FamilyWorks celebrates 20 years of nourishing, connecting & empowering our community

FamilyWorks celebrates 20 years at their Sunday Dinner and Auction

FamilyWorks celebrates 20 years at their Sunday Supper & Auction

On October 25, I had the opportunity to represent Solid Ground alongside Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (also Solid Ground Senior Advisor and former Fremont Public Association Executive Director) at FamilyWorks Resource Center & Food Bank’s 20th Anniversary Sunday Supper & Auction celebration. It was a joyful and inspiring evening.

For 20 years, the resource center has provided comprehensive, strength-based programming to support families in conjunction with the food bank. In addition to providing nourishing food, FamilyWorks creates programs that support and help develop parenting and life skills for individuals, families and teen parents.

Photos from FamilyWorks’ 20 years of service (click for larger images and captions)

Throughout the 20th Anniversary celebration, many stories were shared about the lives touched by FamilyWorks. One story I found especially moving featured a FamilyWorks food bank recipient who is now a trusted FamilyWorks volunteer as well as a resident of Santos Place on Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing campus.

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FamilyWorks Executive Director Jake Weber (left) with Eva Washington (right)

It is an impressive feat that our colleagues at FamilyWorks have provided critical resources to our shared community for 20 years. In particular, I would like to thank Ms. Jake Weber, FamilyWork’s Executive Director, who has been a moving force there since the agency’s foundation. She served two years on the founding board followed by 18 years of service as Executive Director.

At the dinner, FamilyWorks announced the first-ever Kerwin Manuel Impact Award, named after the late Mr. Manuel for his dedicated and courageous service to FamilyWorks and their program participants. Frank and I were honored and grateful to accept the award on behalf of Solid Ground, in recognition of the special partnership that exists between our two organizations.

I’m proud of the long-lasting and meaningful partnership that exists between FamilyWorks and Solid Ground. As FamilyWorks nourishes and strengthens individuals and families by connecting people with support, resources and community, Solid Ground works to end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty.

Our region is a better place because of FamilyWorks’ important work and the partnership we continue to share.

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Call for submissions for Footsteps 步: A poetry anthology honoring homeless veterans

Footsteps: Poems for Homeless Veterans (due out on Cave Moon Press, 2016)

Footsteps: Poems for Homeless Veterans (due out on Cave Moon Press, 2016)

Since 2006, Cave Moon Press (CMP) – a family-owned publishing company out of Yakima, WA – has been “bridging global and local issues through the arts.” Solid Ground has been fortunate to partner with CMP over the past four years.

Editor Doug Johnson says, “The model of CMP is simple: We ask poets and artists to collaborate with the cause of their choice. Poets. Books. Community. Why such a simple model? Because complicated erases our humanity. There are so many causes it is easy to lose track of the people we are helping.”

Call for submissions for Footsteps

To celebrate 10 years of helping communities, Cave Moon Press will produce a new book to aid homeless veterans in 2016 and is requesting original poems centered around the theme of footsteps. They encourage poets to take license in interpreting whose footsteps you honor, and translations are welcome. To apply:

  • Submit poetry anytime between April to September 2015
  • Send to: cavemoonpress@gmail.com
  • Subject line of email: Footsteps for Homeless Veterans-Poet Name
  • Include your name, physical address and email as a cover letter
  • Submit 2-5 poems in one MS Word document, and name the file with your name and the date you submit (ex: FirstLastName_041515)
  • Preferred fonts: 12 pt Garamond in Latin alphabetic languages; SimSun preferred in Asian Kanji

More about the Footsteps project

Doug writes, “This is a book of witness to the invisible. As a poet holds their duty to the page, soldiers hold their duty to serve. Others hold their duty to the environment. Cars wage war on the environment. Politics change like the newspaper wrapping fish. We all know of someone setting out on their quest without ever getting the homecoming of Odysseus. When duties disillusion, people wander. The invisible still wander. Write to honor the ignored. Write a poem. Help a friend.”

This book intends to honor people, not causes. After publication it is hoped that each accepted poet will combine readings around food and music with proceeds going to the local homeless network of their choice – e.g., your local VA, YMCA/YWCA, or nonprofits with programs that serve formerly homeless vets (such as Solid Ground’s Santos Place, etc.).

Cave Moon Press & Solid Ground

In 2011, CMP published Denise Calvetti Michaels’ Rustling Wrens, and she chose to donate a portion of sales proceeds to Solid Ground and also spread the word about Solid Ground during her readings. Similarly, when poet Esther Altshul Helfgott published Dear Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Diary & Poems in 2013 and Listening to Mozart: Poems of Alzheimer’s in 2014, she designated proceeds toward Solid Ground’s Penny Harvest youth philanthropy program (which her granddaughter participated in before the program sunsetted in summer of 2014).

As Doug puts it, “Poets write. Poets read. So far poets have found a home at Solid Ground, and CMP is grateful and happy to bring awareness to their great work.” He adds that, “CMP has been able to help other groups around the country. Each nonprofit and poet set up what works in their community. They know their needs. They have passions for their people.” With the publication of Footsteps 步 in 2016, CMP will continue their commitment to creating poetry and art partnerships that support social change.

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You can’t always do it alone

Faustina Robinson, a former participant in Solid Ground’s Seattle Housing Stabilization Services, shared her story with us for our May 2011 Groundviews newsletter. For more information on Seattle Housing Stabilization Services, visit www.solid-ground.org/Programs/Housing/Stabilization-Sea.

Faustina Robinson in the courtyard of her apartment building

Faustina Robinson in the courtyard of her apartment building

During the two years that Faustina Robinson lived in her car with her cat, there were two things that helped her keep perspective. First, she says, “I had some years in social work – as a counselor for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. It put me on the other side, so to speak.” She asked herself, “‘What would I tell that client?’ I also heard their voices; I became the student of the people that at one time I had helped. I was learning from their experiences.”

And secondly, “I’m a filmmaker, so I was engaging my art even when I was living in my car. I took interviews of people, took pictures, I had release forms signed. I transcended into this other personality, and that allowed me to look at a larger picture.”

She says, “Living in your car, it’s very survivable – and so it can become a way of life.” During one stretch, while broken down at a highway rest area for 92 days, she connected with others who were also “camping” there. “Out of that experience developed this little community. We realized we were not alone, and we began to find ways to assist each other.”

A turning point

Thanks to her new friends, Faustina eventually found the strength to face facts: “I had been in complete denial. I kept thinking, ‘You can’t be homeless. You do have a little bit of money coming in. You can stay in a motel if you want to. You have a roof over your head. You’re really intelligent.’ I was rationalizing my way through the experience. But I was still homeless!”

However, navigating out of homelessness wasn’t easy. She says, “I had taken all the necessary steps – contacted all the social services, shelters, transitional housing. There’s always some snafu, strange policies. You have to call at a certain time, twice a day.” And with no reliable phone, it didn’t work for her. Finally, she asked her friends to rope-tow her car and park her right outside a housing agency.

She says, “I only had to do it once. I said, ‘I can’t call you twice every day, so I’m just gonna walk in twice a day and let you know I’m still homeless. And if you want me, I’m right out there on the side street!” Laughing, she says, “That got me a really quick appointment! And that was the turning point that got me off the street.”

As a person living with disabilities, Faustina did qualify for and eventually moved into a Seattle Housing Authority apartment – but her journey to stability wasn’t over. She says that by the time she contacted Solid Ground, “It revealed that I was dealing with a lot of issues I had not acknowledged. I have a history of depression. But when I was homeless for those two years, not one day was I depressed. I couldn’t understand that!

“One doctor said there are personality types that when faced with certain kinds of stress, it releases hormones that almost produce a euphoric feeling. So I had been sucking on that adrenaline rush for two years – and when I got the apartment, the first thing that happened was I crashed. There were days I couldn’t even roll out of bed. It happened so quickly.

“I wasn’t taking care of myself or my day-to-day needs; I wasn’t paying my bills. I got behind in my rent; I needed housing assistance. I was going through a number of challenges, because DSHS [was considering] eliminating GA-U [now called Disability Lifeline]. I filed an appeal, so my benefits didn’t stop – but the psychological and emotional stress of facing eviction and loss of some financial support – it had me in rare form.”

Leave your baggage at the door

After calling Solid Ground but not connecting with resources right away, an attorney at Housing Justice Project contacted our Seattle Housing Stabilization Services on Faustina’s behalf – a program that provides case management and support to people at imminent risk of housing loss. “Within a week,” Faustina says, “Sukanya contacted me.”

Working with Sukanya made a world of difference. “One, she believed in me. And she didn’t patronize me. She valued my input and respected my own experiences and perception in the matter. So I felt like I was making a contribution to my own welfare – and that empowered me.” Faustina also learned it’s OK to seek support. She says, “When I need assistance, I really do need to ask for assistance. You can’t always do it alone. And there’s no shame in that. I had been always the one helping others, and now I needed help.

“I also had to accept that I had made poor choices in some cases. But, you forgive yourself, and then you move on. Leave your baggage at the door. And it’s OK! Extend the same compassion I had for the people I was working with towards my own self so I could heal. And she helped me do that. Solid Ground helped me do that.

“I made a promise to myself: I am so fortunate to have this space, and someone helped me, and I wanted to honor the gift, the assistance. So I volunteer my time. I’ve gotten back into my writing and my filmmaking, and I’ve been working on a number of projects. I do all the media [pro bono] for JusticeWorks. And do you know, I’m doing much better now – I’m in a much better space financially, emotionally, spiritually – than I was! Sometimes when you can’t do it for yourself, it’s OK to do it for others.”

For more information on Seattle Housing Stabilization Services, visit www.solid-ground.org/Programs/Housing/Stabilization-Sea.

Brettler Family Place opening bash!

More than 150 people joined us at the Grand Opening for Brettler Family Place Thursday night! Thanks to Mayor Mike McGinn, Speaker Frank Chopp, Governor Mike Lowry, Dan and Cindy Brettler and others for contributing to the program. Of course, the most moving part of the evening was Joy Sparks’ speech about what living at Brettler Family Place means to her and her family. With about one month of residency, Joy is an “elder” in our new community here, and she speaks with wisdom about the journey she has undertaken and the value of safe, affordable housing. Following is a transcript of Joy’s comments. Before you read, get some tissues ready…

Joy Sparks

I would like to first thank Solid Ground for even considering my journey a success story. That’s validation for me, that I’ve worked hard to get to where I am, and that me and my family are more than deserving to be new residents of this beautiful community.

My daughters and I went through several different stages of homelessness – ranging from couch surfing, sleeping in cars, hotels, shelters and transitional housing. I think one of the reasons I was able to move forward and overcome my biggest barrier, which was homelessness, is because of the overwhelming support that I received from Solid Ground and all the other staff and organizations that embraced me during my time of need!

My caseworker Katie Showalter especially played a big part in keeping me grounded. She found out what my needs were on all levels! She was always there using her words to uplift me and motivate me!

She’d say to me, “Joy you are artistic and beautiful, smart and resilient.” She’d use all these powerful words describing characteristics that she’d seen in me that I hadn’t even seen in myself! Katie doesn’t know this, but whenever our meetings were over, I’d always pull out my dictionary and search for the definition to her words of choice, and I’d always feel so awakened and uplifted by their meaning!

There’s a quote that says, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” And Katie has demonstrated just that with her words of comfort and encouragement. She was always there with her mirror telling me to look at myself and love the person I see, and that I am worthy.

I’m not sure if you all are fans of Deepak Chopra, but I’d like to share something he wrote about toxic relationships. He talks about the three kinds of people in your life: Those who leave you alone, those who help you, and those who hurt you.

People who leave you alone are dealing with your suffering as a nuisance or inconvenience; they prefer to keep their distance in order to feel better themselves.

Those who hurt you want your situation to be the same because they do not have your wellbeing at heart.

Those who help you have the strength and awareness to do more with your suffering than you are able to do by yourself. He also says having made a realistic count, take the following attitude:

  1. I will no longer bring my problems to anyone who wants to leave me alone. It’s not good for them or me.
  2. I will put a distance between myself and those who want to hurt me.
  3. I will share my problems with those who want to help me. I will not reject genuine offers of assistance out of pride, insecurity or doubt. I will ask people to join me in my healing and make them a bigger part of my life.

Whenever I read this I feel so thankful for the people who’ve played a role in my life and who’ve found ways to help me overcome and move forward.

Creating my vision board was another thing that kept me focused. I made my vision board 1/29/2010; we had only been homeless three weeks. But the very first thing that you’re able to see on my vision board is a magazine clipping that reads “Homeless to Happiness.” That remained my vision and my # 1 goal.

On March 7, 2011 my vision became reality. I went from being homeless to being stable, and secure, which to me is happiness!

Brettler Place to me, means happiness. The beautiful scenery, the view of park, even the green grass and access to the beach have meaning to me. It means family and togetherness! The energy here feels good. There’s a peace of mind here!

I have peace of mind knowing that I don’t have to pack my bags in a few months and I don’t have to transfer my kids to another school again. I don’t have to sleep in a car again or call to put my name on a waiting list for shelter. I don’t have to expose my children to unhealthy living anymore!!!

One more quote before I go: “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” I have that now and it’s all thanks to you, the Brettler Family, Solid Ground, Mercy Housing, Katie Sholwalter and all of you!!! Thank you so very much!!!

Here are additional images from the event:

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While Brettler Family Place ends homelessness for 51 families, we are not quite done with our housing development at Magnuson Park. Stage 2 of this project will include 20 additional housing units for families, as well as 34 units for single men and women, including veterans, seniors and people living with disabilities.

The overall cost of the entire project is in the neighborhood of $30 million. Thanks to many generous people and institutions in our community, we are very close to completing our fundraising. In fact, we have just $515,000 in private funding left to raise! If Joy’s speech moves you to help us close the gap, or if you would like more information on the project, contact Ali Friedman: alif@solid-ground.org.

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.

Gamers blanketing homeless kids

Cool: From the folks at FiftyOne Marketing (a gaming marketing team with the goal “to provide the best marketing services by integrating the ever-growing social networking trend with the importance of community interaction”):

FiftyOne Marketing is teaming up with a lot of great people and organizations for a great cause.

GivingChiX, a division of GamerchiX, and the Gamers Outreach Foundation are teaming up with Microsoft MVPs around the world to make baby blankets for Solid Ground, an anti-poverty and social service organization in Seattle, Washington that helps women, children and families overcome homelessness.

Gamers develop Blanket Drive for Solid Ground Continue reading

Every penny counts…when you are building a new generation of philanthropists!

The United Way posted a great bit about our Penny Harvest Program on their blog. Here’s a link.

Penny Harvest volunteer

Penny Harvest builds excitement for philanthropy!

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