor’s note: We are honored to present Lisa Pierce’s account of her journey through homelessness, especially the moving story of her time spent living at a roadside rest area.)

In December, 2007, my son Brycen and I moved into a beautiful 4-bedroom home with a fenced yard in the Renton Highlands. We lived in a quiet neighborhood next door to our church. We had two roommates to offset the rent and utilities.

I was working and going about my life, just maintaining. Then, in 2009, I lost my job as a manager due to my Multiple Sclerosis.

To this day, I still don’t know how I was blessed to be introduced to Solid Ground. The first person I encountered was Tunde Akunyun. (Tunde’s work in Solid Ground’s Stable Families program focuses on helping at-risk families maintain their housing stability.)

Tunde came into my world and made a difference. She didn’t just help keep the roof over our heads and the lights on. She helped me get my social security disability benefits. She taught me how to budget my money. And when I was diagnosed with diabetes, she was responsible for me being able to give myself an insulin injection.

The biggest thing she did for me was let me know it’s okay to ask for help.

In May of last year, I lost the home. The owner passed away and it was sold out from under us. I didn’t have savings or a plan.

My son and I had packed our four Chihuahuas and what we could fit in the car and moved to a motel.

My income was $765 disability and $91 food stamps per month. So, I was able to keep us in a room for two weeks at a time. The other two were spent at the SeaTac rest area on I-5 and at a truck stop where we could pay for a shower.

Living at the rest area
When you are at the rest area, the only really good thing is that you are right there next to Enchanted Village and Wild Waves. During the summer it would make you feel like you are not out in the woods. Sometimes you could just dream about it, like, “I wish I could take Brycen over there.” It did help.

When I first came to the rest area, I really didn’t pay much attention to anybody else. I didn’t want to be seen, didn’t want people to notice me sitting in my car, making my phone calls looking for shelter and doing my paperwork. I started to be more attentive to my surroundings, and who was coming and who was going.

I noticed this man. He walked by my car continuously, all day long. So, I started to watch him. He would go to the garbage can and he would rummage through it. He would go to the ashtray where people put out their cigarettes and he would go through that.

One day, it was pouring down rain and I noticed he went into the men’s room and he got a bunch of paper towels, came out and sopped up all the water out of the cigarette thing. He was hoping he could get a cigarette butt out of there that wasn’t sopping wet. And that is when I really started paying attention, like “Wow, he is really staying here.” Someone that is just passing through is not going to take the time to do that, you know.

As the days went by, I kept noticing the same vehicles there. Then, when I would go into the restroom, I would see everybody that would go in there – I would see their clothes – basically like a dressing room.

One day, I counted and I noticed there were about 12 vehicles with people that were living there. You’ll see them, just to kill time, take things out of their vehicles, put it back in. Like you would do in housework, doing housework in your car. Just something to do.

Well this man, one day I watched him and he went up to a gentleman who had a really nice car, and dressed really nice. You really can’t judge a book by its cover, but you had to assume that he probably had money. The guy was smoking right next to his car.

I had my window down just a little bit and I heard him say, “Do you have a cigarette?” And this man talked to him like he was just the lowest piece of garbage. You know: “Get away from me old man, I don’t know who you” – just awful words I can’t even say. So that just hurt me and I started to cry.

So, I went up to him after that gentleman left and I gave him a bunch of cigarettes. I asked him if he was hungry and he said he was. I had a few dollars in my pocket, so I drove to McDonald’s and got him some food and brought it back to him. He was just so shocked, I don’t think anyone had ever done that for him before.

When I could, I always made it a point to help him. When I got my apartment here, I’ve never forgotten him. I can’t forget him. Continue reading

Kwanchai Syttende Mai Event Benefiting JourneyHome

Hei! May 17th, the Norwegian Constitution Day, is Ballard’s biggest day of the year with one of the largest parades outside of Norway. Syttende Gay returns also, this time as a benefit for Solid Ground’s JourneyHome program!

Syttende Gay came into existence in 2006 as an event combining Seattle’s Scandinavian GLBT community and the annual celebration of  Syttende Mai. This event has evolved into an internationally-promoted occasion with the help of local and international blogs such as Ballard Gossip Girl, Seattle Gay Scene, Out Traveler Magazine and Orbitz Travel. Syttende Gay is one of the many events under the auspices of Kwanchai.

In line with the last few years, Kwanchai will have the pleasure of hosting Syttende Gay 2010 at BalMar (5449 Ballard Ave NW off NW Market St) with spectacular views of the parade.

DJ JessE (whom you might remember from Kwanchai’s Ref. 71 Benefit) will be spinning a blend of Scandinavian and current energy club mixes in BalMar’s new dance space.

JourneyHome provides transitional housing, case management, housing search and other supportive services to get homeless families back to stable housing. There will be two ways to raise funds, with a VIP Pass and the Event Raffle.

The VIP Pass ($7) offers exclusive patio access for panoramic views of the parade, 10% off of inspired appetizers and cocktail specials, live DJ and private bar.

Event Date: Monday, May 17, 2010

Event Time: 5:00 pm – 8:oo pm

Norwegian Constitution Day Parade at 6:00 pm

Kwanchai events are always open to everyone of interest as our mission aligns with celebrating inclusiveness and diversity.

%d bloggers like this: