Sand Point Housing’s young artists

Eleven young artists discovered the Officer’s Club at the Magnuson Park Gallery. This former office of a naval commander became a worksite for young residents of Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing community. These teens now look out the window to see the fruition of their own leadership – 12 vibrant art panels breathing life back into a decrepit brick building.

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Eight finished panels installed on one side of the building.

The Sand Point Arts and Cultural Exchange (SPACE) has long sought a solution for the slowly deteriorating building across from the gallery. With the City of Seattle investing funds to stabilize it, and future development projects expected, installing art panels on the exterior walls provides an immediate solution for threading cultural value into the building. The Department of Neighborhoods’ substantial contribution and the Seattle Parks and Recreation staff and financial help made hiring a contractor and art teacher feasible. The 11 teens infused the spirit of their community into the artwork.

Abdi

Sand Point youth paints the corner of a panel.

The teaching artist, Angela Larsen, implemented a process that promised a professional product while staying true to the young artists’ vision and work. The teens began their project by exploring color palettes, and learning how to adjust color shades by mixing paint. They then walked through the park, finding inspiration in plant textures and nature’s own artwork. Angela combined the feedback from the kids, and her own Scandinavian design ethic, and created a design outline that exclusively used three shades of green and three shades of red. In the coming four Saturdays, the young artists put paint to panel and brought the design plan to fruition.

As all good work deserves, the young artists will be paid a $150 stipend at a celebratory barbecue in the near future. However, that paycheck does not fully represent the value the panel project provides to the community and the participants. The Executive Director of SPACE, Julianna Ross, observed “how their skills improved from the first session to the last session. They knew how to load the brush, and make the lines… they gained some skills!” She commented on the warranted pride many of the teens felt for the panels. Working so many hours on the panels familiarized the resident teens with the gallery building and other areas they had not known existed. Showcasing their artwork on a main street bridges a comfort gap between the families living in the park and the community park buildings.

The young artists look up at the paintings and recognize that it’s their work, that they made it for the community. If you can afford their rate, enlist them in another mural project. Their paint brushes are ready.

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COMPARED TO WHAT?

Poetry zine gives voice to Sand Point Housing youthCover of Compared to What? A publication of Solid Ground's Sand Point Young Artist Workshop

The youth who live at Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing campus do not see themselves as a continuation of their parents’ lives. “I get super annoyed when I am compared,” one girl says. “It’s just irritating because that is just saying that you don’t really know who I am if I am being compared.”

Thus the title COMPARED TO WHAT? was born for the zine that developed out of a writing and arts workshop series Solid Ground held last fall for the older teens living with their families at Sand Point, a neighborhood of 175 households at the old Naval Station of Puget Sound in Magnuson Park.

The workshops were based in the principle that everyone’s voice should be heard. Starting with writing sessions led by Seattle storyteller and educator Kathya Alexander, they continued with photography and design sessions led by Solid Ground staff. Through it all, young people found their voices. “Their growth was beautiful to see,” says Christina Shimizu, Annual Giving Officer at Solid Ground and one of the staff supporters of this youth-driven project.

Creative prompts helped unleash the power of the pen

Starting out with writing prompts and progressing to original poems helped the participants feel comfortable, not only with writing, but also with one another. Within this supportive group setting, the youth quickly gained confidence and began to share their personal experiences – an important outlet for previously homeless youth who have not had many opportunities to express themselves creatively.

One of the teens comments about the project, “This is the first time we are actually getting heard, with a different point of view. Our point of view. We think differently from the way adults think. We can also teach adults how we think, because our generation is so different than your guys’ generation. I feel like we know so much more.”

I am a rare solar eclipse
Gray and overlooked
A tough cactus
Midnight, calm and relaxing
I am needed like air
A glistening diamond
The illusion that the sky is blue”

Teen photographer After a few writing sessions, Sand Point Case Manager and experienced photographer, Bellen Drake, led a photography workshop focused on visual aspects of the storytelling process. She spent a day with the youth taking photos and teaching them to use their cameras to capture the essence of their experiences, which for most is shaped by poverty-induced instability. Although most of the poets moved into long-term housing years ago and no longer identify as being homeless, Bellen notes that “it was a valuable opportunity to reflect on a time that impacted them as children, and they have now grown out of. It was a time in their past; homelessness is not their current situation.”

There were multiple leaders within the group and it was an entirely collaborative effort to put the zine together and publish it in January. The poems and images bring to mind the vividness of young romance and deep angst, mixed with materialistic egos and happy innocence. The young artists reveal their dreams and aspirations of growing up, as well as their multidimensional approach to discovering the answers to “What is Justice?”

COMPARED TO WHAT? showcases this unique community and amplifies voices that too often go unheard.

Our published writers & artists are: Ayanle Abdikadir (Abdi), Mohamed Abdikadir, Nya Rambang, Marie, Sahvannah Glenn, Maar Rambang, Heaven, Ryahnna, Geo, Chris Gainey, Ben Dessalegne, Jen Matapula, Andrea R, Deiosha Sparks.

To get your copy of Compared to What? or learn more about how you can support the youth at Sand Point Housing, contact Christina Shimizu at christinas@solid-ground.org.

Walsh Construction: Building communities with Solid Ground for two decades

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Walsh Construction not only understands the needs of the people and organizations they serve, but also anticipates and facilitates meeting those needs with professional expertise. For over 22 years, Walsh has supported Solid Ground’s work in a variety of meaningful ways.

Workplace giving

Giving back to the community is an integral part of Walsh Construction’s culture and values. As a company and as individuals, they contribute time, talent and finances to numerous nonprofits throughout the year and believe it’s the right thing to do.

Walsh Construction’s connection with Solid Ground began through the generosity of their own employees. From 1992 to 2001, Walsh employees contributed individual donations, despite the fact that there was no formal infrastructure for workplace giving. For the following several years, the United Way of King County’s workplace giving campaign coordinated the business’ donations. Then in 2005, Walsh began their own campaign to formally support all employee payroll contributions, a practice they continue to this day.

Every year through their employee Community Giving program, they name several community agencies and nonprofit groups – including Solid Ground – as beneficiaries. Walsh matches every dollar each employee contributes, and for several years they have reached 100% staff participation. Walsh employees clearly share the company’s values of generosity and care for the Seattle community.

Housing development

In 1998, Solid Ground (then the Fremont Public Association) hired Walsh to build our current headquarters offices in Wallingford. Then through an open bidding process in 2012, we selected Walsh to develop additional housing on our Sand Point Housing campus. From late 2013 through November of 2014, they served as general contractor for two buildings of non-time-limited housing at Sand Point. Today, Sand Point’s residential facilities total 175 units, 100 for families and 75 for singles. Of those, Walsh built 54 new residences and renovated an additional 42 units.

Throughout the process, Humberto Alvarez, Solid Ground’s Planning, Development & Operations Director, was primary contact between stakeholders, and he also oversaw Walsh’s two-phase renovation of the Santos Place transitional housing facility. Humberto says that Santos Place was occupied during the extensive restoration period, and that Walsh representatives were exceptionally respectful to the building owners and inhabitants as they conducted their detail-oriented work.

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Two buildings at Sand Point were located in a Seattle Landmarks Board Historic District inside Magnuson Park, which was a Navy base before becoming a park. The buildings, while new construction, had to blend in with the historic neighborhood and meet the standards of the Landmarks Preservation Board to complement the original military housing style.

Walsh’s excellent work maintained the historic look of the buildings and strengthened the integrity of the structures as well. Throughout each step of the process, contractors, developers and architects met in weekly meetings to cover every detail of the project from beginning to end. By making the infrastructure more energy efficient, money saved on utility expenses could be put instead toward providing services for residents in need.

Both new buildings at Sand Point Housing were completed ahead of schedule in early December 2013 – enabling some residents to move in before Christmas! It was especially rewarding for everyone involved to give people transitioning out of homelessness a safe, warm, dry place to live in time for the holidays that year.

Event sponsorship

Walsh has also supported Solid Ground through various annual and special events over the years, including our Building Community Luncheon, which Walsh has sponsored every year since 2011.

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (Image courtesy of William Wright Photography)

Recently, Walsh added a personal touch to their support of Sand Point Housing residents through gifts for the children. They donated intricate wooden toys for kids to play with at the communal children’s areas in Santos Place and the Lowry Community Building. The delightful trinkets are made of durable materials that will be enjoyed by many youngsters for a long time to come.

Over the last two decades, Walsh has been a consistent, outstanding and professional supporter, and we look forward to many more years of partnership in the future!

Sand Point housing dedication

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place

I didn’t hammer in a single nail to help build Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing Campus, which sits on the edge of Magnuson Park on land that was once Naval Station Puget Sound. I did not help any of the 175 formerly homeless households move in, nor do I provide services or resources to support the residents of this new community and help them use it as a stepping stone to reach their dreams.

But for more than 20 years, I have been one of a small handful of people who have been fortunate to play an ongoing role in turning this once contentious idea into one of the greatest swords-into-ploughshares projects in our nation.

Not long after the Base Closure Act of 1990, I was named an alternate representative of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness to the Sand Point Liaison Committee formed by the City of Seattle to process community input about how the base should be repurposed. My job was to support our main representative, then Fremont Public Association Executive Director Frank Chopp, in using the McKinney-Vento Act to secure a portion of the base for services for homeless folks. At the time, I worked for The Sharehouse, a furniture bank helping homeless people resettle; we hoped to get a portion of one of the hangars for our warehouse.

(l to r) Dan & Cindy Brettler, Gordon McHenry, Jr., Keith Sterling, Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney & Frank Chopp dedicate the Sand Point Housing Campus

(l to r) Dan & Cindy Brettler, Gordon McHenry, Jr., Keith Sterling, Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney & Frank Chopp dedicate the Sand Point Housing Campus

When the City of Seattle’s Preferred Reuse Plan for the Naval base was approved by City Council and accepted by the Navy, it included a campus of 200 homes for formerly homeless people. The facility was to be operated by a new nonprofit organization called the Sand Point Community Housing Association (SPCHA), which would be governed by the agencies who hoped to operate housing at Sand Point. As I represented one of the few organizations in the coalition that was not competing to operate housing, I was drafted to serve as SPCHA’s first Board Chair.

The initial years of SPCHA were hectic, but by 1999, under the leadership of the nonprofit housing developer, Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), the SPCHA opened 26 units of family transitional housing; 42 for single adults and three group homes for street-involved youth. A team of nonprofits provided case management and other services. Since 1999, more than 2,500 people have stayed at Sand Point on their journey from homelessness to stability.

Frank Chopp, Solid Ground Senior Advisor and Speaker of the WA State House

Frank Chopp, Solid Ground Senior Advisor & Speaker of the WA State House

The SPCHA model proved ineffective and in 2007, at the request of the City of Seattle, Solid Ground assumed control of the campus and took on the responsibility of developing 100 new homes. By then I had moved from The Sharehouse to Solid Ground. (Fremont Public Association changed its name to Solid Ground in 2007.) Working in the Development and Communications departments, I had the opportunity to support outreach and fundraising campaigns for the project.

One of my great joys over the past few years has been working with residents of Sand Point to support them in telling their stories. We have featured their successes in agency videos and newsletters, and have given them a platform to share or perform at our annual luncheon and other events.

Last week, these 20 years came together in a glorious afternoon as 300+ people gathered to dedicate the end of planned construction at Sand Point. We honored major contributors to the project and formally named one of the new buildings for former Washington State House of Representatives member Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, whose leadership in the legislature and legacy of community service has made a major impact on housing issues in Washington State.

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney

Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney

More than 450 people now live in this new neighborhood, more than half of them children and youth. The stunning park offers respite and a connection to nature for people working to regain solid ground, and it is a great place to be a kid!

Keith Sterling was one of the first dads to move into the family apartments in Brettler Family Place. He told me he loves to take his 5- and 7-year-old children to the park, and marvels at watching them learn about the natural world around them.

What I marvel at is that more than 20 years ago, we had a dream for turning this run-down military base into some of the finest low-income housing in the country, and with the help of hundreds of people and committed organizations, we were able to make it happen.

Keith Sterling

Keith Sterling

Frank Chopp, Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, Solid Ground CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr. and major donor Dan Brettler all addressed the audience at the dedication last week, but it was only when Keith Sterling spoke that the sun shone down on us. “This is more than a place to live,” he said. “This is a place to thrive.”

Photos by John Bolivar Photography

Kids’ programs spark interests and create bonds

4-H Puppy Power

Puppy Power encourages reading on the Sand Point Campus

For families who have experienced homelessness, finding the time and money to participate in afterschool programs can be challenging. However, these activities and programs play an important role in building a foundation for growth and healing after families enter permanent or transitional housing.

With this in mind, staff at Brettler Family Place and Sand Point Housing have been busy building relationships with community program providers to make sure that the children have opportunities to learn and enjoy their childhoods.

Joanna Tarr, a Children’s Case Manager at the Sand Point Campus, is grateful for the wealth of events and activities community partners and local programs provide. “Brettler Family Place has a small staff,” Joanna says, “so outside programs are very important.” Once all the construction is complete, Sand Point Housing and Brettler Family Place is estimated to house up to 250 children. Community partners’ and volunteers’ continued support is greatly appreciated and necessary to ensure the kids receive the best opportunities.

“Offering a variety of activities,” explains Joanna, “ensures the kids have the opportunity to find what they want to do in their lives, gives them a lot of interests, keeps them busy and active, and creates opportunities and positive experiences they might not have otherwise.”

The activities and programs vary wildly. Some kids have dirtied their hands refurbishing old bikes (a program at the Cascade Bike Club) and building remote control cars, while others play sports, learn to cook nutritious meals (Cooking Matters and Apple Corps), or create works of art (curriculum provided by A Window Between Worlds as a means to use creative expression to overcome trauma). As Joanna states, “You never know what’s going to catch a kid,” and so the more exposure to different arts and occupations, the more possibilities each child has to find a passion, deal with stress, and learn skills for the future.

There are plenty of ways for the children to study. Kumon, a learning center in University Village, provides free program admission for the Sand Point children who are able to make it out to their location. Local high school students and adult tutors also volunteer their time four times a week to tutor the kids and help with homework. Science and engineering events and exhibits, provided by the Museum of Flight and Pacific Science Center, have also been held onsite.

Perhaps the most adorable educational program at The Sand Point Campus is offered by Puppy Power, a 4-H group that trains service pets. Once a month, kids and canines convene for an hour-long reading session. The relaxed atmosphere and open puppy ears encourage reading and help the children keep up with school reading assignments.

Building life skills and teaching cooperation is also a focus. The Girl Scouts have been an integral part of learning and fun in the community. Two times a week, the Girl Scouts nurture confidence and responsibility through leadership training, cooperation activities with the troop, community service projects and, of course, the peddling of their scrumptious cookies. In acknowledgement of their hard work and progress, the girls of Brettler have performed the flag-raising ceremony at a Mariners game and at the Girl Scouts’ annual luncheon.

The Mountaineers have been active with Sand Point kids as well – crafting a new generation of fit and rugged Pacific Northwest outdoorspeople. With the help of University of Washington volunteers, the Mountaineers open their facility and offer their expertise to teach the kids rock climbing, survival, first aid and navigation – all of which culminates in a final ‘survivor’ event.

In addition to keeping minds sharp, the programs keep bodies busy. The recently finished Tennis Center Sand Point contributes tennis instructions for kids during half-day and no-school days, and even offers exemplary students scholarships for regular classes. Soccer and football are staple activities for many of the kids, and the kids have even canoed and kayaked on Lake Washington. The local YMCA also opens their facilities to the kids at much appreciated discounts, and the City of Seattle Magnuson Community Center holds events and activities at Brettler throughout the year including hiring and training teens to work as counselors at the summer camps. This amazing program provides teens with jobs skills and experience, and gives the younger children a productive way to spend the summer.  

While it’s never certain which activity might ignite a passion or spark a future career, we are certain of the influence these activities can have on the kids. The success rate at Brettler is high, according to Joanna. “There’s a great sense of community. There’s a Brettler clique. The kids have bonded to each other and support each other.” While she admits a large part of the supportive relationship comes from the stability permanent housing affords, Joanna, who has been at Brettler practically since it opened, concedes she’s seen a change. “The kids get to know each other in different ways than if they were just neighbors. When they participate in all these activities they get to know each other on a deeper level – doing activities like rock climbing where they have to support each other.”

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We are looking for great volunteers to support our children’s programming at Sand Point! If you’re interested in getting involved or would like more information, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at volunteers@solid-ground.org or at 206.694.6825.

Seattle employs financial empowerment to help families thrive

Financial Fitness Boot Camp's Coach Judy

Financial Fitness Boot Camp’s Coach Judy

Seattle will be the first city on the West Coast to open no-cost Financial Empowerment Centers. Solid Ground will partner with Neighborhood House to provide a satellite center, likely at Sand Point Housing at Magnuson Park, in order to offer easy access to financial counseling for families and individuals in our transitional and permanent housing programs. 

One-on-one counseling will help people reduce debt, build credit, guard against predatory lending practices, understand foreclosure, and protect against fraud. Asset development coaching and budgeting will lower monthly costs, increase income, buffer against sudden crises, and prepare people for retirement.

Seattle’s program is modeled after the first financial empowerment pilot, launched in 2008 by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The original pilot, according to the foundation, has helped over 19,000 families reduce their debt by more than $9 million.

Six Financial Empowerment Centers will open in 2014, with the main full-time site stationed at Neighborhood House in Rainier Vista. Each center will be positioned close to or within social service facilities that can offer additional resources for those living on low-incomes. Additional offices will be located at NewHolly, the Jim Wiley Community Center, YWCA Opportunity Place and North Seattle Community College.

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation provided a three year grant for the project, and is partnering with City of Seattle, Neighborhood House and United Way.

Breaking the cycle of poverty involves more than just helping people living on low-incomes make ends meet. At Solid Ground, we want people to be healthy, happy and build the skills they need to thrive.

In the coming year, we will implement our own plan to integrate financial empowerment into social service delivery at Solid Ground, developed during a six-month financial empowerment Learning Cluster hosted by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). And with the support from CFED through an 18-month Learning Cluster that began this month, our plan will provide the education and tools people living on low and moderate incomes need to move beyond just surviving to a place of stability, self-sufficiency and financial health.

Housing shapes up at Magnuson Park

Sand Point Housing construction continues apace at Magnuson Park. Solid Ground is adding permanent supportive housing for previously homeless families, single men and women. We hope to have the two new buildings complete late this year and leased up soon thereafter.

Framing of Building 5 along Sand Point Way.

Framing of Building 5 along Sand Point Way.

Building 4, nestled in the courtyard of Brettler Family Place.

Building 4, nestled in the courtyard of Brettler Family Place.

Building 5 takes shape south of the long barracks building on Sand Point Way.

Building 5 takes shape south of the long barracks building on Sand Point Way.

Building 5 from the balcony of the Lowry Community Center.

Building 5 from the balcony of the Lowry Community Center.

Once completed, the new facilities will bring to 200 the total number of homes at Sand Point for formerly homeless people!

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